Bharathiyar Tamil Essay
Author : Dr S.S. Sundaram
Subramaniya Bharathiyar was a poet, freedom fighter and social reformer from Tamil Nadu. He was known as Mahakavi Bharathiyar and the laudatory epithet Mahakavi means a great poet. He is considered as one of India’s greatest poets. His songs on nationalism and freedom of India helped to rally the masses to support the Indian Independence Movement in Tamil Nadu.
Subramaniya Bharathiyar was born on 11th December 1882, in a village called Ettayapuram in Tirunelveli District in Tamil Nadu and his childhood name was Subbiah. His father was Chinnaswamy Iyer and his mother was Lakshmi Ammal.
At the age of seven, Subbiah started writing poems in Tamil. When he was eleven, he wrote in such a way that even learned men praised him for his great knowledge and skill. In the eleventh year, Subbiah felt that he had to establish his credentials. He threw a challenge to the eminent men in the assembly of scholars that they should have a contest with him in a debate on any subject without any previous notice or preparation. The contest was held at a special sitting of the Ettayapuram Durbar at which the Rajah (the ruler) himself was present. The subject chosen was “Education”. Subbiah efficiently won the debate. This was a memorable moment in Subbiah’s life. The boy who was till then referred to as “Ettayapuram Subbiah” came henceforth to be known as “Bharathi”, and later he was respectfully referred to as“Bharathiar” by nationalists and by millions of Tamil lovers all over the globe.
In June 1897, Bharathi was hardly fifteen when his marriage took place, and his child-bride was Chellammal. Bharathi left for Benaras which was also known as Kashi and Varanasi. He spent there the next two years with his aunt Kuppammal and her husband Krishna Sivan. Speedily gaining a fair knowledge of Sanskrit, Hindi and English, he duly passed with credit the Entrance Examination of the Allahabad University. The Banaras stay brought about a tremendous change in Bharathi’s personality. Outwardly, he sported a moustache and a Sikh turban and acquired a bold swing in his walk.
Bharathi: A poet and a Nationalist
Significantly, a new age in Tamil literature began with Subramaniya Bharathi. Most part of his compositions are classifiable as short lyrical outpourings on patriotic, devotional and mystic themes. Bharathi was essentially a lyrical poet. “Kannan Pattu” “Nilavum Vanminum Katrum” “Panchali Sabatam” “Kuyil Pattu” are examples of Bharathi’s great poetic output.
Bharathi is considered as a national poet due to his number of poems of the patriotic flavour through which he exhorted the people to join the independence struggle and work vigorously for the liberation of the country. Instead of merely being proud of his country he also outlined his vision for a free India. He published the sensational “Sudesa Geethangal” in 1908.
Bharathi as a Journalist
Many years of Bharathi’s life were spent in the field of journalism, Bharathi, as a young man began his career as a journalist and as a sub-editor in “Swadesamitran” in November 1904.
“India” saw the light of the day in May, 1906. It declared as its motto the three slogans of the French Revolution, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. It blazed a new trail in Tamil Journalism. In order to proclaim its revolutionary ardour, Bharathi had the weekly printed in red paper. “India” was the first paper in Tamil Nadu to publish political cartoons. He also published and edited a few other journals like “Vijaya”.
It is not surprising therefore that soon a warrant was waiting at the door of the “India”office for the arrest of the editor of the magazine. It was because of this worsening situation in 1908 that Bharathi decided to go away to Pondicherry, a French territory at that time, and continue to publish the “India” magazine. Bharathi resided in Pondicherry for sometime to escape the wrath of the British imperialists.
During his exile, Bharathi had the opportunity to mingle with many leaders of the militant wing of the independence movement such as Aurobindo, Lajpat Rai and V.V.S. Aiyar, who had also sought asylum in the French, Pondicherry. The most profitable years of Bharathi’s life were the ten years he spent in Pondicherry.
From Pondicherry, he guided the Tamil youth of Madras to tread in the path of nationalism. This increased the anger of the British towards Bharathi’s writings as they felt that it was his writings that induce and influence the patriotic spirit of the Tamil youth.
Bharathi met Mahatma Gandhi in 1919 in Rajaji’s home at Madras. Bharathi entered British India near Cuddalore in November 1918 and was promptly arrested. Even in prison, he spent his time in writing poems on freedom, nationalism and country’s welfare.
