Social Differences

-Periyar E.V. Ramasamy

Translated by Karthick Ram Manoharan and Vilasini Ramani

By anthropological studies, Indians can be broadly divided into three categories – Aryans, Mongoloids, and Dravidians. Among these, the Dravidians are the oldest tribes of India. The Aryans came from outside to settle here. 

The languages of the Dravidians are Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam and a few other tribal languages. The languages of the Aryans are Sanskrit, Hindi etc.

The Dravidians did not have any caste discrimination among them and they worshipped a single god.

The Aryans have caste differences and they worship many gods. The Aryans believe in heaven, family deities, rituals etc. The Dravidians worship warriors, respect and adore great persons who work for the good of the society, feed the poor who cannot earn a living, and build lodges for travellers. 

The Aryans teach that we should offer gifts to the Brahmins in order to attain salvation and anything else that we do is useless. 

The Dravidians believe that helping the poor and offering them a livelihood is a duty for those in privileged positions.

There are many such differences between the Aryans and Dravidians. A condition is imposed that if the Aryans and the Dravidians are to live together, it can happen only when we accept that the Aryans are superior upper castes while the Dravidians are inferior lower castes. However, if we claim equal rights, we are called as Aryan haters and Brahmin haters. This is why we have protests and fights between the Aryans and the Dravidians in the Dravidian land. As the struggle intensifies, the Dravidians are forced to demand that the Dravidian land be separated from the Aryan land and that the Dravidians must establish their own rule. 

Whether the British accept or not to the idea of a separate Dravidian land, the Dravidians have decided that they will uphold this demand to live on their own. 

Ireland which has a population of about 75 lakh people was part of Great Britain but they are now a separate country. And the British have accepted that. They even allowed Burma to become independent.

If Britain does not permit Tamil Nadu that has a population of about 4 crore Dravidians to separate from the Aryan land and live as a British protectorate, it is a loss only to them, but it doesn’t mean that the Dravidians will not get their Dravidian land.

Editorial, Viduthalai, 01.05.1941.

Source: Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. 2011. Periyar Kalanjiyam 8: Jaathi-Theendaamai, Paagam (2). [Periyar Repository 8: Caste-Untouchability Part (2)]. Second Edition. Chennai: Periyar Suyamariyathai Prachaara Niruvanam, pp. 141-143.

Gandhi-Periyar Dialogue

Translated by Karthick Ram Manoharan and Vilasini Ramani

(Periyar along with his close friend S. Ramanathan visited Mahatma Gandhi in Bangalore in 1927. Their conversation was first published in Kudiarasu in 1927 and republished in Unmai in 1970. We have translated their conversation as it appears in the Periyar Kalanjiyam.)

Periyar: Hinduism should go.

Mahatma Gandhi: Why?

Periyar: There is no Hindu religion.

Gandhi: There is.

Periyar: The Brahmins have propagated this and have duped people.

Gandhi: Aren’t all religions like that?

Periyar: Not so. Other religions have proof for their history and their religious figures, and their ideas are generally accepted by their followers.

Gandhi: But aren’t there such things in Hinduism?

Periyar: What is there? One is a Brahmin. One a Sudra. Another a Panchama. Apart from these divisions, is there a common idea, or a common source? And apart from the social belief that the Brahmin is high, while the Sudra and Panchama are low, what else is there?

Gandhi: Well, at least there appears to be this idea!

Periyar: But what is the use of this? According to it, the Brahmins are higher while you and I are lower.

Gandhi: You are in error. In varnashrama dharma, there are no high and low castes.

Periyar: You say this. But it does not work that way.

Gandhi: It can be made to work that way.

Periyar: As long as there is Hinduism, that is not possible.

Gandhi: It can be done only through Hinduism.

Periyar: Then what do we do with the religious texts that are proof for the divisions of Brahmin and Sudra?

Gandhi: But you yourself claimed that there is no proof for a Hindu religion?

Periyar: I say that there is no Hindu religion, and that there is no specific proof for the same. But then, shouldn’t those who accept the existence of this religion also accept the proofs that come along?

Gandhi: We can accept a religion and develop our own arguments.

Periyar: That is not possible. If we accept a religion as valid, we cannot change anything.

Gandhi: What you say is applicable for other religions. Not for Hinduism. Once you accept the religion, you can make changes in its name. No one can question you.

Periyar: How can you say this? Who will agree? Wouldn’t you need to provide a basis for this?

Gandhi: What you say sounds right. That is, there is no religion called Hindu religion. Fair enough. I agree. I also agree that it does not have a well-defined set of ideas. But that is exactly why we, as Hindus, have the liberty to make our own ideals. Today, in this country – why – in the world itself, the Hindu religion can be used to bring people to the right path. Other religions cannot. Because other religions have historical proofs and concrete ideas. Those who interfere with these (proofs) will be opposed. What Christ said, or what the Bible says that he said, that is the only way for Christians to behave. Likewise, what the Prophet Muhammad said and what the Koran says, that is the only way for the Muslims to behave. Differing interpretations will be seen as blasphemy. Those who have different opinions can state them only from the outside. If they try to do so from the inside, that will not be permitted. This is the nature of the ‘true’ religions.

But since Hinduism is not such a religion, anyone can become a saint here and say anything. And that is how many great men and saints of Hinduism were able to say the things that they said. Thus, we too can stay within Hinduism and bring about several reforms.  

Periyar: I am sorry. But this cannot be done.

Gandhi: Why?

Periyar: A selfish group in Hinduism will not allow this.

Gandhi: Why do you say this? Do not the Hindus agree when we say that there is no untouchability in Hinduism?

Periyar: Agreeing is one thing. Practicing it is another. It does not happen in practice.

