Forward Press

Periyar challenged Aryan supremacy, Brahmanism and caste divisions

Periyar Erode Venkat Ramasamy was born on 17 September 1879 in the Erode town of Tamil Nadu. He died on 24 September 1973 at the CMC Hospital in Vellore at age 94. His father, Venkata Naicker, was a businessman. His mother, Chinnathayee was often referred to as ‘Muthammal’. He was married at the age of 19 to 13-year-old Nagammal.

When he was 25, Periyar visited Varanasi (Kashi), where he was thrown out of a dharamshala built by a Dravidian trader because food was provided only to Brahmins there. Starving, Periyar ate the leftovers discarded outside the hostel. Stray dogs also shared the food with him. This event left a lasting distaste for the caste system in his mind. He also developed disgust for Varanasi, a city that endorsed the caste system. It was in Varanasi that he realized how the Aryans were treated differently from the Dravidians. This turned Periyar into a strong critic of the Brahmins, who believed that they were superior. He decided to struggle all his life against casteist arrogance.

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