11.8. SubramaNiya BhArathiyAr11.8. SubramaNiya BhArathiyAr (Cpfpirm]iy partiyarf) (1882-1921)

11.8.1. Thamizh in the cause of Freedom

For over 2,000 years Thamizh has been growing steadily amidst several social and political changes in the Thamizh region as well as in the other parts of the country. Literary scholars have adorned the language with their garlands of epics, purANas, praban^thams and poems; followers of different religions and subsects have exploited the richnesss and beauty of Thamizh to propagate their own spiritual and philosophical ideas and describe their devotional ecstasy; artists, dancers and musicians have made use of Thamizh for their own pleasure and for the enjoyment of the elite and folks alike.

Though the pulavars were, in general, a poor lot, there was no dearth of patrons or Kings to provide them with support; and the language continued to flourish with their ingenuity and love. Scholars did not hesitate to borrow words and phrases from other languages. While adhering to their own traditions in literary policy, format and expressions, the scholars were willing to introduce changes as time marched on. They were even willing to experiment with new styles to cater to the tastes of all segments of the society.

But two hundred years of foreign rule had taken its toll on the people and their language which, they believed, was initiated by God himself. Native scholars were not free to publish their works. The situation became worse if the material to be published had any political implication. Indeed in such cases the authors had to face dire consequences including arrests. Notwithstanding the contributions of scholars and missionaries (Beschi, Pope and Caldwell), whose services to the cause of Thamizh will ever be remembered, the plight of Thamizh scholars was, in general, a deplorable one. What proved to be more damaging was the preeminence given to English.

Personally my colleagues and I never understood why we studied Thamizh only as the second language but English as the first language at school. The remuneration of the Thamizh teachers was always lower than their English counterparts. Administrative positions were given only to those who took English. It was indeed a shame that Thamizh teachers were treated as second class citizens in their own country. The social elites took advantage of the situation by gaining proficiency in English and secured higher positions. The Thamizh teachers were relagated to a lower status in the economic sphere.

Nowhere in the history of mankind there is evidence that any nation subjected by a super power continued to be one for ever; in fact, the more a society or a nation is suppressed, the quicker the feelings of people are aroused and at some point and time, the volcano of human emotion explodes and the lava of their feelings begins to flow in all directions. The first half of the twentieth century witnessed such changes in the Indian subcontinent and the thirst for political freedom began to take different forms and shapes. All that it needed was the conviction of a few leaders with vision and willingness to sacrifice all they have got to achieve the impossible dream of freedom.

It is at this juncture that several Thamizh scholars decided to join the struggle for freedom. They accomplished this by exploiting the Thamizh language and flaming the fire of freedom in the minds of the common man with their passionate poems that roused their national spirits. Chief among them was the MahA Kavi SubramaNiya BhArathiyAr (mkakvi Cpfpirm]iy partiyarf) who, in a short span of 39 years, has contributed tremendously to the political emancipation of India, social reformation of the community and literary rejuvenation of Thamizh.

Born in a middle class Brahmin family in ettayapuram ('dfAdyp<rmf) in Thirun^elvEli district, SubramaNia BhArathiyAr worked for some time as a court poet of the local elite (jmInftarf). His given name was ChinnasAmi SubramaNiya iyer (ci[f[cami Cpfpirm]iy _yrf) and the nickname was ettayapuram SubbiAh. The title of BhArathi (parti) , Goddess of Learning, was conferred upon him in 1893 in recognition of his poetic talents. Following his father's death, he moved to Kasi to stay with his aunt. He returned to Madras in 1904 and joined the staff of the Thamizh magazine, SwedEsa Mitthiran (CEtcmitftir[f). His contacts with V.O.Chithambaram PiLLai (v.u.ci), a famous nationalist, kindled his natural patriotic fervour. From this point on, he got involved in active politics and had the opportunity to meet great political and social leaders of the time (Tilak, aurobindo GhOsh, Lajpat ROy).

