Background and history
Kambar was a 12th century Tamil poet who wrote
Kamba Ramayanam, the life of
Ayodhya. Kamba Ramayana differed on several aspects from the original version of
Ramayana written by Sanskrit poet
Valmiki. Kamba Ramayana emphasised
Tamil culture and tradition more.
 It is considered as one of the greatest epic of the
In 1937, Chief minister of Madras Presidency
C. Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) introduced compulsory use of
Indo-Aryan language Hindi in the educational institutions. To protest this move
Self-Respect Movement leader
Periyar E. V. Ramasamy launched
Anti-Hindi agitations. Periyar said that introduction of Hindi was an attempt to destroy
Dravidian culture by
Aryans. Periyar said that Ramayana was about conquest of Dravidian King
Ravana by Aryan King Rama. Periyar burned the epic Kamba Ramayana and alleged that Kambar destroyed Tamil culture by portraying Ravana as evil character in the epic.
During that period, Saw Ganesan, a admirer of Kamba Ramayana, thought that Kambar gave importance to the
Tamil language and culture. He decided to popularize the Kambar's literary talent. He founded Kamban Kazhagam in 1939 at Karaikudi,
Tamil Nadu, India. Literacy critic
T. K. Chidambaranatha Mudaliar became President of the academy. Kambar inaugurated his work on
Hastham star in
Panguni month of
Tamil calendar. Hence, Saw Ganesan chose 2–3 April 1939 to organise the first Kamban festival. He celebrated the final day of festival at
Nattarasankottai where Kambar's tomb is situated.
Kamban Kazhagam organises the festival every year by conducting seminars and debates on Kambar's Ramayana.
 Upon this success many other Kamban Kazhagam were founded across India and overseas where the
Tamil diaspora lived.