Annadurai, endearingly called Anna
(elder brother), was born on 15 September 1909
in a Hindu lower middle class family of the
weaver community at Kancheepuram, the famous
city of temples near Madras. Her father Natarajan
was a handloom weaver. His mothers name
was Bangaru Ammal. Her younger sister Rajamani
Ammal was the foster-mother of Annadurai. She
brought him up and educated him from the elementary
school to the College. In 1930, while still
a student, he married Rani who came from a suburb
of Madras. The couple had no offspring and Annadurai
later adopted the four grandsons of his elder
Annadurai had his early education at the Panchiyappas
High School at Kancheepuram and completed his
School Final in 1929. He had to break his studies
for a while on account of financial difficulties
and worked as a clerk in the Local Municipal
Office. He later joined the Panchaiyappas
College, Madras, and passed the Intermediate
Examination in 1931. Continuing his studies
in the same College he obtained his B. A. Honours
and then M. A. degree in Econimics and Politics
After his M. A. he worked as a teacher in a
Panchaiyappa School for nearly a year, and then
turned to journalism and politics which became
his principal field interest in later life.
In his early life he was associated with the
South Indian Liberal Federation, the organisation
of the non-Brahmins, founded in 1917 by Sir
P. Theagaraya and Dr. T. M. Nair. It was popularly
known as the Justice Party after the name of
the Partys English daily. Annadurai served
as sub-editor of the Justice. As an active member
of the Justice Party, he was opposed to the
Congress Party. During this period he once contested
the election to the Madras City Corporation
Annadurai was deeply interested in the conditions
of the poor and the down-trodden and organised
small labour unions. In this field he was greatly
influenced by two Communist leaders, M. Singaravelu
and C. Basudev. He first met the iconoclast
and agitator Periyar E. V. Ramaswamy in 1934
at Tiruppur (Coimbatore District) at a Youth
Conference and was immediately attracted to
him. Even after the parting of ways starting
of the DMK in 1949, Annadurai continued to be
magnanimous enough to acknowledge openly that
the leader whom he met early in his life was
his one and only leader.
As a stormy petrel of the Justice Party, Annadurai
was arrested during the first Rajaji Ministry
for taking part in the anti-Hindi campaigns.
After release he became the editor of the Viduthalai
under the aegis of Periyar at Erod. He was also
associated with the Tamil weekly Kudi Arusu.
In 1942 he started his own weekly, the Daviddnadu,
and developed a distinct style of his own. In
1949 he assumed the editorship of a Tamil daily,
the Malai Mani, started to propagate the cause
of the Dravidian Progressive Federation (DMK).
He also edited till 1967 another Tamil weekly,
the Kanchi. Annadurai was a good writer in English
as well. In 1957 he started an English weekly,
the Homeland, which continued for a few years.
In 1966 he founded another English weekly, the
Annadurai had great interest in
| literature also,
and early made his mark as a playwright and
writer of short stories. Social reform and championing
the cause of he exploited class were the principal
themes of his stories and plays.
By slow degrees and relentless efforts Periyar
and Annadurai provided a mass-base for the Justice
Party which had been confined to a small class
till then. They infused the party with radical
ideas. Their efforts were crowned with success
at the Confederation of the Party held at Salem
in 1944, when the Party was renamed as Dravida
Kazhagam (Dravidian Federation). At the same
time the party dropped its pro-British attitude.
These changes attracted the student community
and soon the party came to have a wider following.
Particularly among the young.
Though a follower of Periyar, Annadurai did
not hesitate to differ with him sharply when
the occasion arose. Periyar essentially a separatist,
and when independence came, he wanted 15th August
to be declared a day of mourning for the Dravidians.
Annadurai, on the other hand, was keep on preserving
national unity, although fighting for the due
rights of the Dravidians within the national
political framework. The split came in September
1949 when the majority of the Dravida Kazhagam
under Annadurais leadership started the
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (Dravidian Progressive
The DMK conducted agitational campaigns against
the Congress rule in Madras, Hindi domination
and spiralling of prices. The party soon became
a formidable political force in Madras, and
in 1957 secured a sizable number of seats in
the Madras Legislative Assembly. In 1962 Annadurai
was elected to the Rajya Sabha where he strongly
opposed the imposition of Hindi as the sole
official language of the Union. In 1965 he led
the Anti-Hindi agitation in Madras. In the 1967
General Election the DMK Party obtained an absolute
majority in the Madras Legislature and formed
the first DMK Government, with Annadurai as
the Chief Minister.
As chief Minister for about two years Annadurai
showed great statesmanship and did much not
only to introduce needed reforms in Madras but
also to make the voice of South India heard
and appreciated at seat of the Central Power.
He was never against the political unity of
India but he insisted that the unity would be
best preserved by granting the greatest amount
of autonomy to the States.
In 1965 and again in 1968 he travelled widely
in Asia, Europe and America. In September 1968
he went to America again for medical treatment.
He had cancerous growth in the gullet. He underwent
two surgical operations in America and India
which could not cure him. He breathed his last
in the midnight of February 2-3, 1969. The mortal
remains were laid to rest under the Marina sands.
Annadurai had his roots deep in the land of
his birth and its culture. He was always dressed
in simple South Indian style and presented a
picture of tenderness. He was austere and quiet,
but strong and dynamic when occasion needed.
He had contempt for ceremonials and superstitions
but was tolerant to other mens views.
A statesman and a scholar, a litterateur and
a social reformer, a mass leader and a friend
of poor, Anna will be ever remembered specially
as the maker of the new Tamilnadu.