When there was a curb for the publication of some of his nationalistic and patriotic songs, he was placed under surveillance by the government. To avoid arrest by the British, he moved to Pondicherry (p<TcfEcri) which was under the French colonial rule. His exile in Pondicherry proved to be the period of his prolific writings. Ultimately he got arrested and put in jail. Despite his literary genius, he lived in extreme poverty and met with a tragic death in 1922.

Like many other geniuses and martyrs of the world he was lonely in his death with only a handful of people at his funeral. At present, he is regarded as one of the most outstanding Thamizh poets, (mkakvi), a person worthy of emulation not only by people within India but also by others for his courage and convictions, religious equanimity, social consciousness and, more relevantly, literary skills.

BhArathiyAr's literary works include nationalistic poems, prayer songs, philosophical poems, didactic songs and minor poems related to social issues. His didactic poems are Murasu (MrC), Puthiya AtthichUdi (p<tiy ~tftiVF)and PAppA PAttu (papfpapffpadlfkqf). He was the originator of the short and crisp style of poems (p<TkfkviAt) which has now become very popular. He studied Bhagavad GIta and rewrote the essentials in simple Thamizh using a prose-poetry format (vc[kfkviAt). In addition he has written several novels in the prose style (_dvlflv[f, ejyldfCmi, nvnItmf, vijypasfkr[f `lflT oR KbfbtfTkfK o[fpT Kbfbmf & x]fpkvijymf). Instead of following the traditional literary style blindly, BhArathiyAr recognized that the folk type of poems written by ThAyumAnavar, rAmalinga atikaL and GOpAlaKrishNa BhArathiyAr were appropriate to convey the messages he desired. His experience as the editor and critic in SwedEsa mitthiran (CEtcmitftir[f) gave him the communicative skills to appeal to people.

11.8.2. Literary Policy of BhArathiyAr

Looking at his literary works in retrospect BhArathiyAr did appear to have had the vision of a prophet, the religious equanimity of a saint, the dreams of a patriot and the noble aspirations of a social reformer. Most of his predictions regarding his country and community and all his warnings regarding the malaise afflicting his society have materialized already. Others are gradually manifesting themselves overtly in recent years. He loved Thamizh and India with a passion and was proud of his cultural heritage. At the same time he was fully cognizant of the social repercussions of caste differences and how superstitions and blind faith in the old traditions have lead to stagnation.

More important is the fact that he had the courage and tenacity to stand up before a ruthless imperial power and was prepared to face all the personal consequences. The only weapon he had at his disposal to achieve his cherished goal was not wealth or physical ability but only his literary skill. Experience in other parts of the world has shown that the pen is mightier than the sword. Recognizing this, BhArathiyAr did exploit his literary capacity and communication skills to exhort people to become masters of their own destiny and expel the foreign rulers out of their soil. However he did not hesitate to point out the social evils which were gradually corroding the fabrics of the society.

Upto this point in the history of Thamizh literature, the language was used for moral, religious, philosophical or spiritual purposes, for praising the patrons for their gifts, and for sheer literary pleasure. All references to social problems were either secondary or indirect. Now for the first time, a Thamizh poet has taken it upon himself to use the language to free his people from the clutches of a foreign power and open the eyes of the people to the bad elements which were weakening their society. Thus he set in motion not only a new and diffferent literary style which is aptly described as the Thamizh renaissance but also used the medium of the language to crusade against the suppression and oppression of the weaker sections of the society, the poor, the untouchables and women.

The short, crisp but simple style of his poems, his easy flowing prose-poetry formats with a specific social theme and his ability to set up folk type music understandable by everyone made a tremendous impact on people. One can therefore appreciate the differences in the literary policy of SubramNiya BhArathi and that of other Thamizh scholars of the distant past.

11.8.3. Salient Features of SubramaNiya BhArathiyAr's Works

The name SubramaNiya BhArathi is almost synonymous with nationalism and partriotism in the Indian context. In the following poem he says "we are proud of 'our' HimAlayAs, 'our' river Ganges and 'our' upanishads; there is no equal for our country."
m[f{ mimy mAleygfkqf mAlEy
manil mItiT Epabfpibi tiAlEy
;[f[B nIrfkgfAk yaebgfkqaEb
;gfkit[f ma]fpibf ektierT EvEb
p[f[R Mpnid N\elgfkqf N\El
parfmiAc EyetaR N\liT Epal
epa[ffe[aqirf part naedgfkqf naEd
epabfBv mi#At eymkfkiAl yIEd.

