Erode Venkata Ramasamy (17 September 1879 – 24 December 1973), commonly known as Periyar, was a social activist, who started the Self-Respect Movement and propagated the principles of rationalism, self-respect, women’s rights and eradication of caste. His work has greatly revolutionised the Tamil society and has significantly removed caste-based discrimination. He is also responsible for bringing new changes to the Tamil alphabet. The citation awarded by the UNESCO described E.V. Ramasamy as “the prophet of the new age, the Socrates of South East Asia, father of social reform movement and arch enemy of ignorance, superstitions, meaningless customs and base manners.
In other lands, knowledge alone is respected and trusted and held as the basis of everything, But in this country, men believe only in rituals and ceremonies, in God, in religion and such other rubbish.
“Knowledge, born of rationalisation, is real knowledge.”
“Man treats woman as his own property and not as being capable of feelings, like himself. The way man treats women is much worse than the way landlords treat servants and the high-caste treat the low-caste. These treat them so demeaningly only in situations mutually affecting them; but men treat cruelly and as slaves, from their birth till death.”
“To discard what is unwanted, and to retain what is needed, is what reform means.”
If superstition is removed and religion is viewed in the light of reason, no religion will survive.
“Only education, self-respect and rational qualities will uplift the down-trodden.”
“If god is the root cause for our degradation, destroy that god. If it is religion, destroy it. ”
“Decide for yourselves as to what you should think of those who say there is God, that He is a the Preserver of Justice an that He is the Protector of All, even after seeing that the practice of Untouchability in the form of man being banned from human sight and contact, from walking into the streets, from entering the temples and drawing water from a tank.” – Periyar.
“Man is considered superior to other beings in this world, because he has limitless capacity for knowledge, People in other lands have advanced greatly, utilizing this knowledge. But our countrymen owing to lack of use of this knowledge, are abjectly deteriorating. Stating that ours is a land of enlightenment, we build tanks and temples; in other lands, men fly in space and amaze the whole world.”
“Social reform cannot stand apart from politics, nor can politics stand apart from social reform. politics exists only for human society. Every political activity is only for social good. Constitutional law and defence are made only for society and in accordance with social good.”
“The proper task of social reform is to remove poverty from society and to ensure that people do not sell their conscience to make a living.” – Periyar.
“He who first created fire with the help of flints, was the “Edition” of those days. There after, we advanced step by step and we now have fire through electricity. Thus, change is natural and inevitable, and no can one stop it.”
“Many crores of rupees are squandered in this country by way offering gratitude to God and bribing Him to gain greater and greater wealth.” – Periyar.
“Married couple should behave to each other like bosom friends. In any matter, the bridegroom should not have the vanity that he is the husband. The bride also should behave in such a manner as not to think of herself as her husband’s slave and cook.” – Periyar.
“The terms `Husband’ and `Wife’ are inappropiate. They are only companions ad partners. One does not slave for other. They both have equal status.” – Periyar.
“It is enough, if the man and woman sign and declare at the Register’s Office that they have become `companions for life’. Such a wedding on the basis of a mere signature has more dignity, advantage and independence.” – Periyar.
“If our people do not consent to bring about reforms in caste, religion, habits and customs, in what other way can freedom, excellence and self-respect be ushered in?”
“The caste-system that teaches notions of superiority, inferiority, high and low, depending on birth, should be scotched at the very base.” – Periyar.