|Subramania Bharati was a Tamil writer, poet, journalist, independence activist and a social reformer born in Tamil Nadu, India. He is one of the great Indian poets who infused nationalistic fervor among public through his poems.Bharathi fought against a number of social evils prevailing in the society like caste, male discrimination, poverty, freedom struggle through his poems and also wrote regarding his love towards God. He was a trend setter of modern poems, changing the culture of reciting only religious poems in ancient Tamil language. Bharathi is an immortal poet who conquered time and drive away fear breaking the bonds of bondage.
Some of his literary works of him are Paapa Paatu, Panjali Sabadham, Kannan paatu, kuil paatu, Bhaarati Arubattaru, Desiya geethangal, Suvadesa Gitanjali, Janmabhoomi and many more. He received world-wide popularity after 50 years of his demise. His poems were translated into English, French, German, Russian and the Czech, besides begin translated in most Indian languages.
Other names of Subramania Bharati are Bharathiyar, Subbaiya, Sakthi Dasan, Mahakavi and Mundaasu Kavignar.
Mahakavi Bharathiyar was born on December 11, 1882 as “Subbaiya” for the couple, Chinnaswamy Iyer and Lakshmi ammal. His father was a Brahmin Tamil scholar and a modern engineer, who is well versed in Hindi, English, Mathematics, Logic and Western Technology. At the age of 5, Bharathi’s mother died. He was brought up by his disciplinarian father, who wanted Bharathi to become an engineer. He wanted his son to learn all the languages and to excel in mathematics. But, Bharathi being a truant was interested in writing about Nature and Beauty, just like Rabindranath Tagore.
He was educated in “The M.D.T. Hindu College” in Tirunelveli and learnt music right from his childhood. He was invited to a conference at Ettayapuram court of poets and Musicians at the age of eleven. Proved his intelligence in front of Ettayapuram Raja, he was christened as “Bharathi”, meaning the person blessed by Goddess Saraswathi (Goddess of knowledge).
In 1897, to impose a sense of responsibility in him, his father arranged marriage between 14-year-old Bharathi with his 7-year-old cousin Chellammal. After few years, Bharathi’s father faced great losses by closure of his textile mill and they entered the world of poverty, eventually leading to his death in 1898. He was invited by his aunt Kuppakkal to Benaras and there he joined Central Hindu College. During his stay in Benaras, he was impressed by Spirituality and Nationalism.
Bharathi impressed by the members of Hindu society, started wearing turban on his head, which represents the crown worn by the kings. He also cut his hair and grown moustaches, felt very proud and started walking with straight back.
He worked as a teacher for twenty rupees, until he went back to his village upon receiving the call from Ettayapuram raja. During this time, he was impressed by Shelley’s poetry. This was called as “Shellyan Guild” and to mark his admiration he called himself “Shelley Dasan” and wrote under that pseudonym. Then, he worked in Madurai as a teacher for 17 ½ rupees, being tired of work in Raja’s stay.
In 1904, Bharathi joined Swadesamitran, a Tamil daily as Associate Editor translating news from English to Tamil. He also translated the speeches of Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo, apart from the Presidential Addresses at various sessions of the Indian National Congress.
His first poem, “Hail Bengal” was published in Swadesamitran on September 15, 1905. He also joined his friends working in English weekly, “Radical Social Reform”. He fought against the social evils like caste, and the discrimination against female. He said, “Nations are made of homes. And so long you do not have justice and equality fully practiced at home; you cannot expect to see them practiced in your public life. Because it is the home life that is the basis of public life.”
Bharathi was a member of All India National Congress. The partition of Bengal on September 29, 1905, involved Bharathi in political life more vigorously like many others participating in Boycott and Swadesi. He attended the Congress session in Benares in 1905, with Gokhle as president and next session in Calcutta with Dadabhai as the president.
PATH TO SUCCESS
The turning point in Bharathi’s life came in 1906 when he met Sister Nivedita, the great disciple of Swami Vivekananda. When he met Sister Nivedita, he bowed his head and recognized Mother Shakti in her. She made some personal enquiries to him and asked him why he did not bring his wife and daughter along with him. He said that it is not his society’s custom to bring women outside. On hearing this, Sister Nivedita said, “How can one half of a society win freedom, when it enslaves the other half? Let the past be forgotten. Henceforth hold her as your left hand and praise her in your heart as an angel.” Virtually, he considered her as her Guru (teacher) and also dedicated two of his poetic works (Suvadesa Gitanjali and Janmabhoomi) to her. He started experimentation of his new ideals with his wife and daughters. Most of his activities were new to the society and it brought him so many difficulties in his life.
