Subramania Bharati

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Chinnaswami Subramania Bharati
Subramanya Bharathi.jpg
Photograph of Subramanya Bharathi
Born Subramanian
(1882-12-11)11 December 1882
Ettayapuram,
Thoothukudi district,
India
Died 11 September 1921(1921-09-11) (aged 38)
Madras (Chennai), India
Residence Triplicane, Chennai
Nationality Indian
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)
Children 2
Parent(s) Chinnaswami Subramania Iyer and Lakshmi Ammal
Signature
Subramanya Bharathi Signature.jpg

Chinnaswami Subramania Bharati, also known as Bharathiyar (11 December 1882 – 11 September 1921) was an Indian 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.[1]

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 widely used in Tamil films and music concerts.

Early life

Photo of Subramanya Bharathi with wife Chellamma.
Bharathiyar House in Puducherry
Artistic depiction of Subramanya Bharathi.

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.[2][3] Through his great efforts, he learnt 32 languages (29 Indian languages and 3 foreign languages).[citation needed]

Bharathiyar Handwriting in Tamil

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.[3] 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.[3]

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.[2]

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.[3]

Cover page of the 1909 magazine Vijaya, published first from Madras and then from Pondicherry.

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.[4] 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.[3]

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.[2] 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.[3] 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).[5]

Later years and death

Subramanya Bharathi's birth home at Ettayapuram has been renovated by Tamil Nadu government and open to the public

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.[6] 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).[citation needed]

Works

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.[7]

Bharati is considered as one of the pioneers of modern Tamil literature.[8] 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.[1] He used a metre called Nondi Chindu in most of his works, which was earlier used by Gopalakrisnha Bharathiar.[9]

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 similies 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.[5]

He describes the dance of Shakthi in the following lines:

Tamil
சக்திப் பேய் தான் தலையொடு தலைகள் முட்டிச்
சட்டச் சட சட சடவென்றுடைபடு தாளம் கொட்டி அங்கே
எத்திகினிலும் நின்விழி அனல் போய் எட்டித்
தானே எரியும் கோலம் கண்டே சாகும் காலம்
அன்னை அன்னை
ஆடுங்கூத்தை நாடச் செய்தாய் என்னை

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.[2][3]

Tamil
பட்டினில் உடையும் பஞ்சினில் ஆடையும்
பண்ணி மலைகளென வீதி குவிப்போம்
கட்டித் திரவியங்கள் கொண்டு வருவார்
காசினி வணிகருக்கு அவை கொடுப்போம்

[English Translation]
We make Dresses from Silk and Cotton
In quantities as large as mountains
They bring lot of wealth
The traders around the world,
to whom we give it(dresses)

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 [Tamilians] will destroy the entire world".

Some of his poems are translated by Jayanthasri Balakrishnan in English in her blog, though not published.[10]

Bharati on feminism

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, all the same, be devoted to God and present all achievements of mankind as a tribute to God. They will earn good name from men.

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.[11]

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.

Tamil
"சாதிகள் இல்லையடி பாப்பா!-குலத்
தாழ்ச்சி உயர்ச்சி சொல்லல் பாவம்;
நீதி உயர்ந்த மதி, கல்வி-அன்பு
நிறைய உடையவர்கள் மேலோர்."

[English Translation]
There is no caste system.
It is a sin to divide people on caste basis.
The ones who are really of a superior class are the ones
excelling in being just, wise, educated and loving.
(Here he expresses the love between human beings,
where a man should not see their caste. They should see
them as human beings. Not only human beings, they
should see them as their brothers and sisters.
Which means a well educated person knows to treat
them same and not by their caste.)

Legacy

This is a photograph of writing by Mahatma Gandhi in Tamil language wishing the effort to build a monument in memory of poet Subramanya Bharathi at Ettayapuram.

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.[12] 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.[13] 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.[14][15] The NGO Sevalaya runs the Mahakavi Bharatiya Higher Secondary School.[16]

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."[17][18]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b Natarajan, p. 290
  2. ^ a b c d University of Delhi 2005, pp. 125–126
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Rajagopalan 2013, p. 1
  4. ^ "Bharati's Tamil daily Vijaya traced in Paris". The Hindu. 5 December 2004. 
  5. ^ a b Lal 1992, pp. 4191–3
  6. ^ "Last speech delivered in Erode". The Hindu. 15 April 2008. Retrieved 20 December 2013. 
  7. ^ "Brief Shining Moment in Judicial History". Daily News. Colombo, Sri Lanka. 11 June 2013. Retrieved 30 November 2013.  – via HighBeam (subscription required)
  8. ^ "Changing society and modern Tamil literature". Tamil issue. Asian Studies Center, Michigan State University. 4 (3/4). 1968. JSTOR 40874190.  – via HighBeam (subscription required)
  9. ^ Sahitya Akademi 1992, p. 379
  10. ^ "jayanthasri translations". Retrieved 2017-04-20. 
  11. ^ Sivaraman 2006, pp. 71–72
  12. ^ Gupta 2006, p. 14
  13. ^ "SA women 'swoon' over Sanjay". Sunday Tribune. South Africa. 30 March 2008. Retrieved 30 November 2013.  – via HighBeam (subscription required)
  14. ^ "Free helmet distribution". Times of India. 
  15. ^ "Subramaniam Bharti Marg". Indian Express. 
  16. ^ "Activities: School". Sevalaya. 
  17. ^ "Bharathiar Song in James Bond Movie ?". SS Music. Retrieved 26 April 2015. 
  18. ^ "Bharathiar in Hollywood". Ayngaran International. Retrieved 26 April 2015. 

References

  • Lal, Mohan (1992). Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature: sasay to zorgot. Sahitya Akademi. ISBN 9788126012213. 
  • Gupta, Ameeta; Kumar, Ashish (2006). Handbook of Universities, Volume 1. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. ISBN 9788126906079. 
  • Indian Literature: An Introduction. University of Delhi. Pearson Education India. 2005. ISBN 9788131705209. 
  • Bharati, Subramania; Rajagopalan, Usha (2013). Panchali's Pledge. Hachette UK. ISBN 9789350095300. 
  • Sivaraman, Mythily (2006). Fragments of a Life: A Family Archive. Zuban. ISBN 9788189013110. 
  • Natarajan, Nalini; Nelson, Emmanuel Sampath, eds. (1996). Handbook of Twentieth-century Literatures of India. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780313287787. 
  • K.M., George, ed. (1992). Modern Indian Literature, an Anthology: Plays and prose. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. pp. 18–. ISBN 978-81-7201-324-0. 
  • Fire In The Soul: The Life And Times of Subramania Bharati. 

External links

  • Mahakavi Subramania Bharati by Bharati's Granddaughter, Dr. S. Vijaya Bharati
  • To know all about Mahakavi Bharathiar
  • Works by Subramania Bharati at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
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