Periyar’s Self Respect Movement

Topics: Sociology, Periyar E. V. Ramasamy, Tamil Nadu Pages: 5 (1268 words) Published: September 27, 2009




Prof. Sony Pellissery


Ashish Chaturvedi (29042)

Avinash Dwarapu (29014)



Self Respect Movement was started by E.V Ramasamy Naicker. He was popularly known as “Thanthai Periyar”. This movement was intended to provide equal rights to non Brahmin backward castes in Tamil Nadu. All through his life, Periyar fought against Brahmin domination.

E.V Ramasamy Naicker was born on 18th November in 1879. He was born in a rich high class family. He was a normal kid in every means. He left school at an early age of twelve and joined his father’s business. He got married to Nagammai at the age of nineteen and started handling his father’s business after his father’s death. Very soon, he became well acquainted with the business.

Periyar later entered politics. Periyar entered the public scene with the formation of Madras Presidency Association in 1917. It is in this place that his convictions and ideals were strengthened. He was known for taking decisions on his own without the influence or pressure from others.

At this time he showed some affiliation towards the congress party. He found the ideals of Congress party such as removal of untouchability, prohibition, improvement in the condition of masses similar to his ideology. He joined congress in 1919. He became a staunch follower of Gandhian principles. In 1920 Gandhiji started the non cooperation movement. Periyar closed down his whole sale business for the cause and also in order to fully work for the congress. His commendable work during the Temperance Movement and Khalar Movement and also the Vaikom satyagraha made him very popular. He was given the title of Vaikom Veerar (Vaikom Hero).

Slowly Periyar started loosing faith in the principles of congress party, because he felt that some leaders in the party itself were trying to spread differences based upon community. He was also in opposition to Gandhi’s and Nehru’s meaning of freedom. Gandhi’s meaning of freedom had a religious attachment to it, which Periyar never agreed upon. Nehru freedom will be achieved only when we will be free from the clutches of the British. But periyar felt that true freedom means when one is free from all inequalities and everyone is the same in all conditions. This loss of faith in the principles of Congress, forced him to leave congress. Apart from this he was also very disturbed by the inequalities present in the society. He realized that the upper classes (the Brahmins) were the main people who were propagating the inequalities. Incidents such as Kashi yatra and Vaikom were the seeds for Self respect movement.

Periyar at the age of 25 went Varanasi because it was believed to be a very holy place. When he went there he noticed that Brahmins were being given better treatment. Periyar being a non Brahmin was not given any food. He was also not allowed to live in the hostel because it was meant for the Brahmins. This experience made him completely against Hinduism.

The other event that hurt him more than the previous was that which happened in Vaikom in Kerala. At Vaikom, the lower caste people were not even allowed to walk or pass through the streets where there were temples. These incidents really frustrated Periyar and he decided to start a movement against these social evils that treated people irrationally on the basis of the caste they took birth in. He was completely dejected to be a part of the social structure where one class of people claimed to be superior to others.

Periyar belonged to upper class and an economically well-off family so in real terms he was not being affected by the situation. Hence he entered as an external agent in the whole scene to stand with these people and motivate them to raise their...

References: 1. Social movements in India- Rao, M.S.A
2. A research paper by Louis Antony (
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