" after reading your article “Caste &
the Tamil Nation - Dalits, Brahmins & Non Brahmins”, I was shocked and
saddened to find that it is far from what your
Mission Statement claims. It
was venomous, vindictive, vitriolic and vituperative."
Our Mission Statement says
"This Site exists to
togetherness of more than 70
million Tamil people,
living in many lands and across distant seas - a
growing togetherness rooted in a
shared heritage, a
rich language and
literature, and a
vibrant culture - a growing togetherness
and suffering and given
fresh impetus by the
revolution - a growing togetherness given purpose
and direction by a determined will to live in
freedom and in
their fellow beings and
contribute to an
one world, unfolding
from matter to life to mind ..."
And to this Mission we are committed. We agree that the Aryan Invasion Theory and the
'Aryan/Dravidian divide' has been increasingly questioned by many
researchers. Dinesh Agrawal's essay
on the Demise of the Aryan Invasion Theory has appeared at this website from the
date of its launch. Again,
Navaratna S. Rajaram and Davis
Frawley have also explored the question in their
"Aryans" and the Origins of Civilization: A Literary and Scientific Perspective.
We do not seek to found Tamil nationalism on the basis of the Aryan invasion theory -
nor for that matter, on notions of race. A nation is not a race. To
assert that it is, would be to be found a nation on elusive (and often non existent)
physical characteristics - something akin to that which Adolf Hitler attempted
in Germany with his 'Aryan' theory - and blue eyed blondes. A nation is a togetherness
rooted in the past
and which has grown through
a process of differentiation and opposition. It is not nature or nurture - but, it
is both. It is a togetherness given expression in a
distinct language and a culture but it is
simply a cultural togetherness. Neither is it simply an
economic togetherness. It is
a political togetherness concerned both with the structure and the exercise of power in a world frame."
As we have mentioned, the page “Caste &
the Tamil Nation - Dalits, Brahmins & Non Brahmins” contains
articles written by many different authors and expressing different points of
view. We felt that an open forum which gave expression to the different points
of view on the caste issue which has divided the Tamil people for so long and which has
worked against the growth of an over riding Tamil togetherness, would further our
mission. At the same time, our own view on Periyar appears in the
Heritage page and we quote:
" But, in the end,
Periyar E.V.Ramasamy, the undoubted father of the Dravidian movement failed to deliver
on the promise of Dravida Nadu. E.V.R. failed where
Mohamed Ali Jinnah succeeded. It is
true that the strategic considerations of the ruling colonial power were different in each
case - and this had something to do with Jinnahs success. But, nevertheless, if
ideology is concerned with moving a people to action, the question may well be asked: why
did E.V.Rs ideology fail to deliver Dravida Nadu?
Two aspects may be usefully considered. One was the attempt of the
Dravida movement to encompass Tamils, Malayalees, Kannadigas and all Dravidians and
mobilise them behind the demand for Dravida Nadu. Unsurprisingly, the attempt to mobilise
across what were in fact separate national formations failed to take off.
It was one thing to found a movement which rejected casteism. It was
quite another thing, to mobilise peoples, speaking different languages with different
historical memories, into an integrated political force in support of the demand for
...That was not all. E.V.R extended his attack on casteism to an attack on
Hinduism - and indeed to all religions as well. Periyar threw out the Hindu child
with the Brahmin bath water.
E.V.R was right to extol the
virtues of pahuth arivu, common sense. He was right to attack mooda nambikai, foolish
faith. His rationalism was often a refreshing response to religious dogma and
superstition. His attack on casteism, his social reform movement and his Self Respect
Movement in the 1920s infused a new dignity, thanmaanam, amongst the Tamil people and laid
the foundations on which Tamil nationalism has grown. The Iyer Heritage
Site (which appears to be no longer functional)
served to show that even in the present day the self perception of at least some Brahmins is that they are "Aryans".
It was the pioneering work of EVR that led to the growth of the Dravida Munetra Kalagam (DMK) led by C.N.Annadurai and later by M.Karunanidhi, to the All India Dravida Munetra Kalagam led by
M.G.Ramachandran and the Marumalarchi
Dravida Munetra Kalagam (MDMK) led by V.Gopalasamy.