Gandhi: I practice it! Would you not agree that there has been a significant change in the last 4-5 years?

Periyar: I understand what you are saying.  But there is no change at a fundamental level. Due to your public influence and because they seek to make use of you, these people act as if they agree with you. And you also believe them.

Gandhi: (Laughing) Who are these actors?

Periyar: Why, the Brahmins!

Gandhi: All the Brahmins?

Periyar: Yes! Why? All the Brahmins who are with you!

Gandhi: But don’t you believe a single Brahmin?

Periyar: I find it difficult.

Gandhi: Don’t you even believe Rajagopalachariyar?

Periyar: He is a good man. An honest man. Ready to sacrifice. Selfless. But he is honest in pursuing the interests of his class. Will sacrifice for the same. Is selfless in that pursuit. But I am unable to hand over the interests of my class to him without suspicion.

Gandhi: That is surprising!  Is it your opinion that there is no honest Brahmin in the world?

Periyar: Who knows? I have not come across any!

Gandhi: Please don’t say that. I have seen a Brahmin. Without doubt, I consider him a good Brahmin. Do you know who that is? Gopal Krishna Gokhale.

Periyar:  Ah! When a Mahatma like you could find only one good Brahmin in this wide world, how can an ordinary sinner like me find any?

Gandhi: (Laughing) The world is controlled by the intelligentsia.  Brahmins are the learned class. They will thus always command power. There is no point in criticizing them. Rather, others should reach their level.

Periyar: Other religions are not like that. It is only in Hinduism that an exclusive group like the Brahmins form the intelligentsia. Among the rest, 90/100 are illiterate and innocent. In a society, when only one section of people can belong to the intelligentsia, isn’t that religion detrimental for all other castes except that privileged caste? Thus, I say that such a religion is false, harmful to others, and must go.

Gandhi: Can I assume that your position is that both Hinduism and the Brahmins should go?

Periyar: If Hinduism, this false religion, goes away, there will be no more Brahmins. Because there is Hinduism, there are also Brahmins. You and I, we are sudras. All power is in the hands of the Brahmins, I would say.

Gandhi: That is not so. Do they not listen to me? By being within the Hindu religion and acting in its name, we can still remove the negative aspects that you have pointed out.

Periyar: It is my humble opinion that you will not be able to do this. Even if you can, after your time, some other great person like you might emerge and undo all your work.

Gandhi: How?

Periyar: As you said earlier, in Hinduism’s name, anything can be said to convince the people.  Similarly, a great man in the future may do anything in the name of Hinduism.

Gandhi: I don’t think such a change might be easily possible in the future.

Periyar: Forgive me for saying this. Within the Hindu religion, it is not possible for even someone like you to bring about a permanent change. The Brahmins will not allow you to go to that extent. If they feel that your stand affects their interests, they will start opposing you. So far, no great man has been able to bring a substantial change here; if anyone does try, the Brahmins will not spare them.

Gandhi: You have a wrong opinion about the Brahmins. Your position is clear to me. I think we have not arrived at any conclusive agreement in our conversation. However, we should meet again 2-3 times. Later, we can decide on what we can do together.

Kudiarasu 1927, Unmai 14-9-1970

Source: Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. 2011. Periyar Kalanjiyam 7: Jaathi-Theendaamai, Paagam (1). [Periyar Repository 7: Caste-Untouchability Part (1)]. Second Edition. Chennai: Periyar Suyamariyathai Prachaara Niruvanam, pp. 48-53.

Both are Worse!

-Periyar E.V. Ramasamy

Translated by Karthick Ram Manoharan and Vilasini Ramani

The discrimination that follows from notions of high and low among the human community based on birth, skin color, religion, or any other reason is worse than barbarism and such practices should be demolished. We have been saying at different occasions that getting equal rights and equal justice should be the ultimate goal of all people. 

While around the world, discriminations and differential treatment based on color is slowly changing, unfortunately, the discrimination based on one’s birth or one’s work still continues to exist in this subcontinent and is even legalized; worse, such discriminations are covered-up in order to turn them into a permanent affair.

Even the Whites are ready to change their laws and give up on racist practices; but in this country, whether the land is hit by a massive flood or devastated by an earthquake, people are adamant on not giving up such practices. 

Those who pay attention to the living condition of the common people here will understand the suffering they undergo based on how they are being discriminated against based on birth. 

We ask if someone can refuse the truth that people here are seen as untouchables, prevented from using the roads, discriminated against on the basis of the food they eat. Is it fair when prejudiced people of this country complain that the Whites are racists? One should note that discrimination based on one’s birth is worse than discrimination based on skin color.

The Whites have realized their blunder of being racists and are changing; they apparently have decided to supply weapons to the citizens of South Africa for self-defense. The racial discrimination in industries are slowly being eradicated in Canada. There is a news on 27th July 1941 that says that the woodworks union in America have decided to include all other unions without discrimination on color. The same news further says that based on this move, the union in Vancouver has decided to include Indians and the decision has been welcomed. 

Perhaps because of the turbulent times, they have realized the harm that befalls upon themselves due to ignorance and stupidity. But here in this country, if casteist and arrogant people have no mercy and have hearts of stone, how is it wrong if we say that they are worse than the racists?

It is only because racial discrimination was not eliminated, the biggest empires that spread across the world were shaken in the course of time. One could be glad that the realization dawned, even if very late. But unless racial discrimination is completely abolished, we believe that the worse effects it has left behind will take a long time to heal.  

Though one can deduce from their actions that the Whites have started regretting their mistakes, the ones from this country have still not realized the bigger mistake of discriminating against people in the name of caste and birth. It is by keeping us permanently divided on this basis that one class has been able to exercise dominance over us. We don’t realize that because of these divisions crores of our people are controlled by a minority group of people who rule over us. Worse, the common people fight against each other and reinstate the divisions between them.

