This paper looks at South Indian rationalist and anti-caste leader Periyar EV Ramasamy’s approach to religion. Periyar saw Hinduism as a fundamental degradation of the non-Brahmin community in general, the Dalits in particular. Here, I draw parallels between Periyar and Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin, especially with regards to their radical readings of religion and social power. Similar to Bakunin who inverts Christianity to look at Satan as the original free thinker, Periyar inverts Ramayana to consider the asura
Ravana as a Dravidian hero and a victim of Brahminical supremacy. A militant atheist and an avowed enemy of God, Periyar was nevertheless aware of the importance of religion in social life, and I briefly explore his qualified support for Islam and Buddhism and his rationale for urging the lower castes to convert to these religions. I conclude that reading Periyar in the anarchist tradition might open up new ways of understanding his political thought.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited