Dr. Sundararajulu, a staunch rationalist and humanist,
is associated closely with the Dravidar Kazhagam for the past ten years. He is the President of ‘The Intellectual Forum’ arranging every
first Saturday of the month in which prominent people from various walks of life used to deliver lecture on important subjects and incidents. He is also the Correspondent of the Periyar Centenary Polytechnic College, Vallam, Thanjavur. As a Civil and Structural Engineer,
he is guiding, advising and monitoring the construction works of the movement.
Your family – native place – background?
I was born in the year 1943 at Ammaiyappan Village, Thiruvarur Taluk, then Thanjavur District. At the age of 3 our family moved to Kanchipuram since my father started handlooom lungi business after he worked 20 years in Sri Lanka and returned from there.
B.E.( Civil). M.E. (Struct.), Ph.D. (Struct.), Phd.D. (Constn. Mangmt.) P.Eng., FIIE, MASCE (USA). After 15 years of profitable business, my father lost his business due to recession in that particular lunghi business at that time, when I was studying Pre-University with the idea of studying Engineering College. But, for want of money, I was admitted to study diploma in Civil Engineering with very great difficulty. I could not bear my disappointment for not getting admitted in Engineering College to get Civil Engineering degree. At that time I took a strong decision that I should get the Degree in Engineering before I die. With this diploma I joined in the Government Service. While I was working as Junior/Assistant Engineer, I got my BE (Civil) M.E.(Strcl.) Phd.D. (Civil Structures) Phd. (Cons. Mangmt) subsequently from 1975 to 2005. I am a fellow member of various professional bodies of the country of USA. I am giving so much of information not for self boosting, but for motivating the youngsters that they should not blame their parents for not giving education. Let them learn what they can in the life by doing hard work.
What was the occasion for you to become a Rationalist?
my grandfather Mr.T.K.Vijayaragavalu, Senior Lawyer, Nagapattinam was associating with our great Periyar. Whenever Periyar Ayya was camping at Nagapattinam / Thiruvarur area, he used to stay in our grand father’s house. Further my father was doing business at Kancheepuram. At that time I happened to listen to the lectures of Thanthai Periyar and Perarignar Anna. Though my father was an atheist, I compared other people who worship god. Further I was living in the temple city of Tamilnadu. I saw so many people who talked atheism, but after sometime they become theists. So I want to analyze the theory of God and its creation from the angle of theist. So I went to Ramakrishna Mutt, Kancheepuram and spent 2 years to go through right from the Upanishads. In all the Upanishads there was no proper name for the gods. They have written only the word ‘Sakthi’ which is beyond our human power, and so we have to worship. But when I went through Swami Vivekananda’s (partly rationalist) eight volumes of “Complete Works of Vivekananda”, he says in one place that “of all gods which reside in temples, churches and mosques the god which resides in human body as personal god is most important.” In another place he says that the god is not an object and it is in the form of spirit. Why all these confused explanations?
Periyar Ayya used to quote Buddha. So I went to Buddha Gaya, stayed there for a while and studied a lot and took a lot of hints on right path, eightfold path in our life.
He rightly pointed out that “love is god” or “work is god”. Why should we use the unnecessary and unethical word of god ( or Sakthi as in Upinishads) and directly practice the love, work etc without the word of god. That made me remove the word god from Vivekananda’s personal god. Then I completely understood the Periyar’s real philosophy of “Humanism” with the strong words of “Forget god, remember the human beings.” Then I completely studied the old Testament, New Testament, the Kuran and Ramana Maharishi. But I could not find any greatness, reality, simplicity to understand all the explanations on god, religion etc. except what I got from Periyar. The so-called spiritual people talk about the belief; but Periyar talks about the truth. I came to understand that “Truth does not have believers” because nobody will ask as “Do you believe the Sun or Moon” because ‘Sun’ is truth. But ‘god’ is belief. As Periyar truly said that god = Belief+ Ignorance+ Fear+ Greediness. Really I found the greatness of Periyar and became an atheist as well as a rationalist. There is no way to turn around when a person fully understands the Great Thanthai Periyar. Why do I call me a rationalist and an atheist? A rationalist need not be an atheist. But an atheist should definitely be a rationalist because of his thinking power.