But, having said that, the refusal of EVR to recognise that casteism
was one thing, Hinduism another and spiritualism, perhaps, yet another, proved fatal. His
belligerent atheism failed to move the Tamil people. In the result even within Tamil Nadu,
EVR's Dravida Kalagam became marginalised, and the DMK which was an offshoot of the
Dravida Kalagam and the ADMK which was an offshoot of the DMK, both found it necessary to
play down the anti religious line and adopt instead a secular face. One
consequence of EVRs atheism was that spirituality in Tamil Nadu came to be exploited
as the special preserve of those who were opposed to the growth of Tamil nationalism.
Furthermore, the anti-Brahmin movement tended to ignore the
many caste differences that existed among the non-Brahmin Tamils and failed to address the
oppression practised by one non-Brahmin caste on another non-Brahmin caste. It is a
failure that continues to haunt the Tamil national movement even today. Caste divides and
fragments the togetherness of the Tamil people.
Support for the positive contributions that E.V.R. made in the area of
social reform and to rational thought, should not prevent an examination of where it was
that he went wrong. Again, it may well be that E.V.R. represented a necessary phase in the
struggle of the Tamil people and given the objective conditions of the 1920s and 1930s,
E.V.R was right to focus sharply on the immediate contradiction posed by 'upper' caste
dominance and mooda nambikai. But in the 21st century, there may be a need to learn from
E.V.R. - and not simply repeat that which he said or did."
" I am also against the caste system, an evil afflicting our
society. If the government is serious, it should completely eliminate the
caste system and shouldn’t ask people about their castes."
Whilst we have some understanding of the sentiments that
expresses, the words of
Hock in The Art of Chaordic Leadership may also be relevant
"..A vital question is how to insure that those who lead
are constructive, ethical, open, and honest. The answer is to follow those
who behave in that manner. It comes down to both individual and collective
sense of where and how people choose to be led. In a very real sense,
followers lead by choosing where to be led. Where an organizational
community will be led is inseparable from the shared values and beliefs of
And it is to those 'shared values and beliefs' that we may need
to direct attention. Gandhi was unable to abolish caste and it is not likely
that a Government will be able to do so by issuing an edict to that effect.
There may be a need to invest more in primary schools and education in the
villages and so on. And until that equality in opportunity is achieved, there
may be a need to continue with calibrated measures to prevent further
oppression. Admittedly striking the right balance is no easy task.
Dr.Ranganathan points out -
"Take two people in Tamil Nadu; one a Brahmin and the other
not. Look at them; they both pretty much look the same; you cannot tell the
difference. Even if there were Aryans, what we have today is a mixture of
Aryan-Dravidian and there is no such pure Dravidian, except for the Todas and
This may well be true but at the same time we may want to
recognise the stigma attached to inter caste marriages and recognise that the
'mixing' may not have been widespread.
Dr. Ranganathan goes on to asks several questions and we shall
endeavour to respond to each of them as best as we can.
Q. Why are you not considering the Brahmins also as
Tamils? We may have different lifestyles; yet we ALL are Tamils.
A. We agree entirely and we do consider Brahmin Tamils
Q. Why are you always singling out the Brahmins for all
the atrocities of the past? In fact, there were more atrocities
committed by other higher castes than Brahmins.
A. We do not single out the 'Brahmins for all the
atrocities of the past.' We agree that the other so called higher castes
have committed many atrocities and given the larger number of the so
called higher castes, the atrocities too may well have been more.
Q. How come you don’t give credit to thousands of
Brahmins who fought against castes and for the advancement of the lower
castes? I can name Rajaji, Mr. Vaidyanatha Iyer (of freedom movement) of
Madurai, to name a few famous ones; there were hundreds of them who were
not in the limelight.
A. We have given credit to many Brahmins who fought
against caste divisions and that includes
for instance V.V.S.Aiyar
despite the controversial Gurukulam affair.