BhArathiyAr is not merely content to be proud of his country. He continues to outline his visions of a free India, not some wild dream of a poet living in his own imaginary world but the aspirations and hopes of a true patriot who has specific ideas of how different regions of the country can live happily, share the resources for their mutual benefits. His dreams are outlined in the following poem:
part Etc em[fB epyrfecalfLvarf - miFpf
pygf ekalfLvarf TyrfpfpAk evlfLvarf.

kgfAk ntipfp<btfTkf EkaTAmpf p]fdmf
kaviri evbfbiAlkfK maB ekaqfQEvamf
cigfk mradfFyrf tgf kviAt eka]fD
EcrtfTtf tnftgfkqf pricqipfEpamf.

~y<tmf ecyfEvamf nlfl kakitmf ecyfEvamf
~Alkqf AvpfEpamf klfvicf caAlkqf AvpfEpamf
Oy<tlf ecyfEyamf tAl cay<tlf ecyfEyamf
u]fAmkqf ecalfEvamf pl v]fAmkqf ecyfEvamf.

cati ;r]fedaziy EvbiAl ey[fEb
tmizf mkqf ecalfliy ecalf `mizft em[fEpamf
nIti enbiyi[i[fB pibrfkf Ktv<mf
EnrfAmyrf Emlvrf kIzvrf mbfE$rf.

It is to be noted that he was a true patriot devoid of parochial tendencies. The last stanza represents the focus of his social reformation efforts. BhArathiyAr sincerely believed, as did ouvaiyAr (oqAvyarf) a few centuries earlier, that the root cause of all our social problems was the caste difference. He reiterated that there were only two castes; people who are righteous and helpful to others are superior while the rest are inferior.

BhArarhiyAr is unparalled in proclaiming loud and clear the uniqueness and richness of the Thamizh language to the whole world. The following poem describes his tremendous linguistic pride:
yambinft emazikqiEl tmizfemaziEpalf
;[itav etgfKgf kaE]amf
pamrrayf, vilgfKkqayf, ulkA[tfTmf
;kzfcfciecalpf pa[fAm ekdfD
nammT tmizer[kf eka]fFgfK
vazfnftiDtlf n[fE$ ? ecalflIrf
EtmTrtf tmiEzaAc ulkemlamf
prv<mf vAk ecyftlf Ev]fDm.f
yambinft p<lvriEl kmfpA[pfEpalf,
vaqfQvrfEpalf, ;qgfEkaAvpf Epalf
p>mit[ilf yagfk}Em pibnfttilfAl
u]fAm, evBmf p<kzfcfci yilfAl
UAmyrayfcf ecvidrfkqayfkf KRdrfkqayf
vazfki[fE$mf, oRecabf EkqIrf
EcmMb Ev]fDem[ilf etRevlflamf
tmizf Mzkfkmf eczikfkcf ecyfvIrf.

pibnadfD nlflbiwrf catftirgfkqf
tmizf emaziyibf epyrftftlf Ev]fDmf
;bvat p<kZAdy p<TN\lfkqf
tmizfemaziyilf ;ybfblfEv]fDmf
mAbvak nmkfKqfEq pzgfkAtkqf
ecalfLvtiElarf mkiAm yilfAl
tibma[ p<lAmey[ilf evqinadfEdarf
`At v]kfkwf ecyftlf Ev]fDmf.

The last few lines carry an important messsage to his and future generations emphasizing their responsibility to the growth of Thamizh. First he believed that there was no use of circulating our old ideas among us for ever and new concepts had to emerge. Secondly all the important works in foreign languages should be translated into Thamizh. Finally he has laid down his own criterion for the assessment of our linguistic efforts. He will be happy only if others studied our works and expressed their appreciation.

