I recently read a 44-page autobiography of EV Ramaswamy ‘Periyar’ (பெரியாரின் தன்வரலாறு – வெளியீடு – பெரியார் திராவிடர் கழகம்). In this short but detailed book, he recounts key aspects of his life up to around 1918 or 19.
But there is something missing.
What we are taught about Periyar is he dropped out of school and was helping his father in his wholesale market business. This checks out.
We are told that he was a wealthy brash youth who used to roam around with local thugs (kaali pasanga). This checks out.
Now the interesting part is that he devotes nearly 4 pages of the book to the event where he got into trouble with for disrupting a ritual. The local Chetties had invited a Hindu sanyaasi and his brahmin entourage for a Samaaradanai ritual. It so happened that the Sanyasi’s brother had a loan default warrant that needed to be served, EVR and his gang interrupted the feast and stomped all over the food of the guests , caught the brother and handed them over to the police. This naturally disrupted the event. After this, the organizers complained to EVR’s father and he lost it.
His father then spit on his face and slapped him in full public view with slippers foul words. EVR notes at this point is that we has married and he also had a child which passed away at 5 months. So this must be after 1902.
At this point we are told that EVR got angry and ran away from house and became a Sanyasi, which then segues into the famous Varanasi episode where he was allegedly thrown out by Brahmins and denied a meal.
But the thing is that this entire chain of events is completely missing from his own autobiography. It is extremely unlikely that such a profound event where he was away for an entire year would not even find a mention.
What is even stranger is that there appears to be no break in the narration. He goes on to say how he become famous in Erode after his father dies, how he grew the business, settled various disputes, became chairman of so many organizations until he became Erode municipality chairman.
How is it that such a profound incident of renunciation and travel to unknown land would go unrecorded in his own autobiography?
Below are the excerpts from his book. If readers are aware of primary source about the Kasi incident, or even if he went there at all, please please let me know for research purposes.
(This article was first published on the author’s blog on 21st August, 2020 and is being reproduced here with permission, after minor edits to conform to HinduPost style-guide and improve readability.)
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