Periyar E.V. Ramasamy

He has done exemplary works against Brahminical dominance, caste prevalence and women oppression. E.V. Ramasamy promoted the principles of rationalism, self-respect, women’s rights and eradication of caste. He opposed the exploitation and marginalisation of the non-Brahmin Dravidian people of South India and the imposition of what he considered Indo-Aryan India.

Politics

E.V. Ramasamy joined the Indian National Congress in 1919, but resigned in 1925 when he felt that the party was only serving the interests of Brahmins. He questioned the subjugation of non-Brahmin Dravidians as Brahmins enjoyed gifts and donations from non-Brahmins but opposed and discriminated non-Brahmins in cultural and religious matters.

Kasi Pilgrimage Incident

In 1904, E.V. Ramasamy went on a pilgrimage to Kasi to visit the
revered Shiva temple of Kashi Vishwanath. Though regarded as one of the holiest
sites of Hinduism, he witnessed immoral activities such as begging, and floating
dead bodies.

However, one particular incident in Kasi had a profound impact on E.V.
Ramasamy’s ideology and future work. At the worship site there were free meals
offered to guests. To E.V. Ramasamy’s shock, he was refused meals at choultries,
which exclusively fed Brahmins. Due to extreme hunger, E.V. Ramasamy felt
compelled to enter one of the eateries disguised as a Brahmin with a sacred
thread on his bare chest, but was betrayed by his moustache. The gatekeeper at the
temple concluded that E.V. Ramasamy was not a Brahmin, as Brahmins were not
permitted by the Hindu shastras to have moustaches. He not only prevented
Periyar’s entry but also pushed him rudely into the street.

As his hunger became intolerable, Periyar was forced to feed on leftovers from the streets. Around this time, he realised that the eatery which had refused him entry was built by a wealthy non-Brahmin from South India. This discriminatory attitude dealt a blow to Periyar’s regard for Hinduism, for the events he had witnessed at Kasi were completely different from the picture of Kasi he had in mind, as a holy place which welcomed all. Ramasamy was a theist until his visit to Kasi, after which his views changed and he became an atheist.