BhArathiyAr's love and pride also extended to the Thamizh country. After all if one is not proud of one's own heritage, who will ?
ecnftmizf naed{mf Epati[iEl - ;[fptf
Et[f vnfT pay<T kati[iEl - 'gfkqff
tnfAAtyarf naed[fb Epcfci[iEl - oR
ckfti pibkfKT YMcfci[iEl (ecnftmizf)
Evtmf niAbnft tmizf naD - uyrf
vIrmff ecbinft tmizf naD - nlfl
katlf p<riy<mf `rmfApyrf Epaliqgf
k[f[iyrf Vzfnft tmizf naD (ecnftmizf)
klfvi cibnft tmizfnaD - p<kzfkf
kmfp[f pibnft tmizf naD - nlfl
plfvit mayi[ catftirtfti[f m]mf
paergfKmf vICnf tmifzf naD (ecnftmizf)
vqfQv[f t[fA[ ul ki{kfEk tnfT
va[fp<kzf eka]fd tmizf naD - enwfAc
`qfQmf cilpfpti karem[f E$rfm]i
yarmf pAdtft tmizf naD (ecnftmizf)

In devotional songs it is customary that poets pray that they be blessed with health, wealth and prosperity. The spiritually more oriented may pray that they want to be one with the Supreme Being with an eternal bliss. Even here BhAathiyAr deviates from the standard and invites all his country men to do their humble mite to improve their lot. The following poem is addressed to Saraswathi, the Goddess of Learning:

evqfAqtf tamArpf p> vi liRpfpaqf
vIA] ecyfy< emaliyi liRpfpaqf.....
vIDEtaBgf kAlyi[f viqkfkmf
vItiEtaB mir]fedaR pqfqi
naD MbfbiL Mqfq[ v> rfkqf
nkrfk eqgfKmf plpl pqfqi
EtD klfviyi lateta YRArtf
tIyi{kf kiAryak mDtftlf
EkD tIrfkfK mMetem [[fA[
Ek]fAm ekaqfq vziyiAv k]fGrf (evqfAqtf)
niti miKtftvrf epabfKAv tarIrf
niti KAbnftvrf kaCkqf tarIr
`Tv< mbfbvrf vayfcfeca lRqIrf
~]fAmyaq RAzpfpiA[ nlfkIrf
mTrtf Etemazi matrfk eqlflamf
va]i p>Ackf Kriy[ EpcIrf
'Tv< nlfkiyigf ekvfvAk ya{mf
;pfepRnf etazilf nadfDTmf varIrf.

The importance of education cannot be emphasized any better than in the above lines. BharathiyAr goes to the extent of saying that, in the new India, all villages without school should be destroyed by fire ! The second poem is a humble appeal to all who can help, in whatever way they can help, with big donations or small pennies or at least with just a few encouraging words, to finish the job we have undertaken for the sake of education.

BhArathiyAr's religious equanimity is well illustrated by the following two poems, one pertaining to Christianity and the other to islAm. More than telling something about the poet, it is deeply touching and indeed reassuring that it is possible to live in peaceful coexistence if one sets the mind to the concept.

:c[f vnfT ciLAvyilf ma]ffda[f
'Znf Tyirftft[[f naqf oR YM[fbilf
Enc ma mriya mkftElna
Enrilf yinftcf ecyftiAykf k]fdaqf
EtctftIrf, ;t[f udfepaRqf EkqIrf,
Etvrf vnfT nmkfKdf p<KnfEt
nac mi[fbi nAm nitftgf kapfparf
nmf `knfAtAy namf eka[fB vidfdalf.

`lfla, `lfla, `lfla
plflayirmf plflayirgf EkaF y]fdgfkqf
'lflatf tiAcyi{ Emarf 'lfAl yilfla evqiva[iEl
nilflaT Cz[fE$d niymwf ecyftRqf nayk[f
ecalflaL m[tftaLnf etad era]at epRwfEcati (`lfla)
"AzkdfKwf eclfvrfkdfKmf ;rgfki yRQmf Orf pita
EkaAzkdfKmf vIrRkfKgf KAb tvirftftiDmf Orf KR
Uziy> zi `mrra yivf v<lki[f mIti li[fp<bfEb
vazfKvIrf pytfAt nIkfki vazftfTvIrf `v[f epyrf (`lfla)

