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The Non-Brahman Movement

The non-Brahman movement started in the early twentieth century. It was started by non-Brahman castes which were educated, wealthy and influential.

E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker

E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker

  • E.V. Ramaswamy Naicker, or Periyar, came from a middle-class family.

  • He had been an ascetic in his early life and had studied Sanskrit scriptures.

  • Later, he became a member of the Congress. He soon left the Congress as he felt that the Party discriminated among castes. The lower castes were made to sit at a distance from the upper castes.

  • Periyar founded the Self Respect Movement as he felt that the untouchables had to fight for their dignity.

  • He stated that the untouchables were the true upholders of the Tamil and Dravidian culture.

  • Periyar passionately wanted the untouchables to free themselves and achieve social equality.

Periyar was an outspoken critic of Hindu scriptures, especially the Codes of Manu, the ancient lawgiver, and the Bhagavad Gita and the Ramayana. He felt these scriptures established the authority of Brahmans over lower castes and the justified the domination of men over women.

There was great opposition for Periyar’s views among the upper-caste nationalist leaders.

  • Sanatan Dharma Sabhas and the Bharat Dharma Mahamandal were started in north India to counter the of Periyar’s movement against the scriptures.

  • Brahman Sabha was started in Bengal for the same reason.

  • The object of these associations was to uphold caste distinctions

The forceful speeches, writings and movements of lower caste leaders set many upper-caste nationalist leaders thinking. Debates and struggles over caste continued beyond the colonial period and are still going on in our own times.

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