Subramanya Bharathi was born on December 11, 1882 in Ettayapuram of the then Tirunelveli district (presently Tuticorin district). He died on died on 11 September 1921. In a relatively short life span of 39 years, Bharathi left an indelible mark as not only a Tamil poet but also as a Desiya Kavi [National poet]. His national integration songs earned him the name Desiya Kavi.
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 daughter. He wrote “As the mighty form of Lord Krishna silently explained the state of Atman to Arjuna, the Guru’s silence taught me the Bharata Devi and need for the love towards my country”. This meeting influenced him to fight for the country’s freedom and for the equality of women in our country. He visualised the ‘woman’ as an emanation of Shakti, a willing helpmate of man to build a new earth through cooperative endeavour. As an editor of the magazine Chakravarthini, he made the front cover of the 1906 edition with a caption “A Tamil Monthly Devoted mainly to the Elevation of Indian Ladies”
Though Bharathi had written many national and devotional poems, he says that his masterpiece is Panchali Sabatham. The poem Panchali Sabatham [The vow of Panchali] depicts the dice playing scene of the Mahabharata, played between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. Yudhishtra loses all his wealth to the scheming Duryodhana and finally ends up betting his wife, Draupadi [Panchali], in a desperate last round. Bharathi, with his vivid imagination, changed the characters around, portraying Panchali as Bharata Mata and the antagonists Kauravas as the British. In his version, the Bharata Mata [Panchali] takes a vow to free herself from the suppression of the British [Kauravas]. The freedom fighter Subramanya Siva, a close aide of Veer Savarkar, wrote a review in praise of the book in the magazine Gnanabanu. Much later, researchers on Bharathi’s work have observed that the story was written to showcase the liberation of women and break the chains of women’s oppression.
Subramanya Bharathi kindled the patriotic fervour not only through poems but also through his editorials. The following editorial penned by him in the April 10, 1909 edition of the Tamil magazine India is an example: “I have said many times that our bhakthi towards this nation should be like that of Prahalad had towards Vishnu. The European countries like Ireland, which doesnt have the idea of “bhakthi to land” is considering of promoting “desh bhakthi” as religion. What are we doing? Let us remember the words of Swami Vivekananda, ‘The poor, the downtrodden, the ignorant-let them be your God.’ The new India has accepted this new religion and marching towards it. Tamils are yet to accept it. If we cannot correct course and accept the new religion, there will not be salvation for us.”
In 1912, Bharathi published Bhagvad Gita in Tamil. In 1918, he was arrrested
Years back, Subramanya Bharathi has given importance of the blend of spirituality and patriotism to the youth and it is still relevant.
Subaramanya Bharathi stands as an undying symbol not only of a vibrant nationalism but also of the unity of Bharath.
தேடிச்சோறு நிதந்தின்று – பல
சின்னஞ் சிறுகதைகள் பேசி – மனம்
வாடித் துன்பமிக உழன்று – பிறர்
வாட பலசெயல்கள் செய்து – நரை
கூடிக் கிழப்பருவம் எய்தி – கொடுங்
கூற்றுக் கிரையெனப்பின் மாயும் –பல
வேடிக்கை மனிதரைப் போலெ – நான்
வீழ்வேன் னென்று நினைத்தாயோ!
– சுப்பிரமணிய பாரதி (December 11, 1882 – September 11, 1921)
Question to Goddess Sakthi:
Did you think I too will
Spend my days in
Telling petty tales,
Worrying on self-thoughts,
Hurting others by my acts,
Turning old with grey hair, and
Ending up as fodder to the time [yama]
As yet another faceless man?
-Subramanya Bharathi (December 11, 1882 – September 11, 1921)
Article by Sri Saravanan