Adi Dravida

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Adi Dravidar
Regions with significant populations
18% of Tamil Nadu population
Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Paraiyar, Paraiyar, Arunthathiyar

Adi Dravida (or Adi Dravidar) is term used by the state of Tamil Nadu in India to denote Dalits since 1914.[1] Adi Dravidar make up 18% of Tamil Nadu population. [2]


Iyothee Thass, a leader of the outcast Paraiyar community, believed that the term "Paraiyar" was a slur. He attempted a reconstruction of Tamil history, arguing that the Paraiyars were the original inhabitants of the land, who had been subjugated by upper-caste invaders. Another Paraiyar leader, Rettamalai Srinivasan, however, advocated using the term "Paraiyar" with pride, and formed the Parayar Mahajana Sabha ("Paraiyar Mahajana Assembly") in 1892.[3] Thass, on the other hand, advocated the term "Adi-Dravida" ("Original Dravidians") to describe the community. In 1892, he used the term Adidravida Jana Sabhai to describe an organisation, which was probably Srinivasan's Parayar Mahajana Sabha. In 1895, he established the “People’s Assembly of Urdravidians” (Adidravida Janatcdzzcvhnb Sabha), which probably split off from Srinivasan's organisation. According to Michael Bergunder, Thass was thus the first person to introduce the concept of "Adi Dravida" into political discussion.[1]

In 1918, the Adi Dravida Mahajan Sabha also requested the Indian government use the term to replace the current but pejorative term "Pariah" (Paraiyar) used for the community.[4]

Another Paraiyar leader, M C Rajah — a Madras councillor — made successful efforts for adoption of the term "Adi-Dravidar" in the government records.[3] In 1914, the Madras Legislative Council passed a resolution that officially censured the usage of the term "Paraiyar" to refer to a specific community, and recommended "Adi Dravidar" as an alternative.[5] In the 1920s and 1930s. E. V. Ramasami Naicker ensured the wider dissemination of the term "Adi Dravida".[1]



  1. ^ a b c Bergunder 2004, p. 69.
  2. ^ Half of India’s dalit population lives in 4 states
  3. ^ a b Srikumar 2014, p. 357.
  4. ^ Christophe Jaffrelot (2003). India's Silent Revolution: The Rise of the Lower Castes in North India. Columbia University Press. pp. 169–. ISBN 978-0-231-12786-8. 
  5. ^ Bergunder 2011, p. 260.