Pundit Iyothee Thass: Great Minds

C. Iyothee Thass (1845 – 1914) was a prominent Tamil anti-caste activist and a practitioner of Siddha medicine. Iyothee Thass (1845-1914) who belonged to Chennai was brought up in the English household of George Harrington in Ooty.  His father worked for the Harrintons. Thass also called himself Pundit Ayodhya Dasa and Kathavarayan.

Thass became a well known Siddha practitioner and Tamil scholar with  expertise in the traditional knowledge on astrology and palm-leaf manuscript reading. In 1870,  Thass founded Adhvaidhananda Sabha  in Ooty. In 1891, he established an organization called the Dravida Mahajana Sabha, and organised the First Conference at Ooty.

In that conference, ten resolutions were passed including the one on enacting a criminal law to punish those who humiliated untouchables, creating separate schools and providing scholarships for matriculation education for untouchable children; providing employment for educated untouchables, and representation for untouchables in District Boards and Municipal Boards.

In 1898 Thass visited Sri Lanka and converted himself to Buddism under the influence of Colonel Olcott of Theosophical Society and founded ‘The Sakya Buddhist Society’ at Royapettah, Madras.

In 1907, Thass  launched  his journal Oru Paisa Tamilan as an organ of this organisation. After a year the name was changed to Tamilan. It was edited, published and owned by Thass. The average circulation of the weekly was 500. The Tamilan is considered the most renowned journal in Dalit print history because of its rich content and ideology.

In 1881, when the colonial Government planned to carry out the second census, Thass gave a memorandum to the  Government requesting that the people of Depressed Classes in Tamil speaking land should be considered as Adi-Tamilar and not as Hindus.

The institute for Siddha Research in Chennai is named after Thass.

Nilgiri Documentation Centre

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *