Spurred on by the overwhelming response from the readers, we continue the format of Question and Answer, bringing out Periyar’s not so well known sayings for the benefit of everyone concerned .
Q : Ayya, can you compare Islam with Hinduism ?
Periyar: We have to admit that Islam is better than Hinduism in many aspects. The Muslims possess many good qualities not found among the Hindus. Therefore we have to conclude that there are better qualities in Islam than in Hinduism.
Equality, brotherhood, unity and love are found largely among the muslims. With their bravery they are ready to even sacrifice their lives. There is no caste distinction among them.
There is no untouchable among them; no one is kept at a distance while eating ; There is no one prevented from walking down their streets or from having a swim in their tanks or from entering their places of worship. Honest Hindus should admit these venerable qualities of muslims.
(From the speech on 1st March 1931, in Puthucherry. Page 7, Part 4, Periyar Encyclopaedia – Tamil)
Q : Ayya, what do you say about the origin of religions?
Periyar : It is a different matter whether there is an impartial god for the welfare of the all the people. In the same way whether there is a book of codes or religion for all people of the world. But now I am talking about the removal of those religions, gods, and scriptures meant to guide only a section of the society, their lives and welfare.
I once again take it up now. It is only to avoid saying who exactly created religions the theists spin the theory that god is eternal, without any form.
Religious doctrine is based on a language. How can a language be eternal? Should not then Sanskrit also be considered eternal? When there is life and time for Sanskrit how can the branches of that language and poets be eternal and timeless? Moreover, when the Vedas are written in languages how can they be mere inspiration without human participation? Can it not be then only foolishness or fraud to say that it is said by a god? Don’t we conclude that god is formless? Therefore religion should have been made by a few persons or many on one occasion or on many.
(From the writing on 8th March 1953, pages 178, 9 - Periyar Encyclopaedia , Part 1 – Tamil )
Q : Ayya, what are the reasons for which you recommend remarriage of widows ?
Periyar : It is an act of great injustice and partiality to deny the widows of their remarriage, which is being practised today. It is not fair to allow old men (widowers) to marry young women but deny the same right to widows to remarry even if they are young or without issues. If we say that widow remarriage is against chastity, it is not acceptable. They get ruined losing their chastity because they are not allowed to remarry. Widows who are young and who cannot control their lust, seek immoral ways get pregnant and commit infanticides. Who is responsible for this sin? It is only the parents of the widows who deserve to be blamed for this. It is better to arrange remarriage for the willing widows.
(From Kudi Arasu , on 22nd August 1926, page 2, Part 5, Periyar Encyclopaedia – Tamil)
Q : Ayya, tell us about the social customs in your house in your young age.
Periyar : I belong to Karnataka Balijar community. The women in my house were required to wear purdha. We were a community also against remarriage of widows. My family practised extreme orthodox ways of vaishnava traditions. Inspite of this tight social restriction , right from my early boyhood I kept mocking at these caste discriminations and untouchability and personally I broke all those restrictions , and never hesitated to touch every one and eat things from anybody who gave them. I was not allowed into our kitchen. The tumbler that I touched was not used by any one at home except my father. Those who were jealous of our orthodox practices were solaced on seeing my rebellious activities. They used to say that a child to Naickar had been born rebelliously!
(From Kudiarasu, on 22nd August 1926, page 3, Part 5, Periyar Encyclopaedia – Tamil)
Q : Ayya, please throw some light on the functioning of the Brahmma Gnana Sabha.
Periyar : Some two years back, a District Self-Respect Conference was convened at Thirunelveli. There a proposal was made that all Hindus should be allowed to enter the temples. But Mr. Nellaiyappa Pillai who had a lot of faith in and love for the Sabha, staunchly opposed this proposal. His objection was that the Adi Dravidars were dirty people and so unfit to go near the gods and to perform poojas. Similarly the famous Saivites and the Saiva Desikars also protested citing appropriate reasons.When it was left for voting Mr. Nellaiyappar was the only member to vote against it. In this issue the only leader of the Sabha Miss Annie Besant has also expressed the same views of Mr. Nellaiyappar. She said, “As the Adi Dravidars are dirty people, they have become untouchable.”
