Karthick Ram Manoharan, Marie-Sklodowska Curie Actions Individual Fellow, University of Wolverhampton
In his lifetime and after, Periyar gained much notoriety for his acerbic comments on the Hindu epic Ramayana and the Hindu god Rama. As is commonly known in South India, Periyar saw Rama as an Aryan king and Ravana as a Dravidian hero who stood opposed to Aryan hegemony. However, Periyar’s reading of the Ramayana was no culturalist critique, but rooted deeply in the politics of his present. Criticizing the Ramayana, to Periyar, was not just an act of challenging religious belief but of contesting the ideology of the Indian nation-state. But Periyar was also sharply critical of Tamil political figures and religious reformers who sought to counter Aryanism by evoking glorious Tamil pasts. This paper looks at Periyar’s critique of Hinduism, and argues that beyond a rejection of religion, Periyar was challenging the political theology of Brahminism in India.
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