It is surprising and indeed shameful that in a country where women were worshipped as the all powerful Sakthi (ckfti), they were relagatd to a lower status in social life. BhArathiyAr was one of the earliest champions of women's cause in the Thamizh region. Thanks to his outbursts, there had been a social awakening on this issue, though much is yet to be done. In the following poem, BhArathiyAr employs the folk dance, kummi (Kmfmi) and speaks out clearly the problems as he saw them:

"dfAdy<mf ep]fkqf etaDvT tIAmey[f
eb]f]i yiRnftvrf mayfnfT vidfdarf
vIdfDkfKqfEq ep]fA]pf p>dfF AvpfEpa em[fb
vinfAt m[itrf tAl kvizfnftarf (KmfmiyF)
madfAd yFtfT vckfkitf etaZvi[ilf
madfDmf vzkfktfAtkf eka]fD vnfEt
vIdfF[i elmfmidgf kadfd vnftarAt
evdfF vidfEda em[fB KmfmiyF KmfmiyF
pdfdgfk qaqfvTwf cdfdgfkqf ecyfvTmf
pari[ibf ep]fkqf ndtft vnfEtamf
'dfD mbivi[i la}kfkigfEk ep]f
;Aqpf pilfAl kae][fB KmfmiyF (KmfmiyF)
kat elaRvA[kf AkpfpiFtfEt yv[f
kariymf yavi{gf AkekaDtfT
matr bgfkqf pzAmAykf kadfFLmf
madfci epbcfecyfT vazfvmF (KmfmiyF)

Recognizing that the best way to introduce social changes was to plant the seeds of reforms in the minds of children who have not yet been corrupted by traditions and superstitions, Following the footsteps of ouvaiyAr, (OqAvyarf) BhArathiyAr reiterated moral and ethical principles in a simple format appealing to young minds.
In Puthiya AtthichUdi(p<tiy ~tftifVF), for example, the invocation song stresses the equanimity of all religions. He specifically refers to various religious groups without any connotation of theological correctness or relative superiority of one religion over the other and most of all without any proselytizing motive. If this becomes the basis of different religious faiths, it would help minimize the religious tension prevailing in the world today.

p<tiy ~tftiVF

~tfti VF yiqmfpiAb y]infT
Ema[tf tiRkfK MZev]f Em[iya[f
kRnibgf eka]fD pabfkdlf miAckf kidpfEpa[f,
mkmT npikfK mAbyRqf p<rinfEta[f,
"Cvi[f tnfAt ey[pfpl mttfti[rf
uRvktf taEl y<]rfnfT] raT
plvAk yakpf prviDmf prmfepaRqf
o[fEb , `t[iylf oqiy<B mbivamf,
`t[iAl k]fdarf `lflAl ykbfbi[arf,
`t[Rqf vazftfti ymrvazf evyfTEvamf.

`cfcnf tvirf
~]fAm tvEblf
;Aqtft likzfcfci
:Ak tib[f
udliA[ y<Btiecyf
U]fmik viRmfp<
']f}v Tyrfv<
"BEpalf nd
_mfepabi yadfciekaqf
obfBAm vliAmyamf
Oyft elazi
Oqdtgf KAb

kbfb etaZK
kal mziEylf
kiAqpl tagfEklf
kIEzarfkf kwfEclf
K[feb[ nimirfnfTnilf
PFtf etazilfecyf
ekDpfpT Ecarfv<
EkdfFLnf T]infTnilf
Aktfetazilf EpabfB
ekaDAmAy eytirftfTnilf
kvfviyAt viEdlf

A poem aimed directly at children telling them what to do and what not to do is called (papfpapf padfD.) A few stanzas of this poem are given below to highlight the kind of messages given:

OF viAqyaD papfpa - nI
OyfnftiRkfk lakaT papfpa
PF viAqyaD papfpa - oR
KznfAtAy AvyaEt papfpa.
epayf ecalflkf PdaT papfpa - '[fBmf
p<bwf ecalfl lakaT papfpa
etyfv nmkfKtf TA] papfpa - oR
tIgfKvr madfdaT papfpa.
tmizftf tiR naD t[fA[pf epbfb
taey[fB KmfpidF papfpa
`mizfti li[iytF papfpa - 'gfkqf
~[fE$rfkqf EtcmF papfpa.
catik qilfAlyF papfpa - Kltf
tazfcfci y<yrfcfci ecalfllf pavmf
nIti, uyrfnft mti, klfvi - `[fp<
niAby uAdyvrfkqf EmElarf.