(From Kudiarasu, 9th December 1928, page 100, Part 3, Periyar Encyclopaedia – Tamil)
Q : Ayya, What is your opinion on the right marriageable age for men and women ?
Periyar : Marriage for men and women before the age of 25 should be banned. By doing so, birth of 3 or 4 children could be avoided for each couple. It is said that the Government is going to fix 18 as the minimum age of marriage for girls. This is not enough. At least 20 should be made mandatory. As today girls are married at 13 or 14 they get ruined begetting excess of children. As children are many, a man can not have much time to think seriously. person born as a human being is not able to contribute anything to the welfare of this world. He limits himself with his wife children and family. He thus becomes unfit to contribute to the good of the world.
From the speech on 24th November 1971, in Salem,
page 185, Book 5, Women’s Liberation,
Periyar Encyclopaedia – Tamil)
Q : Ayya, What do you think about cruelty to animals ?
Periyar: Each living being has to survive by killing other beings. One being has to live by killing another being. How many crores of fish are killed every day as food for human beings? How many lakhs of goats, cows and bulls are slaughtered? Besides this, animals live by killing other animals. Is it all because of god’s mercy? People should seriously think of how god who is the perfection of kindness can allow such cruelty to living creatures which are his own creations.
(From the speech in Velankanni on 19th May1970, page 224,5, Religion Part 5, Periyar Encyclopaedia – Tamil)
Q : Ayya, What are the objectives of your Dravidar Kazhagam?
Periyar: The objectives of my Kazhagam (Organisation) are formulated with an aim to improve the lot of my Dravidian people and to remove their wretched – condition and ignorance, thereby improving their human dignity. Ignorance and wretchedness have taken deep root among them and they have accepted them as their culture. They have been believing that the rules have come from their gods as mentioned in their sastras. Today they have found that what we keep on saying is against their beliefs and they consider us as their enemies. As we expose the corrupt practices in religion, the religious persons call us abusers of religion. As we expose the foolishness of belief in god they call us, atheists. As we expose the fraudulent ways of the politicians they call us, political cheats. As we expose the corruptions of the Congress, they call us their enemies; as we expose the frauds of the Communists, they consider us as their enemies.
(From the speech on 8th September1955 in Chithoor, Page109, Religion Part 5,
Periyar Encyclopaedia – Tamil)
Q : Ayya, what are the Dravidian traditions with regard to god and religion?
Periyar : As far as I know, no god has wives, shapes, relatives and celebrations in the religions of the world except the gods of the Aryans. The Dravidians never had any religion. If no mention is made about religion in the Tholkapiyam with so much of influence of the Aryans, where else can we find it? The word ‘aalayam’ does not refer to temple; it means a palace. In Malayalam the word ‘koil’ refers only to a palace. There they use the word ‘ambalam’ to denote front yard and not the sanctorum. Even in Sanskrit the word ‘aalayam ‘ does not mean a place where god resides or god itself. If the word ‘aalayam’ refers to the place of god there is no need to use the word, ‘devaalayam’ (deva means divine) . In Sanskrit the word ‘Devasthanam’ is a double word and not a single one. Therefore we do not have temples at all and no word to denote the place where god resides.
(From the speech on13th October 1940 in Soundariya Mahal, Chennai, Book 3 , God, Periyar Encyclopaedia – Tamil)
Q : Ayya, what do you think of the freedom of thought of the individuals ?
Periyar : Dear brothers, you have complete freedom to reject all my words. You have freedom also to oppose my ideas. It cannot be just that people should accept the views of a person. I am well aware of this. But I have the right to express my views as much as you have the right to do so. It will never be justice and human virtue to deny it to others. Many of us in our country are of the opinion that our freedom is to spoil the freedom of others. This attitude is the offshoot of our slavish mentality and can never be a quality of secular fabric. Why should anyone be afraid of us? After all, we are also human beings.
(From the speech on 1st March 1931 in Pudhucherry, page 7, Part 4,
Periyar Encyclopaedia – Tamil)
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