Born On: September 15, 1909
Born In: Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu
Died On: February 3, 1969
Career: Politician, Writer
Popularly known as Anna or Arignar Anna, Conjeevaram Natarajan Annadurai was the first Dravidian and first non-Congress leader to become the Chief Minister of the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Despite being born in a middle class family, Annadurai rose to become a school teacher and journalist before switching into hard-core politics. After working for the Dravidian party, Dravidar Kazhagam, he gathered his supporters and gave birth to his own party, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). Such was the influence of Anna in the political world that a party was then launched in his name as Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (ADMK) by M.G. Ramachandran in 1972 posthumously. With his election as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Anna rose to extreme popularity amongst ordinary people. He is regarded as one of the charismatic and forceful political leaders of modern India. Besides, he gained fame as an acclaimed orator, Tamil and English litterateur, and a stage actor.
C.N. Annadurai was born to Natarajan and Bangaru Ammal, in Conjeevaram (now called Kanchipuram) in Tamil Nadu. He was born in a middle-class weaver family belonging to Sengunta Mudaliar caste. He was brought up by his sister Rajamani Ammal. Annadurai attained his formal education from Pachaiyappa's High School in Chennai, but left his studies midway due to financial problems and worked as a clerk in Kanchipuram municipal office to help with the family finances. He later took admission in Pachaiyappa's College for his graduation. However, he was married off with Rani in 1930 at the age of 21 while he was still a student. In 1934, he completed his B.A. (Hons) degree and later achieved his M.A. degree in economics and politics from the same college. For a short period, he earned his living as an English teacher in Pachaiyappa's High school but left to join journalism and politics.
Entry into Politics
Annadurai was keen on joining politics. With his deep interest in working for the conditions of the poor and down-trodden, his ambition firmed as he was highly influenced by two Communist leaders, M. Singaravelu and C. Basudev. On his first meeting with Periyar E.V. Ramasami in 1934 at a youth conference at Tirupur in Coimbatore district, he was instantly attracted towards him. Even after his split with Periyar on the launch of his own party DMK in 1949, he continued to praise him in public as his one and only leader. He joined the Justice Party, which was formed in 1917 by non-Brahmin elites, in 1935. When he entered the party, the president was Periyar E.V. Ramasami. The party ran a magazine where Annadurai served as the sub-editor. The party was in power till 1937 after it was defeated by Indian National Congress. Thereafter, Annadurai became the editor of Viduthalai, which means freedom in English, and was even associated with a Tamil weekly paper "Kudi Arusu". In 1942, he began his own Tamil journal titled "Dravida Nadu". Periyar renamed the Justice Party as Dravidar Kazhagam in 1944 and bid adieu to contesting in the elections.
Establishment of DMK
During India's struggle for independence, the movement was dominated by Indian National Congress that was led by Brahmins. As such, Periyar feared that independent India would be ruled under the government of Brahmins and North Indians. With this, Periyar objected the move and declared August 15, 1947 as a day of mourning. As such, Periyar witnessed opposition from his supporters and saw that the cause of demand for independence from British rule was a national cause and not just of Aryan North. This triggered a cold war between Annadurai and Periyar. Further when Periyar refused to stand in the democratic elections, Annadurai walked off the meeting in 1948. Periyar's marriage to Maniammai, who was 40 years younger than him, caused the final rift between him and Annadurai, who, in turn, walked out of his party and gave birth to his own party known as Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in 1949, in partnership with Periyar's nephew, E.V.K. Sampath. Initially DMK focused on urban centers and surrounding areas, but with the party's emphasis shifting on to urban lower, lower middle, working classes, students, Dalits, and lower castes, DMK gained rapid recognition and immense support.
While working for "Dravida Nadu" under Periyar at the time of Dravida Kazhagam, Annadurai supported the former for forming an independent state under the name Dravida Nadu. This thought stayed alive during the initial days of DMK as well. Sampath, who had left Periyar and joined Annadurai, still opposed the fact and considered this demand an unrealistic goal. Later, when Annadurai accepted film stars in his party, Sampath suffered differences between him and other leaders supporting the Dravida Nadu, and hence, left DMK to form his own party, the Tamil Nationalist Party in 1961. But when the Indian government separated Kannada, Telugu, and Malayalam speaking regions from Madras Presidency, Annadurai and his party changed the call for Dravida Nadu into independent Tamil Nadu for Tamil speaking regions. However, when the Sixteenth Amendment was initialized that banned any party from contesting in elections; Annadurai was one of the members present in the Parliament of India but could not stop from the amendment being passed.
Apart from standing for the formation of a separate Tamil-speaking region, Annadurai was actively involved with other protests throughout his political career. When Motilal Nehru recommended Hindi for use as an official language in 1928, people and politicians of Tamil Nadu strongly opposed considering that they would be regarded as second-class citizens, since Hindi was major language of North Indians. This was just the beginning as the Congress party headed by C. Rajagopalachari in Madras Presidency suggested the use of Hindi as a compulsory language in schools in 1938. This was highly objected by Tamil leaders, including Annadurai who, along with poet Bharathidasan, held demonstrations against the cause. He even participated in the first Anti-Hindi imposition conference that was held in Kanchipuram on February 27, 1938. With no positive response and immense opposition, the Madras Presidency withdrew from the cause in 1940.