By observing the developments in the world or at least by looking at how the Whites are strengthening themselves by giving up that which is discriminatory, shouldn’t we also have a change of mentality? It is not an honest approach to condemn others for their discriminatory practices while we continue to practice our own. The knowledgeable wouldn’t act this way. The world would only mock them saying ‘Look at your own mistakes before pointing fingers at others.’ So those who condemn racial discrimination should first come forward to annihilate the racial and caste discrimination in their own land, practiced by their own class. If only they are ready to do it, wouldn’t the miseries of this subcontinent vanish away?

Viduthalai  23.03.1942

Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. 2011. Periyar Kalanjiyam 8: Jaathi-Theendaamai, Paagam (2). [Periyar Repository 8: Caste-Untouchability Part (2)]. Second Edition. Chennai: Periyar Suyamariyathai Prachaara Niruvanam, pp. 183-185.

A Life of Slavery

-Periyar E.V. Ramasamy

Translated by Karthick Ram Manoharan and Vilasini Ramani

The ancient community of the Dravidians were enslaved by Aryans, a foreign people that settled here, and were degraded by being called sudras and panchamas by the latter and were thus unable to make any progress in their lives. The naïve Dravidians, who were illiterates and who were living as small groups without any communication between them due to lack of transportation, were easily cheated and enslaved by Aryans. 

The Aryans tactfully made the Dravidians accept their religion, which is devised exclusively for the former’s betterment, and through the same they disparaged the Dravidians.

In god, in religion, in education – in all institutions important for life – they forced their culture, through which they claimed themselves to be superior and they enslaved us. They deceived us into accepting that we are inferiors in the name of god and religion. It is therefore crucial for the Dravidian Kazhagam to free people from such deception.

This is why we relentlessly preach to the Dravidians that, “You should destroy the god that you are not allowed to touch; You should reject the religion that has turned you into sudras and panchamas; You should dispose the texts of shastras or puranas that treat you as lesser beings.”

We are not saying that the god who is non-discriminatory and teaches people good virtues, the religion that leads people in the righteous path, the shastras and the puranas that insist people to be just and honest, should be denounced. We only say that the religion and the god and its shastras that humiliate the innocent Dravidians who are made to starve, who are not rewarded for their hard work and are thus exploited, should be criticized. As long as the Dravidians remain oppressed they would never be given opportunities nor benefits. The Justice Party in its inception understood this, and later the Self-Respect Movement was started to remove this shameful situation. 

Only after the formation of the Self-Respect Movement did the Dravidians start to gain respect. They started to think about the caste degradation that has been forced on them. Even though there were many Alwars and Nayanmars in the past, none of them seem to have bothered about caste oppression. They did not care about how Aryan culture has kept us oppressed. Instead, they have glorified it in their songs. In the records of the Aryans, we have proof that some Dravidian Kings were against Aryan culture. There are stories where kings like Iraniyan, Ravanan were demonized and were shown as criminals, and immoral tyrants, and how they were tactfully killed by the Aryan kings. The stories of their slayings are celebrated in epics, religious texts and as religious festivals, so that no would breathe a word of opposition against the Aryans ever. Later, the Buddhists and the Jains tried to fight against Aryans but they were destroyed too.

Many Dravidian Tamil scholars have opposed this. But they were also turned into saints and Siddhars and their arguments were sidelined. Valluvar who wrote the Thirukkural had opposed this to a very great extent. But his works were translated wrongly. Today, we are the ones to take over this struggle. When we say we demand for annihilation of caste supremacy, it doesn’t mean calling for annihilation of Brahmins themselves. 

Brahminism which is an Aryan culture has to be annihilated because it is the reason for caste discrimination. We are only against Brahminism and not the Brahmins.

All of this is suppressed in today’s regime. The outsiders from the North are made into leaders. The reason that the wealth of this country is owned by the outsiders and those who are hand-in-glove with the rulers is because these Northerners have the liberty to exploit our wealth as they wish. Since religious beliefs are protected, it has given way for some to claim themselves as superior, even superior by birth. 

There are claims that untouchability has been abolished. But the truth is that the ‘abolition of untouchability’ is in the same state today as it was under the Justice Party 27 years back. 

The Justice Party made rules for everyone to have the right to use roads before 1923 itself. It was only the Brahmins and the Congressmen who prevented this then. But today, they claim our measures to be theirs. But ‘untouchability’ with respect to religion, the right to conduct rituals, to give food to idols, and loot money given for prayers, is still in the control of the Brahmins alone. In the name of God, they continue to claim rights to loot and enjoy free food without doing any work.

Also, it is claimed that ‘untouchability has been abolished’. But the very basis of the untouchability, which is caste discrimination, is still allowed. The religion which is the reason for caste discrimination is untouched and so are the rights for this religion. All the superstitions like temple-chariot processions, weddings of the gods etc. in which money, knowledge and materials are being wasted, are being validated. There is still support for cheating and fraud in ‘His’ name.

Periyar’s speech at a general meeting in Karur on 01-01-1950. Published on Viduthalai on 04.02.1950.

Source: Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. 2011. Periyar Kalanjiyam 9: Jaathi-Theendaamai, Paagam (3). [Periyar Repository 9: Caste-Untouchability Part (3)]. Second Edition. Chennai: Periyar Suyamariyathai Prachaara Niruvanam, pp. 174-177.

A Dialogue about the Kural Conference

-Periyar E.V. Ramasamy

Translated by Karthick Ram Manoharan and Vilasini Ramani

First Person: Is this conference on the Kural being held with such grandeur only to confront the Brahmins?

Second Person: Why do you think so? We had conferences on Ramayana, Periya Puranam etc in the past. Were they held just to oppose someone?