One of the attributes of social reformers in all parts of the world is their comprehension of the weaknesses in their society and their courage in pointing out the problems.. In the following poem, BhArathiyAr expresses his frustrations at some of the deploring qualities of his country men which are responsible for their remaining as slaves despite all their resources and glorious past. These lamentations have been set to a very popular style of folk music, n^oNdic cinthu. (ena]fFcfcinfT)

enwfC epaBkfKtilfAlEy - ;nft
niAlekdfd m[itAr niA[nfTvidfdalf
ekawfcEma piriviA[kqf - oR
EkaFey[f balT epritaEma ?
`wfCtAlpf pamfep[fpa[f - `pfp[f
~BtAl ey[fBmk[f ecalflividfdalf
enwfC pirinfT viDvarf - pi[fp<
enDna qiRvRmf pAktftiRpfparf (enwfC)
catftirgfk eqa[fBmf ka]arf - epayfcf
catftirpf EpyfkqfecaLmf varftfAtnmfpiEy
Ekatftirema[f $yiRnftaLmf - oR
ekaqfAkyibf pirinftvA[kf KAltftikzfvarf
Etatftirgfkqf ecalfliyvrftamf - tAmcf
VTecy< nIcrfkAqpf p]inftiDvarf - ~[alff
~tftirgf eka]fEd yiv[f Acv[f - ;v[f
`ripkft e[[fBepRwf c]fAdyiDvarf (enwfC)
']f]ila Enay<Adyarf - ;vrf
'ZnfT ndpfptbfKmf vliAmyilarf
k]f]ilakf KznfAtkqfEpalf - pibrf
kadffFy vziyibf ec[fB madfFkf ekaqfvarf
n]f]iy epRgfkAlkqf - ptfT
nalayirgff EkaF nynfT ni[fb
p<]f]iy nadfF[iEl - ;vrf
epabiybfb vilgfKkqf Epal vazfvarf (enwfC)

In addition to the new style of poems (p<TkfkviAtkqf) BhArathiyAr also introduced a new format of prose narrative, the novel (navlf) in which he used fictional characters to portray the real life trials and tribulations of ordinary families and specific minority groups in the society who have been tormented by a variety of prejudices and exploitations based on tradition, superstition and above all greed. The novel as well as the short story concept which ensued later, have since become very powerful tools for exposing the difficulties of people without being victimized. Authors like JeyaKAn^than (ejykanft[f), rAmAmirtham (ramamirftmf) Pudumaip pitthan (p<TAmpfpitft[f), Sivasankari (civcgfkri) have exploited this technique successfully in recent years.

. 11.8.4. Conclusion
It is more than 75 years since this great poet died. History has showed us that a few of his dreams have been fulfilled thanks to the sacrifices of leaders like MahAtmA GAndhi and others. The achievement of political freedom from an almost insurmountable imperial power without blood shed is not a small task. Since independence, the advances made in various fields, especially science, technology and agriculture have been the envy of even the super powers who are now evincing great interest in trading with India. But some of BhArathi's worst fears on social issues have come out true as well.

We have learnt that mere rules, laws and regulations are not adequate by themselves to overcome the social turmoils caused by religious intolerance and by exploitation under the name of caste, sex, greed, and political expediency. Under the guidance of BhArathiyAr and others, Thamizh literature has served as a tool to mobilize our energy to achieve political freedom; whether the same medium will be used for achieving social equity is yet to be seen.

11.9. Bibliography

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MaRaimalai atikaL mAbmAl `Fkqf. Evtanft citftanftmf, wa[ cacrmf.

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