Dravida Nadu – A Historical Perspective

What is Dravida Nadu? Source: www.opindia.com

‘Dravida’ is a term that a majority of the people across the length and breadth of the country are familiar with, thanks to the regional parties of Tamil Nadu – Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and so many other such parties. But what does ‘Dravida Nadu’ really mean?

Time and again, politicians from various states of South India have battled for sub-nationalism. Most often, their contention is that the federal structure of India is designed in such a way as to erode states’ rights in the South. Whether or not, they echo the feelings of the people, is a different question, altogether.  

The demand for ‘Dravida Nadu’ (Nadu in Tamil means country) has been around for a very long time and it was, at one point in time, seen as one of the prominent demands of the Dravidian movement. The core ideology of the demand has been changing over the decades. It has varied from asking for more power to the states to full sovereignty and complete secession.

The original inhabitants who lived on the Indian subcontinent prior to the arrival of the Aryans were called Dravidians. They are believed to have been chased down by the Aryans to the South. The term ‘Dravida Nadu’ was coined in their honour.

South India is usually defined by Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the union territories of Lakshadweep and Puducherry. Geographically, South India occupies about one-fifth of India’s total land mass which is approximately 250000 square miles. 

The idea of Dravida Nadu was first proposed by EV Ramaswamy’s, (also called as Periyar) Justice Party, in the 1930s. In a conference held in 1939, he publicly demanded a sovereign state for Dravidians. By the late 1950s, the idea gradually faded.   

What started as a demand for a separate nation of Dravidasthan or Dravida Nadu (a nation spreading across south India), ended with the then ‘Madras State’ being renamed as ‘Tamil Nadu’ on July 18, 1968. It would be apt to say that the struggle made considerable impact on Tamil Nadu’s politics for years to come.

According to historians, the demand to identify the state with its language dates back to the middle of the 19th Century. It is believed that Periyar’s demand for Dravida Nadu changed after the reorganisation of Indian States on linguistic basis. After 1956, he focused more on rights for the Tamils.

The justification given for stressing on ‘Dravida Nadu’ was simple. The group believed that Dravidians were the original inhabitants of India and that Indus Valley Civilisation was a Dravidian one whose people were driven away by the Aryans who established the Brahminical Vedic Civilisation.

Periyar envisioned a Dravida Nadu which would correct the past mistakes committed on a race for many years. It would aim to remain casteless and protect the native languages and cultures of its people.  Periyar and his followers saw Brahmins as Aryans and non-Brahmins as Dravidians. Periyar and his movement called Dravidar Kazhagam opposed many state policies till the 1960s.

The concept of ‘Dravida Nadu’ lost its momentum because other linguistic groups in the South feared Tamil domination within the proposed state.  After the states were divided on linguistic basis, the ‘Madras Presidency’ became diminished in size and was called Tamil Nadu.

So, the demand for Dravida Nadu turned into a demand for an independent Tamil Nadu by the Dravidar Kazhagam movement.  This demand lost momentum after the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam founder, CN Annadurai, gave up the idea.  

Various problems between the southern states are also one of the reasons for the failure of the idea. The Cauvery river water sharing issue always puts Karnataka and Tamil Nadu at loggerheads.  There are numerous outfits in each southern state who fail to see the South Indian population as a single, homogenous group. The Mullaperiyar dam issue is a persistent problem between Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Apart from politicians who influence people to hold on to their linguistic identity, the economics also plays a big part. Southern states compete with each other fiercely on the economic front.

Though the idea seems to have lost clout as of now, political analysts think that it may act as a check in case unilateral or alienating decisions are taken by the Centre in the near future.


The views and opinions expressed in the article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The Tilak Chronicle and TTC Media Pvt Ltd.


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