One more incident in my life made me become an atheist. The place Kancheepuram is famous for temples and the weekly deliberations of Puranas. Once I heard the story of Iranyan, who asked where god is. He was told that god is everywhere. Immediately he kicked the stone pillar in front of him with his leg. The story says that the god came out from the stone pillar in the form of ‘Narasimha Avatharam’ and killed Iranyan by torturing and breaking his heart. But next week Periyar came and gave a demonstration by breaking the socalled Vinayagar idol on the street. When I saw it, I felt, if I have knowledge and the scientific temper, I should believe the person who explains with all proof, not the stories from debris like foolish Puranas. That particular incident also made me become a strong, unshakable atheist all along my life, even upto my death in future.
What or who are your early inspirations?
Directly, Periyar, Anna’s speeches and my father simultaneously. My father bought the papers Kuyil, Viduthalai and some other papers and that also gave me inspiration. My father used to take me to Periyar’s meetings at Kancheepuram.
Was the change to rationalism smooth and easy?
No. After due verification and very hard efforts to find the truth from all sources, even from Vedeantha, I realised that rationalism is the only way to attain true knowledge (Gnanam) in the world and definitely not by the fictitious god, Vedantham and religion. I accepted the rationalism with its genuineness and knowledge based thinking.
What are the initial hurdles you faced?
Since my father was an atheist there were no problems or hurdles to face. However I initially received displeasure from elders and theists. But in due course of time I made them understand the truth though they are reluctant to be 100% rationalists.
How do you overcome them?
We know very well it is always difficult to convince the theist because they are not the thinkers and only blind and ignorant believers. However I managed with them and made an awareness among them to understand the Truth. I quote a lot of explanations given by our Thanthai Periyar. My ambition is to make a lot of people become rationalists and atheists. I am always doing this propaganda wherever I go and whomever I meet.
What is rationalism in your opinion?
It is really thinking on the foolish, cheating preachings of ignorant people, analysing, struggling and coming out with reality and truth. For example in the olden days the people believed the so-called god was making the thunder, lighting, rain, sunlight, moonlight etc. Still people are advised to worship the sun god, rain god etc. These foolish ideas can be eradicated only when they think and know these happenings are by nature and not by god. Immediately they say nature is nothing but god. They are ignorant to understand that in the name of god all the priests in temples, churches, mosques and other places are cheating us and they are earning money like politicians and public brokers. This is an example . Thus the rationalistic (knowledgeable) thinking is very important.
Rationalism does not enjoy support in society. In fact it means you have to lose or sacrifice many. What are they?
Most of the people, without the rationalistic thinking, live with all ignorance. With the result, they believe in the non existent god, depend upon the astrology, good time, bad time, religion, not helping others, without having humanism. Even the societal thinking they don’t have since they don’t think and live properly with rationalistic idea. With the result while society is moving with all selfishness without coming out with ‘service mind’ to help the country. The corruption, seeing useless TV programmes, to become an addict to alcoholic drinks, junk food and drinks, cigarettes, going to temple and offering lakhs and crores of rupees. In the Indian Parliament more debate is going on on black money in the foreign / swiss banks/ But because of their ignorance they are not able to understand the black money that all the gods are having, crores and crores of rupees in all the temples. Take for example. Padamabha Swami temple in Kerala, Lord Venkateswara temple in Tirupathi, Andhra Pradesh, Kasi etc. Very importantly I feel sad very much when it happens with our own kith, kins and friends. Is it not the societal and the whole country loss?
Do you find rationalism a social need?
A person may live without money. But he or she should not live without rationalism, because the rationalism will bring money as the rationalistic people have thinking/knowledge power to earn proper money earned in the right way and sense. From most of the data given by the planners because the people don’t have rationalistic (right thinking power) ideas, India is suffering with too much population, food and budget shortage. The god and religious thinking is dragging the people to depend upon the fate, trying to shed their responsibilities by thinking that god will help whatever atrocities, cheating in the name of bad business, keeping idle by doing Bajans. All these things will definitely affect the society a lot.
Who are the inspirations for you?
First preference I give it to Periyar because he was the man who brought the rationalistic ideas with the help of movement and series of lectures and meetings in Tamilnadu and particularly at my doorstep with my mother tongue. There might be a lot of philosophers in the world right from Socretes. But we always think the first person who gave the enlightenment to me and my Dravidian people. Always I whole heartedly think every day /moment in my life without forgetting his valuable service done to the society for its upliftment with the rationalistic idea. After that the day to day inspirations I got it from our Asiriyar Dr.K.Veeramani Avl who continues to explain excellently in all the meetings rationalistic ideas left by Periyar. As Asiriyar says always that Periyar is our master.
What do you think of Periyar’s rationalism?
