When Gandhiji was asked who Ram is, he responded that Ram is the name of the truth in his conscience. There is no name in Indian culture, religion and civilisation that evokes so many emotions and meanings as his name. Before modern-day politicians hijacked the term and used it as a tool to grab power, Ram was never a divisive figure in Indian culture, until Periyar Ramaswamy Naicker and his Dravidian movement made him into one. The Dravidian movement identified Ram with Brahminical dominance and the Ramayana as a propaganda tool of Brahminism to rule over all other castes.
On August 1, 1956, Periyar planned a march on Chennai’s Marina beach to burn pictures of Sri Ram. He was arrested, and his followers were lathi-charged. In 1974, Ravan Leela was organised by the Dravidar Kazhagam, under the leadership of Periyar’s widow, according to the wishes of Periyar, who died in 1973. Periyar wanted to conduct Ravan Leela in response to Ram Leela. It is ironic that Ram, a kshatriya prince, became associated with Brahmanical hegemony and the Brahmin king Ravan became the victim in Periyar’s Dravidian movement.