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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Remembering Mahakavi Subrahmanya Bharathiyar

Many radio channels have mushroomed and one can hear RJs talking incessantly.  But I enjoyed them today – for most of them were speaking of the greatest Poet of India, born 128 years ago.  His stay on this Universe was for a short 39 years, cut short abruptly due to the cruel treatment meted out to him in the prison by the British.  For better part of his life, he was running, hiding, defying the authorities, still infusing fire igniting the freedom struggle.

Mahakavi Subramanya Bharathi is not to be thought of in the same breadth of the so called poets of date who are mere vendors  or pleasure merchants seeking glory in tinseldom.  In Tamil literature from Sangam age, Bharathi is nonpareil.  This great personality  born at Ettayapuram on Dec 11, 1882 was an iconoclast, still remaining an ardent devotee.  His thoughts and words are far beyond the times that he lived in – a true visionary.  Through his compositions and speeches, he spurred the masses in support of the Indian Independence movement.  He was closely associated with great contemporaries like Sri Aurobindo, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, VVS Iyer, VO Chidambaram Pillai, Subramaniam Siva amongst others.

Mahakavi Subramania Bharathiar was one of the greatest Tamil poets, a prolific writer, philosopher and a great visionary of immense genius.  He was also one of the most prominent leaders of the Indian independence movement.  His national integration songs earned him the title "Desiya Kavi" (National Poet). His patriotic songs emphasize nationalism, unity of India, equality of men and the greatness of Tamil language.

At a very young age he displayed  voracious appetite for learning and was gifted to write astonishing poems.  He became a Tamil teacher at Sethupathi High School in Madurai.  He was Asst. Editor of Swadesamitran.  Edited a Tamil weekly named India and English newspaper titled Bala Baratham.   The young Subramanyam was conferred the title “Bharathi” meaning one blessed by Goddess Saraswathi at Ettayapuram Court.    He ventured to Benaras and learnt many things during his sojourn.  He was adept in Sanskrit, Telugu, Bengali, Hindi, Sanskrit, Kutchi, French and English also.  He fought for the emancipation of women, visualizing them as “Shakthi”

His visionary thinking is reflected in his writings which range from  religious hymns to nationalist anthems, from contemplations on the relationship between God and Man to songs on the Russian and French revolutions.   His nationalistic  poems Vanthe Matharam, Enthayum Thayum and Jaya Bharath were printed and distributed free to the audience.
a rare copy of India - 1907 
He was daring in adducing evidence in the cast instituted by the oppressive British rulers against VO Chidambaram Pillai.  To evade the arrest warrant, he escaped to Pondicherry and continued his publications.  His works were banned by the British in 1909.  When he entered in Cuddalore in 1918 he was arrested and imprisoned. 
He was proud of his mother tongue “Tamil” and wrote many poems, and literary works.  It was not his mere patriotic sense but his visionary zeal that excelled.  Decades before the INC talked about Independence, he composed a song to be used for celebrating Independence – such was his firm belief and vision.  Sad that he died much earlier.   In many ways he fathered the puthu kavithai (the new pattern in poetic writing). Tamil cinema has utilized  many of his songs and today many of them reverberated in many radio channels.
SYMA function at his illam some time back
He lived in Triplicane and the house (rather a single room) where he resided, now stands a monument.  I am fortunate to have lived in the same street for close to two decades.  SYMA has conducted many functions for children and health camps at this very place.  Every time one enters this house, an innate feeling of pride, respect and remembrance of glory of Mahakavi runs through you. 

Happy to remember Mahakavi Subrahmanya Bharathi today.

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.


  1. Clearly this genius was far ahead of his times - Ramanujam

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  6. Really sad that he only had around 39 years to live in this world. He would have contributed much more. I really admire him in the sense that he has left a mark in this world and that he had already accomplished much.

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