FP: Those conferences were about the merits of those works.

SP: So you don’t think Kural is a work of literature?

FP: It is. But why do Brahmins in trams and buses say that an anti-Brahmin conference is being held in Broadway?

SP: Brahmins do not approve of the Kural. The Kural is opposed to Brahminism. Thus they hate the Kural very much. Since we are organizing the conference, the Brahmins suspect that we will malign Brahminism.

FP: Is that all? They were talking as if they were struck by thunder. From what they spoke, I anticipate that we might have a ban on the conference.

SP: Never. But even if it did, let it happen.

FP: What would you do if they ban it?

SP: We will stop the conference. We are not the Dravidar Kazhagam to fight against Section 144.

FP: So, if you stop the conference and if they run their conference at the same place what would you do?

SP: What else can we do? We will inform the government that we are not conducting the conference but they are.

FP: Won’t the government hold you responsible?

SP: Let them. What else can they do to us? We will also become the Dravidian Kazhagam. 

FP: Then you might be put in jail?

SP: There is no place there.

FP: They will beat you up like how they did at Kumbakonam.

SP: Only if they can get hold of us. We will claim that we did not do the conference. How can they attack us after that? We will go into hiding.

FP: What will then happen at the conference?

SP: What else would happen at a conference convened by Kalyana Sundaranar, Meenatchi Sundaranar, Somasundara Bharatiyar, Chakravarthy Nayinar, Kandasamy Mudaliar etc? Tell me.

FP: Why on earth do they want to conduct this conference? Please tell me. I’m asking you sincerely. There is no secret between us, isn’t it?

SP: Now we are talking. Our intentions are; First: We want to dismiss the ideas that there are no moral texts for Dravidians and that only the Mahabharata and Ramayana are the moral texts for Dravidians. We want to prove with facts that the moral codes for Aryans and Dravidians are different. To eradicate the differences among Dravidians that were created by Aryans, we want to dismiss the idea of many gods and we want to make everyone realize the right approach to god. To eliminate all superstitious beliefs and barbaric behavior among Dravidians in the name of morality, religion etc. We want harmony and solidarity among people. Second: The selfish slaves and the irrational idiots spread vicious and foolish propaganda that ‘Dravidians and rationalists will destroy Tamil culture and Tamil literature and that they do not have any knowledge about our literature or culture.’ We want to prove them wrong and expose who these idiots, scoundrels and Aryan slaves really are in our conference.

Today, for the Dravidians, including those illiterate, the Kural is the only moral text. But this is forgotten by the high court judges, the prime minister, the commissioner, political leaders, god men. Even many Dravidians want to please the Brahmins and propagate the Mahabharata, Ramayana, Thiruvilaiyadal, and Periya Purana. We want to change this and want the public to denounce these texts. 

FP: So how did the Dravidar Kazhagam take part in this?

SP: Is there any particular group called the Dravidar Kazhagam? Excluding the ones that are mentioned above, that is, those who have greed for power, who are selfish, crooks, criminals who hide behind the puranas, the rest are all Dravidians.

FP: Is it so? After hearing the Brahmins in the tram, I thought this conference was about bashing the Brahmins. Only now do I understand it better. 

SP: Whenever a measure for the Dravidian people’s respect, welfare and progress is taken, the Brahmins cry foul saying that religion, god, literature, culture etc are all being ruined and that hatred is being sown against Brahmins. They pick the traitors and idiots from among us and make them join their drama. This is nothing new, this has been happening from the times of Skanda Purana or Ramayana. 

FP: Is it so? WIll anything change over just one conference?

SP: Let it change or not. What do we lose? Thousands of years of humiliation and ignorance will continue for some more time. In the future that our children will inherit, all these things, including the traitors among us, will vanish. In about ten years, if things do not change, the Dravidian land will turn into a communist land. Not the ‘underground’ kind, but a real communist country. So, if things do not change right away there is no loss.

FP: Well, let me take leave.

SP: Please do. 

Periyar’s satirical dialogue in the fictional name ‘Chithiraputhiran’. Published on Viduthalai on 12.01.1949.

Source: Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. 2015. Periyar Kalanjiyam 37: Thirukkural-Valluvar. [Periyar Repository 37: Thirukkural-Valluvar]. First Edition. Chennai: Periyar Suyamariyathai Prachaara Niruvanam, 87-91.

Ambedkar is an Extremist in Annihilating Caste!

-Periyar E.V. Ramasamy

Translated by Karthick Ram Manoharan and Vilasini Ramani

Ambedkar belongs to the world of great scholars. What is the reason for him to become such a great scholar? His education, talent etc. come only secondary. There are perhaps people who are more educated and more talented than him. So the reason why Ambedkar is a great intellectual is not only because of his education and talent, but also because we the people reap benefits from his intellect, while others use their learning for their own benefits.

Ambedkar is an atheist. Not just today, he has been an atheist for a very long time. Let me tell you one thing. All those who are true intellectuals in the world are all atheists. And only those who are atheists can research and be scientific and live as shining individuals. They are the ones to put their knowledge to use.

Dr. Ambedkar is a great scholar. And because of that he is a great atheist. He uses his original intellect to talk boldly about what he observes. In our country, those who are considered to be scholars are afraid of talking the truth. But Dr Ambedkar is nothing like them, he talks very boldly. 

Recently there was an incident that the entire world watched with awe. That is Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism. He has formally joined Buddhism now, but he has been a Buddhist for quite some time. 

Dr Ambedkar has rejected Hinduism for the past 20-30 years. When he talks about Gandhi, he says, ‘Gandhi is a staunch Hindu. He wants to protect Varnashrama and Manusmriti. What can he do for the Adi Dravidars?’ He thus attacked Gandhi, rejected the slokas of Varnashrama, and said that Gandhi is behaving this way only because he is a devout Hindu.

