V Periyardasan (63), an unrelenting student of philosophy driven by a quest to engage with religion as an intellectual pursuit, died here in the wee hours of Monday after a battle with cancer. He is survived by wife Vasantha, and two sons — Valavan and Suratha.
Born in a Saivite family on August 21, 1949 at Agaram in Perambur here, he was attracted towards the rationalist ideals of Periyar EV Ramasamy, founder of the Dravidian movement, during his days in Pachaiyappa’s college and changed his original name Seshachalam to Periyardasan (slave of Periyar). Well versed in Tamil and English, he has authored around 120 books. He served as a professor in his alma mater, Pachaiyappa’s college, for 34 years and retired a few years ago.
In 1991, Periyardasan embraced Buddhism and added Siddartha as a prefix to his name. He translated the Dhammapada, a compilation of Buddhist virtues, authored by BR Ambedkar, into Tamil. This took him to learn Pali and Sanskrit.
Taking everyone by surprise, he embraced Islam as his way of life on March 11, 2010 during a visit to Mecca and rechristened his name as ‘Abdulla Periyardasan’. Thereafter, he started giving a series of lectures on Islam. Before embracing Islam, he spent 10 years in knowing the key aspects of that religion and learning the Holy Quran and the Arabic language. Since 2004, he stopped his propagation of atheism.
Venturing into films, he had acted in around 15 films and his role in the film Karuthamma won him the national award for best actor. The films he had acted include Kadhalar Dhinam, Aiya, Azhagi, Anandham, Amma Appa Chellam and Tamil Padam. A well known TV personality, he was also a corporate trainer, psychotherapist and students counsellor for many years. He was with Dravidar Kazhagam for a long time and served as its propaganda secretary.
As per his last wish, Periyardasan’s body would be handed over to the Madras Medical College for research on August 20. Immediately after his death, his eyes were donated to Sankara Nethralaya.
Periyardasan has been a senior functionary of the MDMK for a few years. Condoling his demise, Vaiko recalled his meeting with Periyardasan at hospital on August 16. PMK founder S Ramadoss, leaders of TMMK, Popular Front of India and other parties have condoled the death.