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Rebels’ Ramayana: Periyar And Ambedkar’s Critique Of Ramayana

Iconoclasts

Rebels’ Ramayana: Periyar And Ambedkar’s Critique Of Ramayana

Both Periyar and Ambedkar looked at the Ramayana as a story that perpetuated the subjugation of non-Aryans and Dalits

Subaltern speaks: Dalits in Tamil Nadu sit before wall paintings of Ambedkar and Periyar Photo: Getty Images

Exactly a hundred years ago, in 1922, E.V. Ramasamy Periyar first declared his intention to burn the Ramayana and Manusmriti, after Brahmin members of the Tamil Nadu Congress committee, during its Tiruppur session, defeated a resolution he had moved, demanding that people from all castes be allowed to enter and worship in every temple.

He was no ordinary member—having served as provincial Congress president in 1920, Periyar had in fact been elected for the second time during the 1922 conference itself. The demand he raised, had existed in the state for over two decades, but was never supported by the political hierarchy. Its defeat at Tiruppur convinced Periyar that ancient Hindu epics and scriptures were among root causes of Brahminical dominance in Dravidian society and polity.

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