Ambedkar was into propagating the annihilation of caste from 1930-35. In Punjab they have created a forum for caste annihilation (I think it is called Jat Pat Todak mandal). They even added me as a member of it. The group had arranged for a meeting for eradicating caste and asked Ambedkar to head it. Ambedkar also agreed to head the meeting and wrote about 100 pages in English to be read out. Using facts, he has mentioned at many places that to annihilate caste we should reject Hinduism. Hearing about this, the members of the group had asked him to give the paper to them before he presented it. In the text, he had written categorically that Hinduism should be rejected. After reading it, they requested to him that, ‘Your keynote address is not appropriate to be read in our meeting. This is an organization that works for caste eradication and not for the removal of religion. So please remove the chapter in which you have mentioned about the rejection of Hinduism.’ Ambedkar replied, ‘Rejecting Hinduism is crucial to the annihilation of caste. We cannot exclude that in the talk. Hence, I cannot remove the chapter.’ Malaviya had tried to convince him. To which Ambedkar responded, ‘Let me talk what I have to talk in the keynote address. You can condemn my talk in the same meeting if you want. You can even make a resolution about it. I will address that in my endnote.’ The meeting never happened.

I asked Ambedkar to give me that speech and published that as a book in Tamil with the title Saathiyai Ozhikkum Vazhi. He was very committed to this idea for a long time. 

When we were only talking about Ramayanam in 1932, he had already burnt it. N Sivaraj was the head of that meeting. All of this has been reported in Kudiarasu

When he visited Chennai once and talked about The Gita, he said that it was nothing but gibberish. On hearing this, people like C.P. Ramasamy Iyer made noise saying that, ‘Talking ill of The Gita is atrocious. If Ambedkar as an individual had said this, it could be excusable. But not as a council member and not when visiting Chennai.’

I had invited Ambedkar to a meeting on social reform in Erode. RK Shanmugam Chettiyar gave the opening speech at the meeting. Ambedkar could not come for unknown reasons. MR Jayakkar had come instead. He spoke some words of appreciation and left. Had Ambedkar come, it would have been much better. 

Around that time, Ambedkar said that he wanted to convert to Islam. S Ramanathan and I immediately sent him a telegram from here. ‘Please don’t make a hasty decision. You should have at least one lakh people following you to get respect even there. Else, you might have to dance to the tune of the Maulanas. They claim that Islam is a perfect religion. Just doing prayers and other rituals will be like being in jail for you. If you go alone, there will not be any respect. If you are attacked, don’t you need support?’ we said in the telegram. Many other people also went to his house and had requested him not to convert. It was published in newspapers. He was very serious about converting to another religion. Finally, he chose Buddhism. 

But he was already a Buddha. 

I met him in Burma when we went for the World Buddhist conference. I was supposed to give a speech as per the program. But they had not informed me about it. I attended the meeting. But instead of me they asked someone else to give a speech. During this visit, Ambedkar said to me that we should formally convert to Buddhism today.  

‘Mysore Maharaja is very fascinated by the doctrine of Buddhism. Even I would like to settle down in Mysore. He has also agreed to give many acres of land. With all the resources that we have we could start a university instead of just talking until we die. Shouldn’t we do something significant before we die?’ Ambedkar said this and many other things. And he is living his words now. He has now boldly converted to Buddhism. And he made a statement after that. 

‘I will no longer accept Rama, Krishna, Siva, Indra as my gods anymore. I will not accept  their incarnations as my gods. I do not believe in idol worship. I do not believe in caste, moksha, hell etc. I do not believe in rituals around death, offerings and oblations. I will not perform them anymore.’ 

Whatever we reject or condemn today, he has already spoken about it. 

Ambedkar is a guide for the people. He has always been very outspoken in his criticisms of caste and religion. He worked for others selflessly. He is well known throughout India. He has shown a way to his people by converting to Buddhism. There is a chance that people from here might also convert. He has helped his community to attain education and employment. He has secured 15 percent reservations. 

He is a great leader by himself. There will not be another leader like him in future. He was a natural leader, anticipating an egalitarian time. After Ambedkar, there can be no other leader like him.

Periyar’s talk at Velore Municipal Council on 28-10-1956. Published on Viduthalai on 7-12-1956.

Source: Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. 2010. Periyar Kalanjiyam 10: Jaathi-Theendaamai, Paagam (4). [Periyar Repository 10: Caste-Untouchability Part (4)]. Second Edition. Chennai: Periyar Suyamariyathai Prachaara Niruvanam, 190-194.

What is Civilization?

-Periyar E.V. Ramasamy

Translated by Karthick Ram Manoharan and Vilasini Ramani

No matter how we approach the concept of ‘civilization’, we have to acknowledge the differences and changes in people’s activities, clothing habits, food habits, behavior, social relationships etc. in a large way. We cannot exactly say how this change has happened. Somehow everything adapts to change and keep going. 

Our women never used to wear blouses. Today, there are many styles of blouses. In the Western world, women’s clothing looked like one that swept the streets. To make their hip look thin, they wore dresses that looked like cones below their waist. Rich women used to have servants to hold their long dresses at the back. That was a time in civilization. Nowadays, the Western women wear much shorter clothes. This is also civilization.

When we talk about these things, we talk without any attachment, i.e., we should talk as freethinkers without having affiliation to caste, religion or nation so as to understand these changes better. Only then we will perceive the truth of it. 

Once upon a time, one needed to put sacred ash on the forehead and mutter ‘Siva Siva’ to pretend to be a person of good traits. We live in times where we make fun of such things. We ridicule such actions.

