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Mahakavi Subramaniya Bharathi
From : 11th December, 1882 To : 12th September, 1921
Father : Chinnasami Iyer
Mother : Lakshmi Ammal
Place of Birth : Ettayapuram
His Compositions and My Rendition
Right at the young age
of 11, in 1893, his prowess as a poet was recognized and was accorded the
title of 'Bharathi' for successfully taking part in a literary contest sponsored
by the Raja of Ettayapuram. He was a student at Nellai Hindu School. In
1897 he married Chellammal. From 1898 to 1902, he lived in Kasi. He composed many
pieces, mostly extolling patriotism. His composition 'Viduthalai, Viduthalai'
was a clarion call for freedom from alien rule. All of his compositions are alit
with patriotism and nationalism.
In 1912, Bharathi published the Bhagvad Gita in Tamil as well as Kannan Paatu, Kuyil and Panjaali Sabatham. He was an inborn poet and chose the medium to advocate Nationalism. He was a rebel by nature and questioned the narrow minded religious and social practices. He not only denounced the sacred thread and the tuft of hair, the symbols of brahmin caste of Hindu into which he was born, he initiated members from lower caste into brahmins by giving them the sacred thread. He adopted the turban of Sikhs, an act symbolizing his mind. Though a Hindu, Bharathi not only sang to the Hindu deities, he wrote songs of devotion to Jesus and Allah. Bharathi was a vigorous campaigner against casteism.
As a Tamil poet he ranked with Ilanko, Thiruvalluvar and Kamban. His writings gave new life to the Tamil language - and to Tamil national consciousness. He was a Tamil and Indian in true spirit. Bharathi often referred to Tamil as his 'mother'. He was fluent in many languages including Bengali, Hindi, Sanskrit, Kuuch, and English and frequently translated works from other languages into Tamil.
Bharathi lived at a very eventful period of Indian history. Stalwarts of modern Indian history, Mahatma Gandhi, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Aurbindo Ghosh were his contemporaries. For a patriot like Bharathi it is only natural to be an important part in its struggle for freedom from the colonielists.
He participated in the 1906 All India Congress meeting in Calcutta (chaired by Dadabhai Naoroji) and found himself in the militant wing of the Indian National Congress together with Tilak and Aurobindo. He participated in the historic Surat Congress in 1907, and was with the militant wing led by Tilak and Aurobindo, together with 'Kappal Ottiya Thamizhan' V.O.Chidambarampillai and Kanchi Varathaachariyar.
Bharathi worked as a school teacher and as a journalist at various times in his life. Bharathi served as Assistant Editor of the Swadeshamitran in 1904. In 1907, he became the editor of the Tamil weekly 'India', edited the English newspaper 'Bala Bharatham'. In 1908, he gave evidence in the case instituted by the British against 'Kappal Otiya Thamizhan', V.O.Chidambarampillai. On the arrest of proprietor of the 'India' in Madras, and faced with imminent arrest, Bharathi escaped to Pondicherry which was then under French rule. From Pondicherry, Bharathi edited and published the 'India' weekly. He also edited and published 'Vijaya', a Tamil daily, Bala Bharatha, an English monthly, and 'Suryothayam' a local weekly of Pondicherry. Under his leadership the Bala Bharatha Sangam was also started. Both 'India' and 'Vijaya' were banned in British India in 1909. These were the years when Bharathi immersed himself in writing and in political activity. In Madras, in 1908, he organized a mammoth public meeting to celebrate 'Swaraj Day'. His poems 'Vanthe Matharam', 'Enthayum Thayum', 'Jaya Bharath' were printed and distributed free to the Tamil people.
The British suppression of the militancy was systematic and thorough. Tilak was exiled to Burma. Aurobindo escaped to Pondicherry in 1910. Bharathi met with Aurobindo in Pondicherry and the discussions often turned to religion and philosophy. He assisted Aurobindo in the 'Arya' journal and later 'Karma Yogi' in Pondicherry. In November 1910, Bharathi released an 'Anthology of Poems' which included 'Kanavu'. After the end of World War I, Bharathi entered British India near Cuddalore in November 1918. He was arrested and released after three weeks in custody. Bharathi met Mahatma Gandhi in 1919.
These were his years of hardship and poverty. Eventually, the General Amnesty Order of 1920 removed all restrictions on his movement. Bharathi resumed editorship of the Swadeshamitran in 1920, at Madras.
He met with an accident involving a temple elephant, and passed away in 1921, at the young age of 39.
Subramaniya Bharathi is an undying symbol of vibrant Tamil nationalism and the unity that is India.