Dravidian Nationalism

Statue of Periyar E. V. Ramasamy, founder of the Dravidian movement.

Dravidian nationalism or Dravidianism developed in Madras Presidency which comprises the four major ethno-linguistic groups in South India. This idea was popularized during the 1930s to 1950s by a series of small movements and organizations that contended that the South Indians (Dravidians) formed a racial and a cultural entity that was different from the north Indians. This particular moment claimed that the Brahmins were originally from the north and they imposed their language, Sanskrit, religion and heritage on the southern people.

The early Dravidian movement led by Periyar E. V. Ramasamy demanded an independent Dravidian State, which included all four Dravidian speaking states of South India.[1] The movement failed to find supports among other Dravidian peoples and had to be limited to Tamils. A new morphed ideology of the Dravidian nationalism gained momentum within the Tamil speakers during the 1930 and 1950.

Tamil Nationalism was thus based on three ideologies: dismantling of Brahmin hegemony; revitalization of the "Pure Tamil Language" and social reform by abolition of existing caste systems, religious practices and recasting women's equal position in the society.

By the late 1960s, the political parties who were espousing Dravidian ideologies gained power within the state of Tamil Nadu.[2] Subsequently the Nationalist ideologies lead to the argument by Tamil leaders that, at minimal, that Tamils must have self-determination or, at maximum, secession from India[3]

Dravidian nationalism has given rise to various doctrines of national mysticism and fanciful anachronism, such as Thaevanaeyap Paavaanar's Kumari Kandam, a continent spanning the Indian Ocean, submerged in 16,000 BC, or an "original Veda" composed by Mamuni Mayan some 10,000 years ago, Devaneya Pavanar's Homo Dravida of 200,000 BC, his Kumari Kandam civilization of 50,000 BC, his "Second Tamil Sangam" under a Pandyan king in 6097 BC, etc.

Political parties

Main article: Dravidian parties
Further information: Politics of Tamil Nadu

Since the 1969 election victory of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) under C. N. Annadurai, Tamil nationalism has been a permanent feature of the government of Tamil Nadu. After the Tamil people achieved self-determination the claim for secession became weaker with most mainstream political parties, except a fringe few, are committed to development of Tamil Nadu within a united India. Most major Tamil Nadu regional parties such as DMK, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) frequently participate as coalition partners of other pan-Indian parties in the Union Government of India at New Delhi. The inability of the national parties of India to comprehend and capitalize on Tamil nationalism is one of the main reasons for the lack of presence in Modern Tamil Nadu. The modern-day Tamil Nationalism have actually contributed to a more flaccid celebration of Tamil identity and the ‘uplift’ of the poor.[4]


  1. Indian Society and Social Institutions (2001), p. 541.
  2. Moorti 2004, p. 549
  3. Kohli 2004, pp. 285–299
  4. Palanithurai 1989
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