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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering Mahakavi Subrahmanya Bharathiyar - 90 years since he passed away

Sept. 11 -  World over might be remembered for various reasons – to us this day marks the remembrance of the greatest of Poets and a revolutionary Freedom fighter.  His life was short – he lived for only 39 years and passed away on  this day 90 years ago (11th Sept 1921)

At the age of 22, he became the Assistant Editor of a daily newspaper called "Swadesamitran".   In 1906, he was editor of a weekly magazine called "India". By 1912, he was already a legend in South India and his political meetings were attracting multitudes of young patriots, ready to join the  movement for attaining freedom from the British rule.

He was not a just Writer--  a person whose writing stoked the passion of freedom struggle.  He was on the run for most part of his life as British rulers foisted cases on him and incarcerated him.  No amount of pressure would keep his spirits in wrap.  He was a real genius, a great reformer and a very great Social Revolutionist with fiery ideas.

Mahakavi Subramanya Bharathiyar passed away on September 11, 1921, at the young age of 39.

Silhouette of his statue in the beach

The man who was to become an iconoclastic freedom fighter was born in a small village called Ettayapuram on Dec 11, 1882.  By his songs and concerted actions, he reached to the masses making the aware of the need for freedom struggle and could make a great movement in Southern part of the Nation. 

Bharathi participated in the historic Surat Congress in 1907, which deepened the divisions within the Indian National Congress between the militant wing led by Tilak and Aurobindo and the moderate wing. Bharathi supported Tilak and Aurobindo together with V. O. Chidambaram Pillai and Kanchi Varathaachariyar. 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, Bharathi escaped to Pondicherry which was under French rule. From there he edited and published the weekly journal India, Vijaya, a Tamil daily, Bala Bharatha, an English monthly, and Suryothayam, a local weekly of Pondicherry. The British tried to suppress Bharathi's output by stopping remittances and letters to the papers. Both India and Vijaya were banned in British India in 1909.

During his exile, Bharathi had the opportunity to mix with many other leaders of the revolutionary wing of the Independence movement such as Aurobindo, Lajpat Rai and V.V.S. Aiyar, who had also sought asylum under the French. Bharathi assisted Aurobindo in the Arya journal and later Karma Yogi in Pondicherry. Bharathi entered British 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.

He lived for a few years in Thiruvallikkeni -  the house subsequently converted and now stands  as a memorial of this legend.


There are stories that the temple elephant killed him.  It is not as though he was killed by the pachyderm with a single stroke.  At his young age, his health had been adversely affected by the imprisonments and the ill-treatment meted during the time of incarceration.  The push by the elephant was perhaps was the last straw for the ailing Poet.  He survived the incident but died after a few months. 
A poster celebrating his death anniversary

Nation remembers Mahakavi Subrahmanya Barathi this day.  Here are few lines from his many immortal poems. 
Barathi on the Nation 
எந்தையும் தாயும் மகிழ்ந்து குலாவி     இருந்ததும் இந்நாடே -- அதன்
முந்தையர் ஆயிரம் ஆண்டுகள் வாழ்ந்து     முடிந்ததும் இந்நாடே -- அவர்
சிந்தையி லாயிர மெண்ணம் வளர்ந்து     சிறந்தது மிந்நாடே -- இதை
வந்தனை கூறி மனத்தில் இருத்திஎன்     வாயுற வாழ்த்தேனோ -- இதை
வந்தே மாதரம், வந்தே மாதரம்     என்று வணங்கேனோ? 
Barathi on Tamilnadu 
செந்தமிழ் நாடெனும் போதினிலே -- இன்பத்
தேன் வந்து பாயுது காதினிலே -- எங்கள்
தந்தையர் நாடென்ற பேச்சினிலே -- ஒரு
சக்தி பிறக்குது மூச்சினிலே --

Barathis puthiya aathichoodi (first few lines)

அச்சம் தவிர்
ஆண்மை தவறேல்
இளைத்தல் இகழ்ச்சி
ஈகை திறன்
உடலினை உறுதிசெய்
ஊண்மிக விரும்பு
எண்ணுவ துயர்வு
ஏறுபோல் நட
ஐம்பொறி ஆட்சிகொள்
ஒற்றுமை வலிமையாம்

With great reverence to the Mahakavi

Srinivasan Sampathkumar


  1. Indeed he was a very great man - Subbu

  2. Bharathiyar was a visionary, who thought beyond his time - Baskar

  3. A good post of a Great Man - Long Live... Shakthi

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