17 September 1879(1879-09-17) Erode, Madras Presidency, British India
24 December 1973(1973-12-24) (aged 94) Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India
Self-Respect Movement, Tamil Nationalism
Periyar E. V. Ramasamy
(17 September 1879 – 24 December 1973), affectionately called by his followers as Periyar Thanthai Periyar or E. V. R., was a businessman, politician, Indian independence and social activist, who started the Self-Respect Movement or the Dravidian Movement and proposed the creation of an independent state called Dravida Nadu comprising South India. He is also the founder of the socio-cultural organisation, Dravidar Kazhagam.
Periyar was born in Erode, Madras Presidency to a wealthy family of Kannada speaking Balijas. At a young age, he witnessed numerous incidents of racial, caste and gender discrimination. Periyar married when he was 19, and had a daughter who lived for only 5 months. His first wife, Nagammai, died in 1933. Periyar married for a second time in July 1948. His second wife, Maniammai, continued Periyar’s social work after his death in 1973, but still his thoughts and ideas were being spread by Dravidar Kazhagam.
Periyar was born as Erode Venkata Ramasami Naicker on 17 September 1879, in the town of Erode, then a part of the Coimbatore District of the Madras Presidency. Periyar’s father, a rich businessman, was Venkatappa Naicker (or Venkata), and his mother was Chinna Thayammal, alias Muthammal. He had one elder brother named Krishnaswamy and two sisters named Kannamma and Ponnuthoy. He later came to be known as “Periyar” meaning ‘respected one’ or ‘elder’ in Tamil.