We may say that great minds think alike when two scholars who lived in two different times and places reach a similar conclusion on the same problem. The traditionally educated nineteenth century Tamil scholar, Pandit Iyothee Thass as well as the twentieth century western educated intellectual from Maharashtra, Babasaheb Ambedkar, embraced Buddhism to show that it was the only way to annihilate the caste system. Both of them identified that the caste system had originated with the fall of Buddhism; therefore, believed the revival of Buddhism could perhaps liberate the people from the evil system of caste. He was a Siddha practitioner and a well-versed Tamil scholar having scholarly expertise in the traditional knowledge on astrology and palm-leaf manuscript reading. In , Iyothee Thass founded Adhvaidhananda Sabha considered to be the first institution-building activity in his life , in Uthagamandalam, where he was brought up. In , he established an organization called the Dravida Mahajana Sabha , and on 1st December , he organised the First Conference on behalf of the Sabha at Ooty in Nilgiris district.
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Amidst the trying times of Covid , the Dalits of Tamil Nadu are gearing up to celebrate the th birth anniversary of Pandit Iyothee Thass on May Thass is a legendary figure in classical Tamil literature and philosophy, and practitioner of the Siddha system of medicine who could also easily work in English, Sanskrit and Pali. After organising the tribals of Nilgris in s, he established Advaidananda Sabha in In , Thass issued a statement, almost half-a-century before Ambedkar, saying that the so-called untouchables were not Hindus.
Thass was against sub-caste identifications. During the time of the Census, he urged the untouchables to register themselves as casteless Dravidians.
He repeated the demand during the Census. Opinion RWA and balance in a world hit by coronavirus. Thass was a forerunner to Ambedkar in conversion to Buddhism. He met Colonel Olcott of the Theosophical Society along with a delegation of prominent Dalits in and pleaded his help in reestablishing Tamil Buddhism. Thass was a pioneering Dalit intellectual who theorised the epistemology of his community and religion in his weekly Tamizhan in Thamizhan had a separate column devoted to women.
Along with contemporary politics Thass also extensively wrote on classical Tamil literature. He started serialising the biography of Buddha in the same journal.
He used the question and answer section of the journal to address various social and cultural issues. He was also a pioneer prior to Ambedkar in criticising the Swarajya movement. He observed that the movement was driven by four kinds of arrogances — caste, religion, education and wealth. He also criticised congress men who were shedding tears to the sufferings of people in South Africa but ignored the plight of untouchables in India.
Opinion Crisis offers Modi an opportunity. Thass also interpreted Tamil classics from Buddhist viewpoint as well as rewrote Indian history in an entirely different light. His book, Indirar Desa Sarithiram History of India , can be classified as the first book of subaltern history in India. He worked with literary texts and epigraphical evidences published during that time. His technique involved using oral narratives to construct history. Celebrating the birth anniversary of Thass is not a ritual.
It is to emphasise the relevance of his ideas to understand and interpret the cultural history of contemporary Dalits. Though he received diksha from a monk in Sri Lanka, his interpretation of Buddhism was entirely different from both the schools of Buddhism. He insisted castelessness as the founding value of Buddhism.
He differed with the Maha Bodhi Society on the question of caste and never compromised with anyone lenient to caste. His strong position on refusing sub-caste identity becomes very relevant to the contemporary Dalit movement. Sub-caste identity is the main obstacle in organising Dalits under a broader political platform.
Dalits have one strength at their disposal, and that is their numerical strength. A sub-caste identity spoils it. Dalits cannot escape it if they continue in the religion which supports it. So, conversion to Buddhism is the only way out. Opinion Humanity needed, not charity. Click here to join our channel indianexpress and stay updated with the latest headlines. Home Opinion Columns Iyothee Thass was a forerunner to Ambedkar in conversion to Buddhism Iyothee Thass was a forerunner to Ambedkar in conversion to Buddhism Thass was against sub-caste identifications.
Written by D Ravikumar Updated: May 17, am.
Iyothee Thass: The man who gave Tamils a new identity
Abstract This dissertation is about an anti-caste movement among Dalits the oppressed as untouchable in South India, the Parayar. Since the late 19th century, members of this caste, and a few others from Tamil-speaking areas, have been choosing to convert to Buddhism based on conscience and conviction. This phenomenon of religious conversion-social transformation is this study's focus. By combining archival research of Parayar's writings among Tamil Buddhists, as these Parayar, settled in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, are called, I have attempted to understand this movement ethno-historically. In pre-colonial times, though the sub-continent's societies were hierarchical, the hierarchies were fluid and varied: i. The most significant effect of the encounter of British Colonialism and India was to precipitate an unprecedented master-dichotomy of singular and absolute form of self and other, as colonizer and the colonized. This had three consequences.
Iyothee Thass was a forerunner to Ambedkar in conversion to Buddhism
Your email address will not be published. General Knowledge Articles. June 15 , days 0. Iyothee Thass tried to construct a unique political identity for the untouchables — such as Adi-Tamilar, Tamilan, Buddhist and so on. Early life Born on 20 May , Thass's original name was Kaathavarayan. He was born in Chennai's Thousand Lights area, and later migrated to Nilgiris district.