In 1950, when India became a republic, the constitution declared Hindi language to gain official status after 15 years in 1965. This was, as expected, not accepted by the Tamils. As such, Annadurai organized an open-air conference against Hindi imposition at Kodambakkam in Chennai in August 1960. With the rise in the opposition, Jawaharlal Nehru ensured that English would be the official language of India, as long as non-Hindi speaking people wish. However, when no amendment was made in the constitution in 1965, Annadurai declared 26th January, 1955, the 15th Republic Day of India, as the day of mourning. He replaced the protest slogans with "Down with Hindi; Long live the Republic". Though the protest initially broke out in Madurai, it spread throughout the state within days. With violence increasing to its height, Annadurai asked the students to call off the protest, but DMK leaders like Karunanidhi continued the violence. Annadurai was even arrested for inducing the agitation. Though DMK was not personally responsible for instigating the agitation, it was due to this that DMK won the elections in 1967 with Annadurai becoming the Chief Minister of Madras State.
Tenure as a Chief Minister
In 1967 elections, the opposition party won nine states over Congress, but Madras was the only state where a single non-Congress party attained majority. Annadurai became the Chief Minister of Madras in February 1967 and legalized self-respect marriages wherein one did not require a Brahmin to preside with the marriage ceremony. Self-respect marriage was an idea conceptualized by Periyar, who considered conventional marriages as an excuse for bribing dowry. It was during Annadurai's tenure as the Chief Minister that the Madras State was renamed as Tamil Nadu. He even introduced the two language policy against the three language formula prevailing in the neighboring states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala. He organized the Second World Tamil Conference on January 3, 1968. To mark this conference, the government released a commemorative stamp but it contained Hindi while Annadurai insisted on printing Tamil. He issued an order to remove all pictures of gods and religious symbols from public offices and buildings. On his visit to Yale University in April-May 1968, he was awarded with the Chubb Fellowship and became the first non-American to receive this honor. Later in the same year, he was conferred upon with an honorary doctorate from Annamalai University.
Apart from his political career, Annadurai was very much involved into writing and filming as well. Talking about his literary career, he was regarded as one of the best Tamil orators during his time. With his spoken and written language, he managed to develop a unique style. He penned several novels, short stories, and plays that revolved around politics. While working for Dravidar Kazhagam, he acted in some of his own plays. His notable works include Annavin Sattasabai Sorpolivukal (Anna's speeches at the state legislative, 1960), Ilatchiya varalaru (History of Principles, 1948), Valkkaip puyal (Storm of life, 1948), Rankon rata (Radha from Rangon), Kambarasam, Kapothipura kathal (Love in the city of Blind), Parvathy B.A., Kalinga Rani (Queen of Kalinga), and Pavayin payanam (Travels of a young lady).
Annadurai wrote for movies also. His first movie was 1948 "Nallathambi" (Good Brother) starring N.S. Krishnan revolving around cooperative farming and abolition of zamindari system. He earned Rs. 12,000 from this project, a large amount at that time. His novels "Velaikaari" (Servant Maid, 1949) and "Or Iravu" were culminated into movies. His career in films proved to be a boon for him as he was supported by several stage and cine stars, such as D.V. Narayanaswamy, K.R. Ramasamy, N.S. Krishnan, S.S. Rajendran, Sivaji Ganesan, and M.G. Ramachandran. His other works that were converted into movies by the same name are Panathottam (1963), Valiba virundhu (1967), Kumarikottam (1971), Rajapart Rangadurai (1973), Needhi devan mayakkam (1982).
Annadurai served as the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu for just two years as he died on February 3, 1969. Though he was suffering from cancer, he managed to keep himself in a healthy condition. It was his tobacco chewing habit that had led to the worsening of his condition. His funeral was attended by a recorded 15 million people, the highest till date as recorded in The Guinness Book of Records. His remains were buried in the northern end of Marina Beach, now known as Anna Square.
With the split of DMK in 1972 by actor M.G. Ramachandran, the rebel fragment formed another party and renamed it as All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). A residential neighborhood in Chennai is named after Annadurai and is called Anna Nagar. The Anna University, offering high education in engineering, technology, and applied sciences, founded in 1978 was also named after Annadurai. The current head office of DMK, built in 1987, was a tribute to Annadurai with the name Anna Arivalayam. The previously known Mount Road, a major road in Chennai, was renamed as Anna Salai in his honor and a statue was also set up there. Annadurai was listed as one of the "Top 100 people who shaped India by thought, action, art, culture, and spirit" by India Today magazine. Anna Centenary Library was established in Chennai in 2010 as a tribute to Annadurai.
Komalathin Kobam, 1939
Parvathi B.A, 1943
Sivaji kanda indhu samrajyam, 1945
Kumari kottam, 1946
Or iravu, 1948
Kumari Surya, 1955
Inba oli, 1970
Or Iravu, 1951
Rangoon Radha, 1956
Valiba virundhu, 1967
Rajapart Rangadurai, 1973
Needhi devan mayakkam, 1982
1909: Was born in Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu
1930: Married Rani
1934: Completed bachelor's degree from Pachaiyappa's College, Chennai
1935: Joined Justice Party
1938: Participated in the first Anti-Hindi imposition conference in Kanchipuram
1944: Justice Party was renamed as Dravidar Kazhagam
1948: Made first movie "Nallathambi"
1949: Founded Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)
1962: Elected to Rajya Sabha
1965: Opposed against Hindi being declared as the official language
1967: Elected as the Chief Minister of Madras Presidency
1968: Received Chubb Fellowship from Yale University
1969: Madras state was renamed as Tamil Nadu
1969: Died on February 3 in Chennai aged 59
1972: ADMK (Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) was formed
1978: Anna University was founded in his honor
1987: DMK's head office Anna Arivalayam was built
2010: Anna Centenary Library was established in Chennai