South Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - Bhakti and Democracy: Ramanujar as the Wedge between Caste and Religion

Friday, July 6
10:20 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Tamarind, New Building

The mainstay of Dravidianism, is its opposition to Brahmin hegemony, which is seen to be the bedrock of caste hierarchy. Periyar, who laid the popular foundation for Dravidianist politics between 1925-1950, was famous for iconoclasm, a virulent critique of Brahmin ritualism and of atheism. This has led to the perception that Dravidianism had no genealogical connection to speak of, to the Bhakti tradition of the land. It is as if to refute the claim, Karunanidhi, late in his life, decided to script a television serial based on the twelfth century Vaishnavite saint-philosopher Ramanujar in a party channel.  


The particular mise-en-scene of the serial does not hesitate to allude to Brahmin ethos as a source of cultural strength. It is precisely by doing so, it articulates the critique from within, through the figure of Ramanujar, that the exclusions made by such cultural sophistication and the social hierarchies that follow are inimical to the very claims of cultural maturity. Indirectly addressing the sources of Bhakti as the love of alterity, the serial has been imaginative in postulating through the figure of Ramanujar the necessary premise of the human as collective suffering and alienation which is the precondition of ‘just society’ that can legitimately seek redemption through alterity.


 It is through such creative amalgam that the new assemblage of democratic politics locates its functional logic in the genealogies of the pre-modern. The paper will trace the long association of Dravidianism to the traditions of Bhakti through a reading of the serial. 


Rajan Krishnan

Ambedkar University Delhi, India

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1 - Bhakti and Democracy: Ramanujar as the Wedge between Caste and Religion



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