In his early days of youth he had good relations with Nationalist Tamil Leaders like V.O.Chidambaram, Subramanya Siva, Mandayam Thirumalachariar and Srinivasachari. Along with these leaders he used to discuss the problems facing the country due to British rule. Bharathi used to attend the Annual sessions of Indian National Congress and discuss national issues with extremist Indian National Leaders like Bipin Chandra Pal, B.G. Tilak and V.V.S. Iyer. His participation and activities in Benaras Session (1905) and Surat Session (1907) of the Indian National Congress impressed many national leaders about his patriotic fervour. Bharathi had maintained good relations with some of the national leaders and shared his thoughts and views on the nation and offered his suggestions to strengthen the nationalist movement. Undoubtedly, his wise suggestions and steadfast support to the cause of nationalism rejuvenated many national leaders. Thus Bharathi played a pivotal role in the freedom of India.
Bharthi as a social reformer
Bharathi was also against caste system. He declared that there were only two castes-men and women and nothing more than that. Above all, he himself had removed his sacred thread. He had also adorned many Dalits with sacred thread. He used to take tea sold in shops run by Muslims. He along with his family members attended church on all festival occasions. He advocated temple entry of Dalits. For all his reforms, he had to face opposition from his neighbours. But Bharathi was very clear that unless Indians unite as children of Mother India, they could not achieve freedom. He believed in women’s rights, gender equality and women emancipation. He opposed child marriage, dowry and supported widow remarriage.
Bharathi died on 11th September 1921. Bharathi as a poet, journalist, freedom fighter and social reformer had made a great impact not only on the Tamil society but also on the entire human society. He followed what all he preached and it is here that his greatness is manifested. His prophecy during the colonial period about the independence of India came true after two and half decades after his demise. His vision about a glorious India has been taking a shape in the post-Independence era. Bharathi did not live for himself but for the people and nation. That is why he is respectfully called as Bharathiyar.
* Dr S.S. Sundaram is Professor & Head at Department of Indian History, University of Madras, Chennai (TN). He is also Chairperson- School of Historical Studies, Chennai.
Photograph of Subramanya Bharathi
|Native name||சி. சுப்ரமணிய பாரதியார்|
(1882-12-11)11 December 1882
|Died||11 September 1921(1921-09-11) (aged 38)|
Madras (Chennai), India
|Other names||Bharathi, Subbaiah, Sakthi Dasan, Mahakavi, Mundasu Kavignar Veera Kavi, Selly Dasan|
|Occupation||Journalist, Poet, Novelist, Teacher|
|Known for||Indian Independence activism, Poetry, Social Reform|
|Notable work||Panchali Sapatham, Pappa Pattu, Kannan Pattu, Kuyil Pattu, etc.|
|Movement||Indian independence movement against British|
|Spouse(s)||Chellamma (m. 1896-1921; till his death)|
|Parent(s)||Chinnaswami Subramania Iyer and Lakshmi Ammal|
Chinnaswami Subramania Bharati, also known as Bharathiyar (11 December 1882 – 11 September 1921) was a Tamil writer, poet and journalist, and Indian independence activist and social reformer from Tamil Nadu. Popularly known as "Mahakavi Bharati", he was a pioneer of modern Tamil poetry and is considered one of the greatest Tamil literary figures of all time. His numerous works were fiery songs kindling patriotism and nationalism during the Indian Independence movement.
Born in Ettayapuram of Tirunelveli district (present day Thoothukudi) in 1882, Bharati had his early education in Tirunelveli and Varanasi and worked as a journalist with many newspapers, notable among them being the Swadesamitran and India. Bharati was also an active member of the Indian National Congress. In 1908, an arrest warrant was issued against Bharati by the government of British India for his revolutionary activities, forcing him to flee to Puducherry, where he lived until 1918.
Bharati's works were on varied themes covering religious, political and social aspects. Songs penned by Bharati are very often used in Tamil films and very many music concerts throughout India and overseas countries, wherever Tamil Indians live.
Bharati was born to Chinnaswami Subramania Iyer and Lakhsmi Ammal as Subbaiah on 11 December 1882, in the village of Ettayapuram. He was educated at a local high school called The M.D.T. Hindu College in Tirunelveli. From a very young age, he learnt music and at eleven, he learnt poetry. It was during this time that he was conferred the title of "Bharati", the one blessed by Saraswati, the goddess of learning. Bharati lost his mother at the age of five and his father at the age of sixteen. He married Chellamma who was seven years old when he was fifteen years old. He was brought up by his father who wanted him to learn English, excel in arithmetic, and become an engineer. Through his great efforts, he learnt 32 languages (29 Indian languages and 3 foreign languages).
