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Periyar Biography : Daughter Controversy, Life History, Self-Respect Movement & Philosophy

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In South India’s history, Periyar E. V. Ramasamy (Periyar Full Name), Or Periyar played a very important character who was also known as Periyar among the people of South India. He came into the world on September 17, 1879, in Erode, Tamil Nadu. Periyar is famous for devoting his life to fighting for Equity. He was also known to fight for self-esteem as well as rational thinking. Here we will proceed to the Periyar biography, in which we will explore Periyar’s life, the impressive contributions he made to the Self-Respect Movement, and the controversies that surround his daughter.

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Did Periyar Marry His Daughter Maniammai?

While everyone recognized his work in social reform, there was a big fuss about his personal life. In 1948, he tied the knot with Maniammai, who was much younger and a close associate of his. This stirred controversy and led people to criticize him, alleging hypocrisy on his part. You see, Periyar had been vocal against child marriages and big age gaps in marriages. Maniammai was an adult when they got married, but because of the age difference and the timing, it caused quite a stir.

At the time of marriage, Periyar was 70 years old and Maniyammai was 30 years old (almost his daughter’s age). The decision to marry with Periyar was Maniyammai’s decision. At that time, As per the Hindu Marriage Act, the adopter and the adoptee had to be of the same caste. ​​

And, according to old Hindu law, daughters had no legal right to property. So, Periyar’s intention was only to make Maniyammai his legal heir. He made it clear that this marriage was only for legal reasons.

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Periyar Biography: Early Life And Education

Periyar was born into a prosperous family in Erode when it was part of the British-ruled Madras Presidency. Presidency. His early education at a Christian missionary school shaped his views on religion and social inequality. After finishing his formal education, he briefly held different government roles, where he observed the disparities and unfairness experienced by lower-caste and marginalized groups.

Periyar Biography : Self-Respect Movement

Periyar’s life took a turning point when he went to the 1921 Congress session in Nagpur. The Brahmin control in the Indian National Congress and the indifference of upper-caste leaders to the problems of lower castes shocked him, altering his life’s course as he transformed into an advocate dedicated to aiding the marginalized communities.

In 1925, Periyar established the Self-Respect Movement to empower non-Brahmin Dravidian communities and stand against the caste system. He believed that Dravidian people should have self-respect and not accept Brahminical superiority. After Gaining widespread popularity, the Periyar movement involved the use of public speeches, writings, and massive rallies as a means to convey his message of social justice to the masses.

He initiated a Tamil weekly called “Kudi Arasu” in 1925, and an English journal named “Revolt” began in 1928. These publications played a crucial role in promoting the philosophy, especially among English-educated individuals. The Self-Respect Movement quickly gained momentum and garnered support from the leaders of the Justice Party right from the start. In May 1929, a conference of Self-Respect Volunteers took place in Pattukkotai, with S. Guruswami serving as the president.

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Periyar Biography – Philosophical Legacy

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Periyar belief in rationalism and atheism was firm and his belief in self-respect was also resolute. He was against the caste system and religious superstitions. Periyar also didn’t like the Brahminical order. He wanted everyone to stop using caste-based surnames and adopt names that are entirely based on profession or birthplace. This tells us about his philosophy of caste and religion.

Periyar excelled in promoting the Tamil language and its culture, marking it as his most impactful contribution to the Tamil people. He staunchly believed in the distinct identity of the Dravidian people, advocating that they cherish their heritage separate from North Indian culture. Furthermore, when he tried to promote the Tamil language and culture in education as well as in government, it seamlessly made him leave a mark on the region.

Furthermore, between 1929 and 1935, amidst the trying period of the Great Depression, global politics underwent a substantial transformation, influenced notably by the ascendance of international communism. This influence reached Indian political parties, movements, and many leaders, introducing intercontinental ideologies.

Philosophical Legacy [Part 2]

The Self-Respect Movement also felt the effects of these leftist philosophies and institutions. Ramasamy, having established the Self-Respect Movement as an independent entity, started exploring ways to enhance its political and social standing. To achieve this, he delved into the histories and political structures of various countries, even personally observing these systems in action.

Ramasamy traveled through Malaya for a month, from December 1929 to January 1930, to spread the self-respect philosophy. He began his journey in Nagapattinam, accompanied by his wife, Nagammal, and his followers. When they reached Penang, they were greeted by a crowd of 50,000 Tamil Malaysians who welcomed them warmly.

The tour influenced Ramasamy’s political ideology, shaping his vision of achieving the concept of Self-Respect. He found the communist system in the Soviet Union appealing and well-suited to address the social issues in the country.

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Periyar Biography : Political Journey

In Periyar’s biography up to this point, we’ve delved into his work in social reform. However, it’s imperative to note that Periyar also played a crucial role in politics. He established the Dravidar Kazhagam (DK) in 1944, a political party committed to advocating for Dravidian interests. He became a Leader in the party and started to support social justice, Tamil nationalism, etc.

In 1919, Ramasamy became a member of the Indian National Congress. He did this after leaving his business and giving up his public positions. He took on the role of chairman of the Erode Municipality with great enthusiasm. In this position, he dedicated himself to constructive initiatives. These included promoting the use of Khadi, protesting toddy shops, boycotting stores selling foreign cloth, and working to eliminate untouchability.

Tamil Nadu was indirectly created by Periyar, as his role in the state of Tamil Nadu is very important. He passionately pushed for states based on languages in India, and his actions played a role in the reorganization of states by language in 1956. The establishment of Tamil Nadu as an individual state is the result of this and its identity was practically shaped by him.

Periyar Biography: Later Years And Legacy

After Periyar grew older, he remained active in Politics and activism. He died on December 24, 1973, but his philosophy and legacy haven’t left Tamil Nadu. He left a very powerful impact on the people of South India. The Dravidian Movement continued in South India; however, it took a turn towards increased hostility as politics became involved, exploiting the sentiments of the people.

In the history of South India, Periyar left a different ideology for the South Indian people. He committed his whole life to advocating for social justice and promoting the Tamil language as well as its culture.

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