Periyar’s rationalism differs from others. When we talk whether rationalism or atheism, as I understood, Periyar gave first preference to Atheirsm. I am of the opinion a person can call himself a proper rationalist only when he rejects the idea of god because god believers have all foolishness, evils, cheating etc. When we start thinking and rejecting the very great idea god, then only it will become very easy to be a true rationalist. Otherwise I can call a person who believes the god and religion only an immatured rationalist when they call themselves rationalists. So I admire Periyar’s rationalism of atheism so much . He always insists that god and religion is the real evil of all the evils available in the society. Periyar’s very utterance of “forget god remember human beings” itself shows what Periyar’s rationalism is. That alone helped us to come away from all the cheatings made by Puranas, Ramayana, Mahabaratha, Geetha, Vedhas, Manu Sastrah, Varnashrama Dharma etc. etc. The very idea of rejecting god alone will be helpful to the society to have the people with all humanism.
What do you find as unique about Periyar’s rationalism?
Periyar’s uniqueness is that nobody has found the great world i.e.. ‘self-respect along with rationalism. If you see the history nobody has achieved like Periyar and he made an era. Whatever he was thinking to bring the reformation / transformation, he finally achieved and saw with his own eyes and enjoyed. He left for us the great movement ‘Dravidar Kazhagam’ headed by our Asiriyar after him and Maniammai. Periyar is the only person brought his valuable philosophies of rationalism and atheism together and fought against Brahmanism and Varnashramam. He made an awareness among the downtrodden people to fight against it and to become IPS, IAS officers. Even the people like Buddha, Narayana Guru or Vallalar were not able to achieve though they preached and talked a lot. Because of intensive efforts made by Periyar with his original way of thinking we have the constitutional provisions of equal rights, equal educational and job opportunities. Because of Periyar’s preparation through our Asiriyar Tamil Nadu alone has got 69% reservation in India. We can say surely that only the people of Tamilnad will have the most rationalistic idea of atheirsm, when compared to other states in India. Is not this uniqueness about Periyar’s rationalism?
What would be your word of advice to a young person who wants to be a rationalist?
Propaganda about rationalism among young person is a must, through media. Already we have journals like Unmai, Periyar Pinju, The Modern Rationalist and Viduthalai daily. Further we have valaikatchi. We should make an awareness meeting in all schools to create the usefulness of rationlism. This can be made by the student members of Dravida Kazhagam. We have to approach various youth centres / movements to convene meetings to tell them to see our website and to read all the books published by Dravidar Kazhagam and by various humanist and rationalist forums of the world. As far as Dravidar Kazhagam is concerned it is moving on the right path with the help of Asiriyar and their collective team. However intensive activities may be taken up by youth wing. I think the powerful media of TV may be used in the possible channel on rental basis to explain about rationalism, as Christians and Hindus make god and religious propaganda. Huge fund raising campaign may be made as it was done in England to propagate by advertising even on the Buses.
What steps do you suggest to promote rationalism in the context of the present day religious centered society?
As Christians do, team of our youngsters should distribute a lot of phamplets containing the striking information on rationalism to go to various web sited to read compulsory. Once if they are ignited in their mind and made to have the truthfulness of rationalism, then they will continue to have that higher knowledge and propagate among other youngsters. Younger generation is very important because it will be easy to mould them as they are in the state of “wet clay” and we can mould them. Once a person becomes a pot or like burnt clay, we cannot mould or re-mould them.
Moral and Ethical codes are believed to ensure social security. Do you think rationalism is comprehensive enough to ensure social security?
Sure. Rationalism and atheism alone can lead a person or the society properly because rationalism is nothing but knowledge thinking. Once the society moves on knowledge everything will become allright. We can see the developed India only when we have knowledge (Rationalistic) society. No doubt about it. The entire society is like this with all evils and insecurity because the people do not have the rationalistic thinking, to have right education, right earnings, right living, right thinking, right speech, right actions, right mindfulness, right commitment in their life etc. etc.
Other than the above points, would you like to say anything else on rationlism? State it briefly.
Every existing rationalist on his / her part, should take an oath that they should make atleast 1000 to 10,000 younsters become rationalists in the world. It can be done in the weekly friends gatherings, in all functions, marriage halls, association meetings etc. They can spend their time, money, efforts for this propagation without expecting the Dravidar Kazhagam. Especially rationalistic school teachers are very apt persons since they have lot of youths and young minds to prepare hundreds and thousands in every year.
At last I like to say the persons living without rationalistic thinking are almost dead, useless and unwanted persons in this world because they are not helpful for the upliftment of the society and they are degrading with their strong and ignorant thinking knowledge.
- Interviewed by Prof.S.F.N.Chelliah