Erode Venkatappa Ramasamy popularly known as Periyar was an Indian social activist and reformer who changed the face of Tamil Nadu politics. The pioneer of The Dravidar Kazhagam in the State, he was hailed as the father of the Dravidian Movement. On his 141st birth anniversary, let us look back at some of his strong influences that left a mark on Tamil Nadu and the nation as a whole.

The self-respect movement to fight caste inequality

Periyaar’s main focus was his fight against casteism prevalent in his land. He opposed the dominance of Brahminism and urged all non-Brahmins and citizens of other castes to fight for equal rights. Following an incident in the Kasi temple where he was denied food meant only for Brahmins, Periyaar’s determination to bring about caste equality heightened even further. In fact, he even renounced God to become an atheist as he felt that no God would discriminate in this manner. This was the foundation of the Self Respect movement initiated by Periyaar.

Periyar’s fight for women’s rights

Periyar was also greatly recognised for his tireless work in bringing about gender-based equality. At a time when women were subject to many discriminatory acts and denied basic opportunities, Periyaar was a strong advocate for the rights of women in society in spite of being considered controversial. He believed that men and women possessed equal intellectual faculties and must be assessed on par. He also vehemently opposed the dowry system and supported women and children’s right to equal education.

Lessons from the Thirukural

A staunch supporter and lover of the Tamil language, Periyar learnt and taught valuable lessons from Thiruvalluvar’s Thirukkural. Periyar hailed the Thirukkural as a valuable scripture which contained many scientific and philosophical realities. Periyar praised Thiruvalluvar for his description of God as a formless entity with only positive attributes who speaks a universal non-religious truth.

The biopic does justice to the great man

Stream Periyar on Eros Now, which is a fitting biopic of a great reformer whose principles are still being followed by the Dravidian political parties today. The film stars Sathyaraj and Khushboo and has been directed by Gnana Rajashekharan with excellent performances by both protagonists.

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