During his stay in Varanasi, Bharati was exposed to Hindu spirituality and nationalism. This broadened his outlook and he learned Sanskrit, Hindi and English. In addition, he changed his outward appearance. He also grew a beard and wore a turban due to his admiration of Sikhs, influenced by his Sikh friend. Though he passed an entrance exam for a job, he returned to Ettayapuram during 1901 and started as the court poet of Raja of Ettayapuram for a couple of years. He was a Tamil teacher from August to November 1904 in Sethupathy High School in Madurai. During this period, Bharati understood the need to be well-informed of the world outside and took interest in the world of journalism and the print media of the West. Bharati joined as Assistant Editor of the Swadeshamitran, a Tamil daily in 1904. In December 1905, he attended the All India Congress session held in Benaras. On his journey back home, he met Sister Nivedita, Swami Vivekananda's spiritual heir. She inspired Bharati to recognise the privileges of women and the emancipation of women exercised Bharati's mind. He visualised the new woman as an emanation of Shakti, a willing helpmate of man to build a new earth through co-operative endeavour. He considered Nivedita as his Guru and penned a couple of lyrics praising her. He attended the Indian National Congress session in Calcutta under Dadabhai Naoiroji, which demanded Swaraj and boycott of British goods.
By April 1907, he started editing the Tamil weekly India and the English newspaper Bala Bharatham with M.P.T. Acharya. These newspapers were also a means of expressing Bharati's creativity, which began to peak during this period. Bharati started to publish his poems regularly in these editions. From hymns to nationalistic writings, from contemplations on the relationship between God and Man to songs on the Russian and French revolutions, Bharati's subjects were diverse.
Bharati participated in the historic Surat Congress in 1907 along with V.O. Chidambaram Pillai and Mandayam Srinivachariar, which deepened the divisions within the Indian National Congress with a section preferring armed resistance, primarily led by Tilak and Aurobindo over moderate approach preferred by certain other sections. Bharati supported Tilak and Aurobindo together with V. O. Chidambaram Pillai and Kanchi Varathachariyar. Tilak openly supported armed resistance against the British.
In 1908, he gave evidence in the case which had been instituted by the British against V.O. Chidambaram Pillai. In the same year, the proprietor of the journal India was arrested in Madras. Faced with the prospect of arrest, Bharati escaped to Pondicherry, which was under French rule. From there he edited and published the weekly journal India, Vijaya, a Tamil daily, Bala Bharatham, an English monthly, and Suryodayam, a local weekly in Pondicherry. The British tried to suppress Bharati's output by stopping remittances and letters to the papers. Both India and Vijaya were banned in India in 1909.
During his exile, Bharati had the opportunity to meet many other leaders of the revolutionary wing of the Independence movement like Aurobindo, Lajpat Rai and V.V.S. Aiyar, who had also sought asylum under the French. Bharati assisted Aurobindo in the Arya journal and later Karma Yogi in Pondicherry. This was also the period when he started learning Vedic literature. Three of his greatest works namely, Kuyil Pattu, Panchali Sapatham and Kannan Pattu were composed during 1912. He also translated Vedic hymns, Patanjali's Yoga Sutra and Bhagavat Gita to Tamil. Bharati entered India near Cuddalore in November 1918 and was promptly arrested. He was imprisoned in the Central prison in Cuddalore in custody for three weeks from 20 November to 14 December and was released after the intervention of Annie Besant and C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar. He was stricken by poverty during this period, resulting in his ill health. The following year, 1919, Bharati met Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. He resumed editing Swadesimeitran from 1920 in Madras (modern day Chennai).
He was badly affected by the imprisonments and by 1920, when a General Amnesty Order finally removed restrictions on his movements, Bharati was already struggling. He was struck by an elephant named Lavanya at Parthasarathy temple, Triplicane, Chennai, whom he used to feed regularly. Although he survived the incident, a few months later his health deteriorated and he died on 11 September 1921 early morning around 1 am. Though Bharati was considered a people's poet, a great nationalist, outstanding freedom fighter and social visionary, it was recorded that there were only 14 people to attend his funeral. He delivered his last speech at Karungalpalayam Library in Erode, which was about the topic Man is Immortal. The last years of his life were spent in a house in Triplicane, Chennai. The house was bought and renovated by the Government of Tamil Nadu in 1993 and named Bharati Illam (Home of Bharati).
Bharati is considered as one of the pioneers of modern Tamil literature. Bharati used simple words and rhythms, unlike his previous century works in Tamil, which had complex vocabulary. He also employed novel ideas and techniques in his devotional poems. He used a metre called Nondi Chindu in most of his works, which was earlier used by Gopalakrisnha Bharathiar.
