Remembering the philosophical guide Subramania Bharati on the occasion of his centenary of death

“The great Tamil poet, philosopher and optimist Subramania Bharati wrote that India will not only emerge as a great nation, but will inspire others as well. India will show the whole world a way to get rid of all kinds of bondage ”
-PM Narendra Modi on the legendary Subramania Bharati

Subramania Bharati, a name that will always be remembered in Indian history for inspiring people in the fight against the British. He left his legacy in Tamil literature. He was not just a poet, but a patriot, journalist, philosopher, reformer and freedom fighter in the pre-independence era.

Bharati’s writings were the medium for his expression. As much as he used the English language, it brought him closer to his mother tongue, Tamil. However, he also used his talent for poetry to the best of his ability to persuade the masses of the south to join the great Indian struggle for independence.

PM Modi pays tribute

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly quoted the veteran poet. On the occasion of his 100th death anniversary and as the country celebrates Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also recalled the patriot who ignited the spirit of freedom in his ways.

In his honor, the Prime Minister also announced the establishment of the Subramania Bharati Chair of Tamil Studies at BHU, Kashi.

This is not the first time, however, that PM Modi has remembered the late poet. During the 2020 International Bharati Festival speech, Prime Minister Modi reminded the world how Bharati never knew fear. He shed light on how Bharatiyar believed in a healthy mix between the old and the modern.

Bharati has stayed true to his roots while looking to the future. He regarded the Tamil language and the mother country India as his two eyes. He sang songs about the greatness of ancient India, the greatness of the Vedas and Upanishads, our culture, our traditions and our glorious past. But at the same time, he also warned us that simply living in the past glory is not enough. You have to develop a scientific temperament, a spirit of research and walk towards progress.

Prime Minister Modi also mentioned Bharatiyar during the 2020 Ekta Diwas celebrations in Kevadia, Gujarat, mentioning one of his poems praising India.

Early life

Son of Chinnasamy Iyer and Lakshmi Ammal, Subramania Bharati was born on December 11, 1882 in Ettayapuram, South India. He lost his father when he was only 16 years old.

Bharati found his mentor and inspiration in Bal Gangadhar. He showed a talent for writing poetry at a very young age. He began to compose poems at the age of 8.

Later in his life he married Chellammal and had two daughters, Thangammal and Sakunthala. He was the unofficial publisher of India Weekly according to the book

Mahakavi Bharathyar

Also called by the name of Mahakavi Bharathiyar, meaning great poet of Tamil, the name of Bharati is counted among the most famous poets in the country. He was an expert in both prose and poetry.

Subramania Bharati mainly engaged in secular, political and spiritual writings. He was also the first Asian poet to sing the glory of the Bolshevik revolution.

His poems are not only an ode to nature, but contain a childlike innocence. His first poem, a sonnet was published in 1904. His collection of works was published in 16 volumes.

Bharati: The literary giant

Subramania Bharati is the epitome of how to use your voice and abilities for the right reasons. He strongly advocated for the liberation of women, which was way ahead of its time. His patriotic poems sparked the spirit of unity among the people during the British Raj. His writings are considered a pioneer of Tamil journalism and literature.

Tamil cinema often uses songs and poems composed by Bharati. It has become a staple in the literary and musical repertoire of Tamil artists around the world. He also paved the way for modern blank verse. His love for Tamil is evident in the many writings describing how beautiful Tamil is.

The journalist

The British government was looking for the editor of the weekly India for publishing articles of a contemptuous nature. Subramania Bharati had to flee to Pondicherry (then a French colony) in 1908 to avoid being arrested by the British government. It was here that he produced his masterpieces Kuyil, Kannan Pattu and Panchali Sabatham.

He worked as an associate editor at the Swadesamitran newspaper in 1920. As a journalist, he risked his life to take risks.

From the archives of Prasar Bharati

In a timeless conversation about the late poet, Dr Kailash explains how the late Tamil literary giant, Subramania Bharati, reminds him of Kabir, the saint. He says that Subramania Bharati is a mixture of Kabir, Nirala, Meera and Panth. In conversation, he talks at length about Bharati’s writing style and his love and devotion to Lord Krishna.

Watch the full episode on Subramania Bharati from the archives of Prasar Bharati. Click here

Also check out All India Radio’s YouTube playlist of Subramania Bharati compositions here

Respect & Acknowledgement

The Indian government instituted in 1987 the highest national Subramania Bharati award awarded with the Department of Human Resource Development (now Education), awarded annually to authors of outstanding works of Hindi literature.

Bharathiar University, a state university was named after the poet from Coimbatore. The commemorative stamp of Subramania Bharati was also issued by the Indian Post to him.

Va.Ra wrote a classic Tamil biography on the greatest poet of all time, “Mahakavi Bharatiyar”. It was first published in “Gandhi” magazine in 1933-1934, then revised and published in book form by Sakthi Karyalayam in 1944.

Bharati took his last breath in 1921 in Chennai at the age of 39. In the words of PM Modi, in such a short time he has given so much that today his writings guide us to a glorious future.

About Leslie Schwartz

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