Periyar Erode Venkata Ramasamy (Tamil: பெரியார், Kannada: ಪೆರಿಯಾರ್) (September 17, 1879 – December 24, 1973), also known as Ramaswami, EVR, Thanthai Periyar, or Periyar, was a Dravidian social activist, who founded the Self-Respect Movement .
Periyar was born as Erode Venkata Ramasami Naicker on September 17, 1879, in Erode, Tamil Nadu. The name Naicker denoted the caste he was born into. Periyar's father, a rich businessman, was Venkata (Naicker), and his mother was Chinna Thayammal, alias Muthammal. He had one elder brother named Krishnaswamy and two sisters named Kannamma and Ponnuthoy. He later came to be known as "Periyar" meaning 'respected one' or 'elder' in Tamil.
In 1929, Periyar announced the deletion of his caste title Naicker from his name at the First Provincial Self-Respect Conference of Chenggalpattu. He could speak three Dravidian languages: Kannada, Tamil and Telugu. His mother tongue was Kannada. Periyar attended school for five years after which he joined his father's trade at the age of 12. He used to listen to Tamil Vaishnavite gurus who gave discourses in his house enjoying his father's hospitality. At a young age, he began questioning the apparent contradictions in the Hindu mythological stories which he opined to be lies spread by the Indo-Aryan race. As Periyar grew, he felt that people used religion only as a mask to deceive innocent people and therefore took it as one of his duties in life to warn people against superstitions and priests.
Periyar's father arranged for his wedding when he was nineteen. The bride, Nagammai was only thirteen. It was not, altogether, an arranged marriage because Periyar and Nagammai had known each other and were already in love with each other. Nagammai actively supported her husband in his later public activities and agitations. Two years after their marriage, a girl child was born to them. However, this child lived only for five months. The couple had no more children