Bharati's poetry expressed a progressive, reformist ideal. His imagery and the vigour of his verse were a forerunner to modern Tamil poetry in different aspects. He was the forerunner of a forceful kind of poetry that combined classical and contemporary elements. He had a prodigious output penning thousands of verses on diverse topics like Indian Nationalism, love songs, children's songs, songs of nature, glory of the Tamil language, and odes to prominent freedom fighters of India like Tilak, Gandhi and Lajpat Rai. He even penned an ode to New Russia and Belgium. His poetry not only includes works on Hindu deities like Shakti, Kali, Vinayagar, Murugan, Sivan, Kannan(Krishna), but also on other religious gods like Allah and Jesus. His insightful similes have been read by millions of Tamil readers. He was well-versed in various languages and translated speeches of Indian National reform leaders like Aurabindo, Bala Gangadar Tilak and Swami Vivekananda.
He describes the dance of Shakthi in the following lines:
In Bharathiar's Panchali Sapatham, he compares Panchali (Draupadi) with Bharat Mata, the Pandavass with the Indians, the Kauravas with the British and the Kurukshetra war of Mahabharat to that of the Indian freedom struggle. He visualised Draupadi to India and Indian women, who were held by slavery and social clutches of the society.
He is known to have said, "Even if Indians are divided, they are children of one Mother, where is the need for foreigners to interfere?" In the period 1910–1920, he wrote about a new and free India where there are no castes. He talks of building up India's defense, her ships sailing the high seas, success in manufacturing and universal education. He calls for sharing amongst states with wonderful imagery like the diversion of excess water of the Bengal delta to needy regions and a bridge to Sri Lanka.
Bharati also wanted to abolish starvation. He sang, "Thani oru manithanakku unavu illayenil intha jagaththinai azhithiduvom" translated as " If one single man suffers from starvation, we will destroy the entire world".
Some of his poems are translated by Jayanthasri Balakrishnan in English in her blog, though not published.
Bharati on feminism
Bharati is considered the first to have advocated and campaigned for women's participation in politics. He advocated greater rights for women and their education. He visualised a modern Indian woman at the vanguard of society. He was of the strong opinion that the world will prosper in knowledge and intellect if both men and women are deemed equal. He condemned the Shashtras, the procedures formulated by some orthodox Hindus and weren't held as holy by most Hindus, that suppressed women's rights. Most of his views are considered contemporary even in modern times.
Bharati on caste system
Bharati also fought against the caste system in Hindu society. Although born into an orthodox Brahmin family, he never gave up his own caste identity. He considered all living beings as equal and to illustrate this he performed the upanayanam for a young Dalit man and made him a Brahmin. He also scorned the divisive tendencies being imparted into the younger generations by their elderly tutors during his time. He openly criticised the preachers for mixing their individual thoughts while teaching the Vedas and the Gita. He strongly advocated bringing the Dalits to the Hindu mainstream.
The Government of India in 1987 instituted a highest National Subramanyam Bharti Award conferred along with Ministry of Human Resource Development, annually confers on writers of outstanding works in Hindi literature.
Bharathiar University, a state university named after the poet, was established in 1982 at Coimbatore. There is a statue of Bharathiar at Marina Beach and also in the Indian Parliament. A Tamil Movie titled Bharati was made in the year 2000 on the life of the poet by Gnana Rajasekeran, which won National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil. The movie Kappalottiya Thamizhan chronicles the important struggles of V.O.Chidambaranar along with Subramanya Siva and Bharathiar with S.V. Subbaiah starring as Subramania Bharati.
Many roads are named after him, notable ones including Bharathiar road in Coimbatore and Subramaniam Bharti Marg in New Delhi. The NGO Sevalaya runs the Mahakavi Bharatiya Higher Secondary School.
In March 2013, SS Music and Ayngaran International noted British singer Adele's song "Skyfall"'s similarities to Bharati's poem Achamillai Achamillai, which contains the lyrics "Uchchi Meedhu Vaan Idindhu Veezhugindra Podhinum, Achcham Illai Achcham Illai Achcham Enbadhillaiye", which loosely translate "Skyfall"'s lyrics, "Let the sky fall, when it crumbles, we will stand tall and face it all together."
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He who forgets not God and fails not in his duty, no matter whatever befalls him and however much he suffers, will at the end attain honour and happiness.
The new age women will learn many intellectual texts. They will set the base for many scientific discoveries that facilitate human life. They will expunge all backward superstitions in the society. They will present all achievements of mankind as a tribute to God. They will be cherished by the men.