Renowned writers discuss life and works of 19th century reformer

‘It must be read with a frame of mind that did not colour the revolutionary’

January 05, 2020 03:37 am | Updated 03:43 am IST - MADURAI

Nook on Iyothee Thass Pandithar neong released in Madurai on Saturday.

Nook on Iyothee Thass Pandithar neong released in Madurai on Saturday.

Discussion on why Iyothee Thass Pandithar, a 19th century reformer, who imagined an alternative history of Dalits based on Buddhism, was disregarded by modernists and rationalists of the Dravidian movement dominated the book release of ‘Iyothee Thassar’ by T. Dharmaraj here on Saturday.

Su. Venkatesan, writer and MP; B. Jeyamohan, writer, and Samas, journalist, who discussed the book, spoke about the collective lapse of memory and alteration of narratives.

Mr. Venkatesan said that lack of discussion and disregard for the revolutionary’s work meant loss of a 100-year-old history. He said that during a recent session in the Rajya Sabha, he imagined how Iyothee Thass Pandithar would react to testimonies of his colleagues which claimed that Sanskrit was every Indian’s mother tongue and that India was a Hindu country. “The book lucidly explains how the books on caste written in the 1880s in Tamil Nadu were aimed at creating a notion of Hinduism and Sanskrit being the fountain-head of Dravidian India. Iyothee Thassar discredited it beautifully,” he said.

Writer Jeyamohan said the book with meta narratives or grand narratives must be read with a frame of mind that did not colour the revolutionary. It provided a separate pathway of his philosophy. He commended the author for elaborating on Buddhism which caused the creation of the Bhakti movement which eventually led to the creation of Hinduism. “It is important to think of where we will place Iyothee Thass Pandithar in the world of Dalit thinkers as he precedes the Dravidian movement,” he said.

Mr. Samas said that this book was a key to the revival of discussion on the reformer.

The author, Mr. Dharmaraj, said that the intention was never to colour the reformer but to go beyond the binaries of him being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and merely accepting him and his ideas to begin the discussion. He added that the book was the result of 20 years of labour and said that writing the book allowed him to delve into metaphysics. He added that the ‘aesthetics’ of Tamil stressed upon by Iyothee Thass Pandithar must be captured and considered while considering his narrative.

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