E.V. Ramaswamy Periyar
Popularly known as “Periyar”, he was a radical social reformer of Tamil
Nadu. What is less known about him is that he was also active in the
freedom struggle for sometime, participating in the non-cooperation
movement, offering satyagraha and defending khadi. But soon he gave
them up to start a strong Dravidian movement. Portraying Periyar as just
anti-Brahmin or anti-God would be to do injustice to a man who fought
against Hindu orthodoxy with the kind of rare energy and conviction that
transformed the social landscape of Tamil Nadu. To understand why
Periyar"s advocacy of rationalism and social reform caught the imagination
of the underclass, his movement must be placed in the context of the rigid
rituals that had legitimised caste oppression at that time.
Personal Life: He was born on 17 September, 1879 in Erode of Madras
Presidency to a wealthy family of Balijas. At a young age, he witnessed
numerous incidents of caste and gender discrimination. 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. 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 superstitions and priests.