When we take husband-wife for instance, there used to be a time when only those wives who took abuse from their husband without complaint, who enslaved themselves to the husband and took care of his needs, were respected. But today, the wives challenge the husband if they are maids to do service to him, if they are enslaved creatures. The husbands should learn to behave well, else things won’t be nice. The wives of today who demand equal rights, equal freedom, and ask to be treated as equal partners are seen as cultured and civilized. 

Earlier, one had to talk about epics or religions to be known as learned and renowned. But today aren’t they ridiculed and seen as old-fashioned? Things that do not make sense were discussed before out of sheer ignorance and arrogance. But today we need rational explanations and we respect learned experts who can give scientific reasons for everything.

Civilization is nothing but what adapts to the context, the country and the times. It keeps changing. The behavior that evolves with the times is called civilized. And time does not hold on to old things. The new is born from the old and revolutionary change is inevitable. 

We talked about mustache, hair style etc. What we consider as civilization today eventually becomes indigestion. It moves towards another change.  

Such concepts sell through the smartness of speech. It can be anything – truth or lies, right or wrong. In the future there might be a situation where physical labor will reduce. It will be the way of life then. 

Why should we keep slogging always? Should rationally thinking beings slog? Should we earn our food only through hard labor? If we raise such questions, we can work for the progress of human society without much difficulty or sacrifice. This can be seen as a way of life and may benefit all. We used to think that nation-state, nationalism, patriotism were necessary for civilized behavior. But today civilization means we leave past all these things and talk about compassion and camaraderie among the world citizens.   

We ridicule today what was once a social practice. Man used to carry caste pride. He proudly claimed himself as either Nayakkan, or Mudaliar, or Vaishnavite or Saivite, and wanting to be up in the caste hierarchy through Saivite and Vaishnavite rituals, he wore the sacred thread, applied sacred ash in vertical or horizontal lines on his forehead and talked high of his beliefs. 

But today we condemn these practices as senseless and regressive. Once upon a time different thoughts were in practice. For example, vying for power by different castes and nations was appreciated greatly. But we started to realize today that anything that is good for one caste or one nation is evil for the other caste or the other nation.

Dear Comrades, I would like to stress on one particular thing here. We are growing as progressive beings through our matured experiences. We consider the wellbeing of all people through our informed thoughts. 

For example, we know that the businessmen hurt the welfare of others for their profits, that the usurers are the destroyers of humankind, and that religious fanatics bring misery to humankind.

I said earlier that civilization is a very complex thing. How could our women wear saree without wearing a belt to support it? How does it stay on their waist? And how could the women make a bun of their hair without a comb? Why are we spending money each day on our platter? We must be aware of Westerners who wonder at these things. If we do not realize what is right for us, we end up being mystified.

The affiliation we have towards our caste, relationships, language, nation – all of these make our thinking blunt. If this affiliation or affection is not gotten rid of, we cannot think of anything good. We cannot differentiate our right actions from the wrong. 

When Gandhiji visited abroad, he was adamant that he would only wear a knee-length dress. He suffered the cold in England (all for the pride of Indian values) without a proper dress. How is this even sensible? Can we call this an action of a sensible person? Can we make everyone do this? Is it even right to make everyone do this?

The world evolves with new thoughts and actions everyday. You should not fail to make use of what is best for you. Wear rationalism on your sleeves and think and strive for what is best for human kind. You will achieve success only through this.

Even those who were staunch believers of God started realizing that only hard work pays and they talk and act accordingly. Hence, you should be confident about yourselves and come forward to fight for the liberation of people with a rationalist approach.  

Those that are comforts, good deeds and necessities for the individual must be made available to every single person in the society, and this is what is called civilization. Such a concept of civilization can be seen as the yardstick to measure the progress of a society. This changes according to time and the scientific expansion of knowledge. What is civilization is nothing but that which makes peoples’ lives joyous.

Periyar’s 1933 speech on “The civilization that we see in India today” during his Europe tour. Published on Viduthalai on 9-2-1964.

Source: Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. 2013. Periyar Kalanjiyam 34: Pagutharivu, Paagam (2). [Periyar Repository 34: Rationalism Part (2)]. First Edition. Chennai: Periyar Suyamariyathai Prachaara Niruvanam, 155-159.

Will the Enslavement of Women End?

-Periyar E.V. Ramasamy

Translated by Karthick Ram Manoharan and Vilasini Ramani

A varied range of opinions about what type of education should be given to Indian women come from many quarters. Women however are not ready to accept the opinions of the reactionaries. They are only ready to accept progressive ideas.

“Indian women should continue to live without any opinions or freedoms of their own. In the spirit of the old saying ‘Whether stone or reed, it is my husband’, they should be sincerely committed to their husband and always think of what is best for him and yield children and raise them. This is the only way to a cultured life for Indian women. If they breach this, their respect in social life will get affected. This will lead to losing their pativrata (devotion to husband). The Indian culture will be spoiled. Hence it is enough if you provide education about family and religion to women,” so say the reactionaries. We don’t have to pay heed to men with this sort of opinion. Given their selfishness, we cannot expect any other better opinions from them. Any radical thought would surely endanger their selfishness.    

But if women also talk like this themselves, then we should be surprised. And we must consider if there is some sinister plan behind this.

A few days ago in Lyceum Club in London, during the annual day of Bombay Inter-Cultural Women’s Association, the head of The Madras Women’s Christian College, Ms Eleanor McDougall made an announcement. She said,

“It cannot be said that giving higher education to women will result in a positive outcome. Indian women are the best in faith and the strongest in willpower. They are very attached to their families. If they lose interest in the family, the value of life in the Indian society will go down. Hence, along with higher education, they should also be taught the highest values of Christian beliefs. If not, education will only bring evil to them.”

