"Periyar" E.V.Ramasami (1879-1973)
Periyar with Jinnah and Dr.Ambedkar
| About Periyar
Periyar Ramasami (1879-1973) was known as the Voltaire (1694-1778) of South India, particularly, in Tamil Nadu. Both were rationalists who aroused their people to realize that all men are equal and it is the birthright of every individual to enjoy liberty, equality and fraternity. Both opposed religion virulently because the so called men of religion invented myths and superstitions to keep the innocent and ignorant people in darkness and to go on exploiting them. In one of his articles, Voltaire said "They (the religious men) inspired you with false beliefs and made you fanatics so that they might be your masters. They made you superstitious, not that you might fear god but that you might fear them"
Voltaire and other French Philosophers of the 18th century awakened their countrymen to the fact that handful of People who had money and power kept them in a state of stupor, as it were, and went on treating them like animals. The awakening of the People brought about the French Revolution in which the heads of those who had exploited the People for generations, rolled to the ground. This revolution turned bloody" because it was mainly political. Because it was violent, its purpose was achieved in a short time.
The "revolution" which Periyar brought about was a bloodless one and he had to spend more than fifty years of his life opening the eyes of People to their want of education-and consequent backwardness, their faith in superstitions, the deception and exploitation to which they are subjected by cunning people and also on the need for them to develop self-respect and self-confidence. It is interesting to note the Term 'self-respect' as used by Periyar includes the three concepts liberty, equality and fraternity which Voltaire and other French revolutionists exhorted their countrymen to acquire. Periyar repeatedly and feelingly spoke about Women’s liberation.
Periyar was born in an affluent family on 17th September 1879. His parents were deeply religious and they frequently arranged religious discourses to be given at a temple or in other Public places. While all the other members of the family listened to the discourses with great devotion even in his early teens Ramasami displayed a keen rationalistic tendency and ridiculed the pundits who gave the talks, by pointing out the contradictions in their statements and also their incredible exaggerations. Referring to this early experience of his, Periyar wrote later in one of his autobiographical articles:
"It gave me extraordinary pleasure to fling at the pundits their own contradictions and Thus perplex Them. It also gave me the reputation, among our neighbours of being a clever speaker. I believe that it was this experience which deprived me of faith in castes and communities, in religion, in "puranas", in "sastras" and in god. "It is an irony that the religious discourses which were intended to Kindle piety and religiosity in all listeners produced the opposite effect on Ramasami. As he grew up, he became convinced that some people used religion only as a mask to deceive innocent people. That was why he took it as one of the duties in his life to warn people against superstitious and priests.
Periyar Father : Mr.Venkatappa Naicker
Periyar Life Measure
LIFE - 94 Years 3 Months and 7 Days
Travel - Days 8200 / In foreign countries - 302
Distance - 8,20,000 miles
Programme & Speech
No. of Programme - 10,700 / Period of speech In hours - 21,400
In days - 891
Note: Had all the speeches been documented in a tape recorder it would be running for 2 years, 5 months and 11 days continuously.
Periyar mother : Mrs. Chinna Thayammal, @ Muthammal
E.V. Ramasami, He left school at the age of ten and joined his father in business when he was twelve.The patriotic fervour of Ramasami lid him to give up his lucrative business and join the Indian National Congress in its struggle for freedom.
He became an ardent fighter and came to ne closely associated with Rajaji. Ramasami courted imprisonment several times during the freedom movement.
The sathyagraha he launched at Vaikom in Kerala against the despicable practice of barring entry of people of certain castes into the streets where people of other castes lived was a success and he earned the title ‘Vaikkom Hero’. He left the Congress in 1925 and carried on a crusade against the caste-system and advocated prohibition. E.V.R. strove for the emancipation of the exploited masses and weaker sections of society.
In 1925 he founded the Self-Respect Movement. a socio-political organisation of which he was the President. He stared a weekly. “Kudiyarasu” (Republic) and later a daily. “Viduthalai” (Freedom) to propagate the principles of his movement. In particular, Ramasami preached inter-caste marriages and re-marriage of widows. It was his firm conviction that orthodoxy, superstition, social discrimination and many other evils which persisted in the society should go. He waged a relentless battle against these till the very end of his life.