Q. You don’t mention about the “Tamil Thaatha”, Dr. U.
V. Swaminatha Iyer; the great Tamil Poet, Bharatiyar; all my Tamil
teachers in High school were Brahmins who loved the Tamil Language and
sacrificed lucrative careers to pursue a poorly paid teaching job in
A. We do refer to
Subramaniya Bharathi in our
Literature section and to
Dr. U. V. Swaminatha Iyer in our Heritage section and we have paid
tribute to the contribution that Dr. U. V. Swaminatha Iyer made. We quote -
Aiyar spent a lifetime researching and collecting many of the palm leaf manuscripts of the
classical period and it is to him that we owe the publication of
Civakachintamani and many other treatises which are a part of the
literary heritage of the Tamil people. "
And about Bharathi we have said -
" Bharathi was a vigorous campaigner against casteism.
He wrote in
'Vande Matharam' :
ஜாதி மதங்களைப் பாரோம் -
உயர் ஜன்மம்இத் தேசத்தில் எய்தின ராயின்
வேதிய ராயினும் ஒன்றே -
அன்றி வேறு குலத்தின ராயினும் ஒன்றே
We shall not look at caste or religion, All human beings in this
- whether they be those who preach the vedas or who belong to other castes - are
Q. How come the so-called Tamilians are not reading the
beautiful and pure Tamil poetries sung by the Alwars and the Nayanmars.
A. We ourselves cannot speak for the 'so called
Tamilians.' But tamilnation.org
has included in its pages the
songs of the Alwars
and the Nayanmars.
this connection our page on
Spirituality and the Tamil Nation may also be of interest.
Q. Do you know that all the Alwars and Nayanmars are NOT
Brahmins and yet, all of them are worshipped as saints.
A. Yes, we did know that. Here
by ம. தனபாலசிங்கம்
may be of interest more so because
M.Thanapalasingham is a committed Tamil Eelam activist.
Q. Instead of talking about the inequalities in a
peaceful manner, why propagate venomous propaganda, which benefits
A. We do not seek to propagate venomous propaganda but
we do seek to bring out in the open the feelings of those who have been
oppressed for many centuries. At the same time we do recognise that
passion is not the preserve of any one caste alone. Whilst we understand
the feelings that may have impelled Dr.Ranganathan to express himself in
the way that he has, we ourselves take the view that we cannot nurture
the togetherness of the Tamil people by denying the ground reality of
the 'glass war' and the stigma of 'inter caste' marriage.
We are mindful of the complexities
of the Non-Brahmin-Dravidian movement in Tamil Nadu and the analysis of V.Geetha and S.V. Rajadurai in
Towards a Non Brahmin Millenium - From Iyothee Thass to Periyar -
a context when Brahmins claimed that birth was no more a badge of status and
then went ahead to act and speak as if it was, non-Brahmins, comprising a
range of castes and communities...claimed the contrary. They called attention to practices of
discrimination, humiliation and negation suffered on account of
their always already lowly birth, and came to articulate a
philosophy and practice of rights which would help them combat
inequality and humiliation...in 1972, (Periyar) revived with vigour the demand for a separate Tamil Nadu, for a state of being
and community where touch may not defile and where angst and
despair would not torment those unlucky millions who had been born
as shudras and panchamas."
At the same time we agree with the views of
Hart in Forum on Brahminism & the Tamil Nation
"..Yes, of course Brahmins have had their own political agenda to
push. They have been responsible for many things that I feel are
entirely unconscionable. But is this any different from the other high castes? I have heard many many stories of high non-Brahmin castes killing and abusing Dalits. You can't blame the Brahmins for this. In fact, the most pernicious example of the caste system was in the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka, where there are virtually no Brahmins and never have been....Tamil culture has not suffered because of one group. It
has suffered because of the caste system and
because of its treatment of
women... Let's promote inter caste marriage,
let's get rid of dowry and give women independence and self-respect, and above all, let's avoid a victimization complex which only plays into the hands of those who have a vested interest in continuing the inequities that exist in Tamilnad. If every Brahmin were to disappear from Tamilnad, the Dalits and others who are exploited would
benefited not one iota..."
We do truly believe in the ideal which appears in our mast
all towns are
one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and
pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C
And we will continue to do what we can to further that ideal,
however insignificant our contribution may be.