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    Default Tribute to Subramanya Bharati on his Birth Anniversary (December 11).

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    Mahakavi Subramanya Bharati (December 11, 1882 - September 11, 1921), a Tamil Poet par excellence, a freedom fighter and a reformer, whose fiery poems aroused and kindled the fire of spirit, in the freedom struggle against the British!
    His contemporaries included other prominent leaders of the Indian independence movement such as Mahatma Gandhi, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Sri Aurobindo and V.V.S.Aiyar.
    A staunch Nationalist, with a universal vision, came under the spell of Sister Nivedita, Swami Vivekananda’s spiritual daughter, on his return from Indian National Congress session, held in Varanasi, in December 1905. From her arose another of Bharati’s iconoclasm, his stand to recognize the privileges of women. The emancipation of women exercised Bharati’s mind greatly. He visualized the ‘new woman’ as an emanation of Shakti, a willing helpmate of man to build a new earth through co-operative endeavour.
    In consonance with his fiery nature, he wrote,
    ‘’We will destroy the idiocy
    of denigrating womanhood’’

    He served as a writer and Editor of various Newspapers such as ‘’Swadesamitran’’ a Tamil Daily, ‘’India’’ a Tamil Weekly and ‘’Bala Bharatam’’ an English Newspaper. As a journalist, Bharati was the first in India to introduce caricatures and political cartoons to his newspapers; they were satirical and angry hand-drawn illustrations of the poet that improvised heavily on the works of his inspiration Thomas Nast.
    These papers not only served the purpose of enlightening the masses on the affairs of the nation and the world outside, but also were a means of expressing Bharati's creativity, which began to peak during this period. Bharati started to publish his poems regularly in these editions. From complex religious hymns to rousing nationalist anthems, from contemplations on the relationship between God and Man to songs on the Russian and French revolutions, Bharati's subjects were truly diverse.

    Bharati was simultaneously up against personal and social poverty, society for its mistreatment of the downtrodden people, and the British for occupying India. Though he lived in abject poverty, throughout his life, he was always positive.
    Bharati was fluent in many languages including Bengali, Hindi, Sanskrit, Kutchi, French and English and frequently translated works from other languages into Tamil. He had a voracious appetite for learning ancient and contemporary Tamil literature and derived astonishing insights from the ancient poems. He was not a simple propagandist poet, however noble his patriotic and humanist sentiments were. He was also a seeker of beauty and philosophic wisdom. As a national poet, as a poet with a universal vision and as a poet of beauty and truth, he is comparable to some of the great poets of the world. Hence his claim to a lofty place in the great galaxy of world poetry.

    A number of Bharati’s creations are about nature. Both Bharati and Shelley were soaring spirits and loved the sparrow and the skylark respectively as symbols of freedom. But Bharati is not content with the mindless joy of the sparrow; he wants to fly in the sky like a bird so that he can see the endless hills, springs, rivers and the sea. But the human body does not give him full freedom and he also recognizes that the very growth of human civilization is a hindrance to experiencing the bliss of the bird. But he never wants to surrender his humanity. He is alive to the fact that in the world of the bird, there is no intellectual joy of man. Whereas Shelley is unwilling to return to the earth because of its sadness, Bharati’s sparrow asks man to give up not life but desire. Bharati’s poetry is not an escape from but into life.

    Bharati 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 'moderates'. Subramanya Bharati supported Tilak and Aurobindo together with V. O. Chidambaram Pillai and Kanchi Varathaachariyar. Tilak openly supported armed resistance against the British.
    Bharati immersed himself in writing and in political activity. In Madras (Now, Chennai), in 1908, some thirty nine years before actual freedom, he organized a public meeting to celebrate Swaraj (Independence) Day'. His nationalistic poems Vande Mataram, Enthaiyum Thaayum, Jaya Bharatam were printed and distributed free to the audience.

    During his exile in Pondicherry (Now, Puducherry), then under French Rule, Bharati had the opportunity to mix with many other leaders of the militant wing of the Independence movement such as Aurobindo, Lajpat Rai and V.V.S. Aiyar, who had also sought asylum under the French. Bharati regularly 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. Bharati met with Mahatma Gandhi in 1919 in Rajaji's home.

    As a true visionary, in many of his poems he lauded the ‘’Unity in Diversity’’ aspect of India and laid great stress on the integrated, wholesome development of an Independent, Strong and Powerful India. Long before India attained Independence, in many of his great poems, he stressed the importance of interlinking of major rivers, development of a strong Industrial base, building up an imposing defence set up, building up of Educational Infrastructure like Schools and Colleges, Education and Emancipation of women, Eradication of poverty etc.,
    Bharati fought against the caste system in the Hindu society. One of his great sayings meant, "There are only two castes in the world: One who is educated and one who is not". He considered all living beings as equal. He also scorned the divisive tendencies being imparted into the younger generations by their elderly tutors during his time. He openly criticized the preachers for mixing their individual thoughts while teaching the Vedas and the Gita.
    Bharati's health was badly affected by the imprisonments and by 1920, when a General Amnesty Order finally removed restrictions on his movements, Bharati was struggling in penury and failing health resulting in his tragic premature death.

    Bharati was struck by an elephant at Parthasarathy temple, Tiruvallikeni, Chennai. It is an irony of fate that a temple elephant, which he used to feed regularly, attacked him one day from which he got very sick. He however survived the mishap. A few months later his health deteriorated and he died on September 11, 1921, not yet forty years of age. Though Bharati was a people's poet there were only around fifteen people to attend his funeral.


    ...being a human...



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