We cannot but pity the fact that even a woman like Ms McDougall from a progressive country had spoken like this. But given her supposed genuine concern over the social life of Indian women, we must assume that she has some sinister motive behind saying such things. And the motive is very clear in her words. They are, “With higher education, Christian values are to be taught.” Thus, this is clearly an agenda of a Chrisitan missionary to spread Christianity over here in India.

Just like how Ms McDougall thinks that Christian Education is important for Indian women in higher education, the Indian religious conservatives think that Hindu religious education is important for Indian women.

But we deny both these opinions. It is very wrong to think that women deserve only family life and are capable of raising children alone. As long as this belief exists, women can live only as slaves, that is, subservient to men. If women want to live an equal life with men, it is very important that they have the right to choose to pursue an education or a job as per their desire and talent. We believe that they should not be even aware of something as ‘religious education’. The men who are learned of religious texts remain enslaved, cowardly, superstitious and without self-belief. That’s why we are doing propaganda to uproot religion completely. In such a situation how can we endorse views that say women should be given religious education?

Even if they are not given religious education, through questioning and by observing practices, we can deduce the condition of the religious-minded Indian women in our society. Who can refuse the fact that it is only religion that keeps our women enslaved, backward, superstitious, ritualistic and cowardly? We cannot even slightly endorse the opinion that suggests women be given religious education.

“Like men, women should be given training to become physically strong. Women should be encouraged to be fit and be given training in weapons. They should have all the means and strength to protect themselves from savage men who are sexual predators. If needed, they should also join the army to fight the enemies.” This is how progressive minds think. Even women endorse such thoughts and opinions. When the world thinks this way, how can anyone claim that it is no use to give higher education to women? We acknowledge the fact that education in the present times is quite terrible. Education only helps one secure a job as a peon, it doesn’t help one acquire life skills. Henceforth, it is crucial to change the present education system and introduce a new one, without inculcating a belief in religion that makes people enslaved and cowardly, one that helps in learning life skills and fosters a spirit of equality between men and women.

First published in Kudiarasu on 17-7-1932.

Source: Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. 2011. Periyar Kalanjiyam 5: Pennurimai, Paagam (1). [Periyar Repository 5: Women’s Rights Part (1)]. Fourth Edition. Chennai: Periyar Suyamariyathai Prachaara Niruvanam, 179-182.

Those who believe in caste and religion should not inaugurate the statue of Anna!

-Periyar E.V. Ramasamy

Translated by Karthick Ram Manoharan and Vilasini Ramani

In this country, birthdays are celebrated not just for those who were born or those who have departed but also for those who were never born, never died or never lived too. Such celebrations are used for propagating the ideas of those concerned. Our people view Raman, Krishnan, Kandhan, Ganapathy as gods and celebrate their birthdays. But we know that they were never born. God is a being that has no birth nor death. There is an insidious agenda to celebrate the birthdays of gods and those of the Nayanmaars, Aazhvaars, and other saints, which is to propagate their ideas.

This is why we celebrate the birthdays of those who served the country and its people, in order to take their ideas to the masses and encourage them to follow it. Likewise, we are inaugurating Anna’s image here because there is no other great man like him in the entire country. Anna was the only leader in the whole of India who dismissed god and also rejected religious literature like epics and puranas that were degrading. He did all this in a society that is as backward as ours, made the people realize their roots, won their votes through his ideas, and established a government.

From the times of Cheras, Cholas, Pandiyas to the recent rule of the Congress, none formed government by rejecting God, religion, and caste. From Gandhi to Kamaraj, everyone in the Congress party only tried to save religion, god and caste. The other political outfits, be it the Tamizharasu Katchi, the Democrats, RSS, Swatantra Party, or even those who claim to be most revolutionary, namely the Communist Party, each and everyone of them want to protect religion, god and caste. Anna is the only one who denounced these and declared that they are not necessary.

When Anna came into power, the Self-Respect marriage that was pronounced invalid by the courts was immediately made valid. Any Self-Respect marriage in the past, present or future that rejects religion and rituals has been made legal and valid by Anna in the assembly.

A law will soon be passed to allow anyone, including the oppressed castes, to perform rituals in the sanctum sanctorum of the temples. Tomorrow the bill will be passed for it in the assembly.

Anna has broken the gods. He has exposed vulgarity in the puranas and the epics in his writings. He has set ablaze the Kamba Ramayana. He highlighted the offensive portions of the epic and wrote Kambarasam in response. Only those who do not believe in religion or caste are worthy to inaugurate the image or statue of such a tall personality like Anna.   

If someone is not so, then it clearly means that such a person is greedy and is behind power. Anna is our greatest asset. We do not have such a government in the whole of India. There is no other party that has such manifestos. Only this government can eradicate the worst caste oppression. No other rule can do that.

Think about the condition of our people before the Self-Respect Movement and the Dravidian Movement. Out of hundred, only five were educated. They were given humiliating jobs. Because of our movement, today at least half of them are educated. Not only are Tamils placed at respectable jobs, there are also around 5-6 district collectors from our comrades in the Adi Dravidar community. Brahmins are not calling anyone as Shudras anymore.

The ideas of rationalism are our ideas. And they are “There is no god, there is no god, there is no god at all; He who invented god is a fool; He who propagates god is a scoundrel; He who worships god is a barbarian.” Soul’s salvation, hell, rebirth, the world above, all these ideas are propagated by scoundrels. And those who believe it are idiots. And those who benefit from such beliefs are the worst of scoundrels.

The idea of god was invented by man and introduced to man. It is not natural to man. Because of invention of god, the Brahmin claims himself to be superior. If we go by facts, Tamils did not have gods or religion. The gods that our people are worshipping have North Indian names. If Tamils had a god of our own, we should have had a Tamil name for it, isn’t it? Because there is none, we know that Tamils do not have gods.

