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The Tamils... Nadesan Satyendra
 Demand for Dravida Nadu - K.Nambi Arooran
* Anita Diehel - E. V. Ramaswami Naicker-Periyar : a study of the influence of a personality in contemporary South India
Anna's Legacy - Sachi Sri Kantha
One Hundred Tamils of 20th Century - C.N.Annadurai

Tamil National Forum

Selected Writings by Shan Ranjit

Decaying Dravidian Movement

21 July 2000

bullet Introduction
bullet Early Life of Periyar - &  Gandhi
bullet Periyar & the Dravidian Movement
bullet Periyar, Buriyani, Frugality & Marriage
bullet Dravidian Movement Today: Rudderless and Looking for Direction



1925, Villipuram, Tamil Nadu: It was a scorching day in the blistering Tamil Nadu summer. Goplan - an eight-year old boy belonging to the weaver caste - had walked almost seven miles to his school in Villipuram from his remote village. Sweat was pouring from all over his body, and the boy was on the verge of collapsing due to dehydration. Then to his excitement, he saw a wayside hotel, with a jug full of water placed out side. He ran towards the jug, dipped the tumbler in to it. As he was about to quench his thirst, he felt a thundering slap on his face, pushed to the ground and beaten by the owner of the hotel. As he fell to the ground, he saw the board ‘ Brahmin Hotel ‘ at the top of the hotel. It was only then that Gopalan realized his grave mistake- drinking water from a Brahmin hotel.

It was such atrocities and cruelties practiced by the Tamil Nadu Brahmins in the early part of the last century, that catapulted a man by the name E.V.Ramasamy Naiker- fondly called Periyar by his admirers - in to Tamil Nadu politics. It was Periyar who started the Dravidian movement in Tamil Nadu demanding self respect for all the non-Brahmins. Like Moses freeing the Jews from the Egyptian slavery, it was Periyar who freed millions of Tamil Nadu Tamils from the Brahmin slavery.

It is most unfortunate that at present , all the dominant Dravidian parties and their leaders have not only mortgaged their self respect , but are manipulated by Brahmin interests. It is sad that the Dravidian movement in Tamil Nadu has not only lost it goal and but is also decaying. To understand the zeal and the philosophy of the early Dravidian movement, it is essential to know some thing about Periyar’s life history and what made him to launch his Dravidian movement.


Early Life of Periyar - &  Gandhi

Periyar was born in 1879 – ten years after Gandhi-. His parents were well to do Hindu merchants. He had his early education in a Catholic school. Studies never attracted Periyar. After some time, Periyar dropped out of school, and helped his father with the business.

When Periyar was twenty years of age, he was disillusioned with his worldly life. He wanted to experience the spiritual side of the world. He renounced everything, and went to Banaras (Kashi). Here, he lived as a naked Sanyasi (monk), meditating and uttering gods’ name all the time. He begged for his food, and slept along the banks of Ganges. However the hope of finding some kind of spiritual illumination never came, and he left Banaras for his hometown, disappointed with himself and the life style of Banaras.

When Periyar returned to his hometown around 1920, he joined the local municipal politics, and eventually joined the Indian National Congress of Mahatma Gandhi. He actively supported and participated in Gandhi’s handloom campaign and non- cooperation movement.

But he was disgusted with the way the Non- Brahmins were treated by the Brahmins even within the Gandhian movement. Non-Brahmins were not allowed free entry in to the temples; they were absolutely barred from entering from the inner sanctum sanctorum. He was furious when the Brahmins priests would throw the holy ash from a distance in to the hands of Non-Brahmins inside the temples. Only Brahmins could take a bath in the temple pond, and take the water to do the pooja in side the sanctum sanctorum. Non Brahmins were not allowed to walk on the lane where the temples were located. He was hurt when he found out that even in schools that were run by the Ramakrishna mission foundation, the Brahmins teachers would tell the Non-Brahmins students that they were fit only to graze cows, and not for any formal education.

The incident that catapulted Periayar in to national politics took place in Tirivandram in the state of Kerala in the early twenties of last century. Within the compound of the Royal palace there was a temple and the law courts. One day, a sacred temple ceremony was going on, and a lawyer by the name Madhavan - a non Brahmin - was not allowed walk past the temple to enter the courts. This resulted in a protest, and the Maharaja jailed the protesters. Periyar came to Kerala, campaigned for a whole year until the temple lane was opened for the non- Brahmins.

The final break with Mahatma Gandhi came when at a congress school – run by the Gandhi’s party- Brahmin children were fed separately from the non-Brahmin children. The matter was reported to Gandhi: but his reponse was ambiguous and lighthearted. At this juncture, Periyar broke away from Gandhi and the Congress party and formed the Self-Respect Movement in 1925.


Periyar & the Dravidian Movement

For the next fifty years – he died in December, 1974 at the age of ninety five – wearing a black shirt, he campaigned against Brahminism and Hinduism; he campaigned against Congress party and casteism; he mocked at the foolish and insane Hindu beliefs and customs; he passionately fought for the right of Tamil Nadu women. He traveled from village to village in Tamil Nadu conducting self-respect marriages for Non- Brahmins without priests or religious vows. He conducted all his ceremonies in the most inauspicious times.