On a mission of serving Mother India, he joined his hands with Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bepin Chandra Pal and Lala Lajapat Rai in preference to the Moderates like Gokhale and Dadabhai.
He came back to Madras from Calcutta as a transformed power to use his pen. He found that Swadesimitran is not going to be his weapon anymore. He joined his hands with Mandayam Tirumalachariar who was editing an English monthly Brahmavadin that became an instrument for the Tamil paper, India. He attained his responsibilities as an editor, writer of political articles, poems, skits and also a cartoonist. He also became an editor of “Bala Bharatha” and also started selling swadesi goods along with his friends.
His writing was very strong that directly attacked and enraged British administrators. They passed an arrest warrant against Bharathi; as a result he escaped to Pondicherry along with his wife. Pondicherry was then under the French rule. He continued working in India (weekly) and Vijaya (daily), which were distributed in Madras. It was the time when British rule imposed ban on the journals, as a consequence Bharathi’s papers were also stopped from entering Madras.
In 1910, Bharathi met Sri Aurobindo and experienced a transition into a Vedantin and his songs turned into hymns.
FINAL DAYS AND DEATH
In November 1918, he returned from Pondicherry along with his wife, but was arrested in Cuddalore. But later, he was released upon the efforts of Mrs. Annie Besant, C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar and others. He met Gandhiji only once in his lifetime at Rajaji’s house in 1919.
His lecture on the topic, “man is immortal” on July 31, 1921 in Karunkalpalaym library turned out to be his last, for he died days later in Chennai. Bharathi’s health was badly affected by imprisonments. By 1920 General Amnesty Order finally released restrictions on him.
He was once struck by an elephant in Parthasarathy temple in Triplicane, Madras, whom he was regularly feeding. His health got worsened and he died on September 11, 1921 early morning around 1 AM.
Bharathi did not attained much popularity during his life span as some of his great literary work for his country was kept hidden from the public. When Bharathi died, there were only 14 members during his death ceremony. Later, when the people of Madras came to know about his death, they were shocked. The public expressed their grief in the columns of “Swadesimitran”.
India got freedom on August 15, 1947 and in 1948, a memorial building was installed in Ettayapuram solely by the contribution of public. Government of India honored him by releasing postal stamps with his images.
Bharathi’s 50th death anniversary was marked on September 11, 1971. Bharathi is being celebrated as the icon of courage and a devoted son of Mother India. His modern literature has paved a way for the upcoming poets to express their thoughts in a language that is understandable both by educated and illiterate.
Lines from some of his poems expressing his views: Saadhigal Illaiyadi Paapa (there are no castes), Ellorum innaatin mannargal (all are the kings of this land), thaniyoruvanuku unavillaiyenil jagathinai azhithiduvome (destroy the world even if a single person do not get food), kadhal kadhal kadhal illaiyel saadhal saadhal saadhal (love, love love, otherwise die die die), Aayiram undikku saadhi yenil anniyar vandhu pugallenna needhi (we may have thousands of problems, but that, however, does not justify your invasion in our country).
Somasundara Bharati, a friend of Bharathi has once said that I laughed at the stories of Kali writing on Kalidasa’s tongue, and the stories of Kumaraguruparar composing poems hardly at the age of five. But, when I saw Bharathi reciting poems and carelessly singing songs on spot, surprising the elderly poets and musicians, I thought all these stories should be true.
Recently, Ms. Bharathi, Bharathi’s grand daughter and a researcher on his works, said: “I’m convinced that he was not only a poet and patriot but also a philosopher, for he had beautifully dealt with advaita philosophy in his works.”
Publication of Bharathi poetry work has a complicated history. His wife, Chellammal and her brother Appadurai with the help of public donations, established “Bharathi-Ashram” and published his works in two parts in 1922 whose sales was good than expected. The copyrights were then transferred to “Bharati Prachuralayam” from whom the copyrights were brought by Government of Tamil Nadu. Since then, the copyright has become the property of the people of Tamil Nadu.