Likewise, Tamils do not have religion too. The ‘Hindu religion’ is an Aryan religion. And Hinduism is not a religion. It is evident from this that Tamils do not have gods or religion.

While out of 100 people, 97 who do hard labor are called Shudras and live as the most oppressed by doing humiliating work like manual scavenging, without proper food or clothing, 3 out of the 100 eat sumptuous food and get fat, wear fancy clothes, and claim themselves to be upper caste. This is because of our people’s gullibility and their belief in god, religious superstitions.

How are we different from the Brahmin? How is he greater than us? Our people have to question why this difference exists. We plough the land. Our womenfolk sow the seeds. We do tough jobs like breaking stones. We weave clothes. We construct houses. Whatever are the basic needs of human society, we fulfill them through our hard labor. Despite doing everything for the society, we have been called Shudras, as unclean communities, and the least in the caste hierarchy. Without doing any of this work, but exploiting our naivety, the Brahmins who came to this land for survival, who are only 3% of the population, remain upper caste.

If we question the Brahmin on what basis he is the superior and we are all inferior Shudras, he responds that this has been laid down by god, rituals and religion. Only because god and religion exist, we live as Shudras, as oppressed, as lower castes. If we can abolish this, we can also get an opportunity to live an equal life, and that is why we encourage people to renounce god, religion, rituals, temples, myths, caste that keep us oppressed.

If only man had this wisdom and self-respect, he would have destroyed these things himself. Because we don’t have either, we remain oppressed. The Dravidar Kazhagam, the Self-Respect Movement, the DMK, the Rationalist movement are working towards inculcating such respect and wisdom in our people.

Periyar’s Speech at Karaikudi on 08-11-1970. First published in Viduthalai on 01-12-1970.

Source: Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. 2010. Periyar Kalanjiyam 20: Jaathi-Theendaamai, Paagam (14). [Periyar Repository 20: Caste-Untouchability Part (14)]. Second Edition. Chennai: Periyar Suyamariyathai Prachaara Niruvanam, 66-70.

Communism cannot grow as long as Brahminism exists

– Periyar E.V. Ramasamy

Translated by Karthick Ram Manoharan and Vilasini Ramani

The laborers are in such a state today for no other reason that that they were born as Shudras. Are there any Brahmins who plough the soil? Do the Brahmins work with ploughs? No? How did they become a non-working class? Because as Brahmins, they are born into a caste that doesn’t need to work but can sit and eat. We are born as workers. Our work makes someone else flourish. We are lower-caste or Shudras. According to this system, we are workers because we were marked as such by birth. Without confronting this, what is the point in just talking about the working class again and again? I’m asking this question to our communist heroes. Isn’t it their responsibility to question the fundamentals of this discrimination? Instead they brand the people who talk about this discrimination or the reasons of this discrimination as regressive and classist. Is it fair? 

If the communists claim that they are simply doing what has been followed in other countries, it is wrong. There is a huge difference between this country and others. There are no Brahmins or Paraiyars in other countries. There are no Gods, no religion, no culture, no practices that served as the foundation for such a caste discrimination. The division of humans on this land as Brahmins and Paraiyars, where the Brahmins are the upper caste and the Paraiyars are a lower caste, is not known in other countries. Communists of other countries make their plans depending on the state of affairs and the nature of society in those countries. How is it fair to imitate the plan for another country in our very different situation, thinking that it would fit? 

Someone told me this recently. People from other countries do not know about the structure of this society nor what happens here. If people of today are unaware of the problems and issues here, how is it possible that Marx or Engels from a previous time could have known this?

Not only do they not know of this, they wouldn’t have imagined that there would be a country with such an arrangement where people born into one caste would get all benefits and people born into a different caste would be put through misery all their lives. When this is the case, just think how fraudulent it would be to say that their words should be exactly put into practice here. 

Ask (Josef) Stalin to say the words ‘Paarpaan’ (Brahmin) or ‘Paraiyan’. I don’t think he can even pronounce them right. Because there is no such differentiation in his country.

Comrades! Let me tell you another thing; Stalin has said recently “India needs to first have social reform and achieve social progress for communism to be born.” 

When I said the same thing, my dear communist friends blamed me for not knowing communism. Now Stalin has said the same thing. I’m eager to know what the communists have to say about it.

I’m not against communism or socialism. I have more commitment and interest in communism and socialism than others. But we must have a communism and socialism that is adapted to this country’s social needs. Unless and until the superiority of the Brahmins and Brahminism, which are most powerful and are fundamentally opposed to socialism or communism, are abolished in this country, communism or socialism cannot form here. Instead only Brahminism will get strengthened. 

Who heads the communist or the socialist party of this country? Only the Brahmins talk of communism or socialism. Who are they to teach communism to us? How can we believe that the communism they preach will change the discrimination in our lives? 

Despite knowing this, if you think that speaking out against caste differences is regressive  and classist, what is it but deception?

I challenge the communists to say “It is not right that the brahmins are upper caste”. Likewise it is wrong that the others are lower caste. Let them also say that they will burn in the fire everything that is foundational for such discrimination. I will welcome that. But without doing that, if they say that we should not talk about these issues at all, what can we achieve then? How can we bring communism here?

Periyar’s speech at a public meeting at Perambur on 2-1-1953. First published in Viduthalai on 04-01-1953.

Source: Periyar E. V. Ramasamy. 2011. Periyar Kalanjiyam 9: Jaathi-Theendaamai, Paagam (3). [Periyar Repository 9: Caste-Untouchability Part (3)]. Second Edition. Chennai: Periyar Suyamariyathai Prachaara Niruvanam. 253-256.