He began his discourses by saying, “ There is no god. He who invented God is a fool. He who propagates God is a fool. He who worships God is a barbarian.” His rejection of God was his rejection of the Brahmins and their language (Sanskrit). Periyar was hoping to establish a Dravidian, non- Brahmin State called Dravidstan.

Periyar was single minded and obsessed to rein the Brahmin political and economic power and transfer it to the majority- non Brahmins. A fiery Tamil poet Bahrathidasan - belonging to weaver caste - ably assisted him in this endeavor.


Periyar, Buriyani, Frugality & Marriage

Periyar was a large man. He ate enormous portions of food. His food mainly consisted of Buriyani with mutton, beef or pork; However, he was never fussy about his food. Periyar was well known for his frugality when it came to money. He would tell his supporters that instead of garlanding him, to give two rupees to the party. He charged for his signatures and speeches. When he had ninety-nine rupees, he would ask for another rupee to make in to a hundred-rupee note and deposit in the bank. He invested his money wisely in mills and banks. In 1953, he bought Periyar Thiddal in Madras- a vast expanse of grounds close to the then tram station. By 1973, Periyar was worth about Twenty million Indian rupees. It is reported that his property is now worth about 20 crores.

In 1949, Periyar’s party split over his decision to marry a young woman, Maniammai. Her parents were Periyar’s followers. Manniamai was opposed to her parents plan to get her married to a relative. Hence she left the house. When Periyar came to know about this, he brought Manniamai to his house in Erode. She functioned as his secretary cum nurse. Six years later they were married. He was seventy, and she was thirty-one at that time. Their marriage lasted for 21 years, and she outlived Periyar only five years. There were many reasons cited for this odd marriage. However, insiders insist that Periyar – who had accumulated large wealth in his name - did not want this money to go to his relatives. He wanted the money to be used for the Dravidian cause, and felt that the only person whom he could trust was his nurse cum secretary.


Dravidian Movement Today: Rudderless and Looking for Direction

Periyar had only one goal: transfer the political power from the Brahmins to the Non Brahmins. To achieve this he used various ways, including his bitter attack on Hinduism that the Brahmins conveniently used as a scapegoat to perpetuate their atrocities. His goal was achieved when the first Dravidian party came to power in Tamil Nadu in 1967. Like the conservative movement in United States having lost his zeal at present- after their convincing victories over global communism and socialism- the Dravidian movement has lost its ability to energize the people because it had not identified any new causes since coming to power. Instead of promoting the interests and prosperity of the Dravidians, it’s ironic that the present Dravidian leaders have selfishly promoted the interests/prosperity of their sons, nephews and their girlfriends

Taking undue advantage of the disunity among the Dravidians, the Brahmins who had been on the political sideline for some time, are influencing and shaping the Dravidian movement today. It is not only ironic but also frightening that the Brahmins either control or secretly influence the the major Dravidian in Tamil Nadu parties at present.

The first major split in the Dravidian movement came when the young fire bands in the party opposed Periyar marrying Maniammai, and formed a new party (DMK) in 1947. At least Periyar was sincere and honest, and publicly married this young woman. Can this be said of those Dravidian leaders who opposed Periyar’s marriage then ? It is not only ironic but hilarious that some of these very Dravidian leaders - who had opposed Periyar's marriage- would later go on to set up ‘Chinna Veddus' (second houses) throughout the state. Some times the occupants of these ‘Chinna Veddus’ were none other than Brahmins.

In 1972, MGR broke from DMK and formed AIADMK. At that time he had claimed that he was expelled from DMK when he had questioned some of the accounting practices of the party.

But it is an open secret that the Congress party- dominated by the North Indian Brahmins – had engineered the split to break the dominance of the Dravidian movement in Tamil Nadu. MGR was only used as a scapegoat in this matter.

The late MGR – a Menon from Kerala - would be the undisputed and most popular leader of the Dravidian people for almost a decade until his death in 1987. His wife came from a Brahmin Family from Varkala in Kerala. His inner circle mainly consisted of Malayalaee Brahmins. His concubines mostly belonged to the Brahmin caste.

It is an open secret that MGR , who had promised to marry one of his young Brahmin mistresses at a famous temple located on a hilltop backed out at the last minute due to his fledging political career- though Periyar ruined his political career by his marriage, he was gentlemen enough to keep up his promise to Mani Ammai .

MGR also flouted the most important ideological principle of Perriayar and the Dravidian movement – atheism – by being an avid temple visitor. Following MGR’s death, there was a fierce struggle for the leadership. However it was a Karnataka Iyeangar Brahmin and one of MGR’s concubines, Jayalalitha, who ultimately succeeded him.

However, the mother of all insults to Periyar and the Dravidian movement comes from none other than Veeramani, the successor of Periyar and Manniammai. He heads the oldest Dravidian party (Dravida Kalagham formed by Periyar himself). Today, the man not only wags his tail but has fallen at the feet of the Kannada Iyangar ‘Amma’ who resides at the Poes garden in Chennai. What more insults does Periyar and the Dravidian movement need? I have no doubt that Periyar - who is buried in Periyar Thiddal in the center of Chennai - must have died a second time over the sorry state of affairs of his beloved Dravidian movement.

In conclusion, unless the Dravidian movement finds new exciting social issues- like eradication of caste system among the non Brahmins, economic prosperity, abolition of the shameful female infanticide, and fighting the rising Brahmin anarchy (shrewdly being projected as the “hinduvata”) - the demise of the Dravidian movement is certain.


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