Bharati was born on 11 December 1882 at Ettayapuram
in the Tirunelveli District. His father Chinnaswamy
Iyer was a learned Brahmin attached to the
Ettayapuram Zamin. He was also interested
in Western technology and managed to install
the first textile mill at Ettayapuram in 1880.
Bharati lost his mother when he was hardly
five but found in his stepmother affection
and love. He was a precocious child and became
a Tamil scholar at a very early age. He was
awarded the title of Bharati for
successfully taking part in literary contest
sponsored by the Raja of Ettayapuram.
After a few years of reluctant schooling
in Tirunelveli, he joined the Zamin service
in 1897.The same year he was married to Chellammal.
The sudden death of Iyer in 1898 left him
rudderless; he went to Banaras where his aunt
Kuppammal gave him shelter. He passed the
Entrance examination of the Allahabad University.
Though he returned to Ettayapuram, Bharati
was not happy in the decadent, strife-ridden
society of the Rajas palace. He took
up a temporary teaching post in Tamil at Madurai
Setupati High School and later joined theTamil
daily Swadesa Mithram.
The new job took him to Madras. His major
work in the office was to translate into Tamil
news appearing in English dailies. This job
gave him a taste for politics and social reform.
His passion-swathed patriotic poems thrilled
the entire Tamil Nadu and enthused the people
to take part in direct action. During these
days,he met Sister Nivedita who blessed his
political involvement and zeal for the emancipation
Bharati was closely associated with the
Extremist movement in the Congress.To escape
police persecution he retired to Pondicherry
in1908.`. Here he spent ten years writing
brilliant poetry and prose. Tired with an
exiles life, he returned to British
India. He was promptly arrested but released
at the instant of his well wishers . He rejoined
his desk at the Swadesa Mithran office but
died in 1921 after being hit by the temple
elephant at Triplicane.
Though Bharati was involved in active policies
throughout his life and spent his time in
spirit-consuming journalism, he has left behind
considerable body of brilliant poetry. His
poems can be divided into four categories:
Patriotic Poems, Devotional Songs ; Miscellaneous
Poems ; Three Great Poems.
Patriotic Poems : Bharati who loved
Shelleys tireless search for individual
liberty was influenced by him while writing
patriotic poetry. He caught the breathless
attention of the Tamil people with his powerful
lyric, the bulk of which are to be found in
Swadesa Gitangal (1908) and
Janma Bhumi (1909). Significantly
he dedicated both the books to Sisters Nivedita.
Abjuring mere political propaganda he gave
a spiritual dimension to the Indian thirst
for freedom. He approached his task from three
directions ; an incantatory review of India,
detailing its physical and spiritual rareness
; an injection of the ideal of freedom
into every person so as to banish fear
; an evocation of the lives of the great men
of India as living examples for emulation.
Devotional Songs: Bharati was a deeply
religious man but had no patience with obscurantism.
The prayer songs dedicated to the embodied
manifestations of the University Deity are
very popular today. His knowledge hymns repeat
the Vedantic search for universality. His
autobiographical fragments too come under
this category. They are A Dream
and Bharati : Sixty-Six . The
most significant group is formed by his poems
on Shakti. Bhartis ishta devta was Shakti,
the primordial power that makes and unmakes
the whole universe
The Kali worship he witnessed at Banaras
his meeting with Sister Nivedita, the powerful
poem Vande Mataram indicated
by Bankim -all influence his Shakti songs.
His approach is personal and approximates
to the Mother -Child relationship. Her many
aspects are caught within the area of his
poetic creation. Oozhi-k-koothu is
the most audaciously frenzied and most poetically
articulate piece in the Bharati canon .It
is a description of the
Mother's terrible dance of destruction which
is at last arresed by the advent of Shiva
in his auspicious form, and they unite to
recreate the worlds once again.
Miscellaneous Poems: The subject matter
of these lyrics is social reform. Even
Puthia Athisoodi which is apparently
meant for children has commitments such as
Curse Astrology, Learn
Astronomy and Modernise ancient
scriptures . Many of the poems deal
with nature, education and the dignity of
labour. Much of his nature poetry is contain
in Vachana Kavithai . The emancipation
of women excercised Bharati's mind greatly.
He visualised The New Woman
as an emanation of Shakti. A willing helpmate
of man to build a new earth through co-operative
Three Great Poems : ( 1 ) Kannan
Pattu Consists of twenty-three lyrics
published in 1917.Bharati ecstatically sang
of Krishna as a friend , mother , servant
, teacher , student ,king ,child, prankish
boy ,lover ,lady-love and deity. The nayaka-nayaki
bhava of Indian ecstatics is given a novel
twist by Bharati whose intense absorption
in Krishna gives this superb collection a
unique place in Tamil literature.
(2) The first part of Panchali Sapatham
'appeared in 1912 and the second part twelve
years later. Bharatis epic concentrates
on the critical movement when Duhshasana rises
to disorobe Draupadi. By choosing this moment
and linking it to the earlier motivation of
Duryodhana and the later series of vows
by the Pandavas that seal his fate, Bharati
created an architecturally perfect poem that
has both the epic sweep and the intensity
of tragic drama. The epic consists of five
cantos. For the first time a long Tamil poem
was written with simple phrases, simple
style, easily understood prosody, rhythms
liked by the common man.
Bharatis ideas on social reform, anxiety
to rid India of its foreign rulers and devotion
to Mahashakti also find a place in the movement
of the epic. The insulted and injured Queen,
womanhood fighting for her due place in the
world of men, Mother India struggling to be
free, and Mahashakti in the plenitude of her
splendour: these four attributes merge in
that immortal character turning from men to
God at the centre of the Kuru court.
(3) Kuyil Pattu is a narrative
poem and tells a fable about an Indian nightingale,
a bull and a monkey. The human characters
are a prince and a poet. The story came to
the poet in a dream, a kind of vision of Beauty
and love. The fable could be interpreted in
many ways. Chiefly, the poem seems to point
out the impossibility of a divine love on
earth. Inevitably the mundane earth tarnishes
and kills such true love. The poem initiated
a new trend in Tamil poetry.
Bharati wrote short stories and an unfinished
novel, Chandrikayin Kathai. His
wisdom tales, in imitation of
Panchatantra and Hitopadesa
stories, are still popular in Tamil Nadu.
Bharati also wrote in English and these writings
have been collected in Agni and Other
Poems and Translations (1937) and Essays
and other Prose Fragments (1937).
Subramania Bharati is now fully acknowledged
as the father of modern Tamil style. He showed
the Tamilians that that the spoken rhythms
of the language can be easily transferred
to the written page. It would be no exaggeration
to say that creative writing in Tamil during
the last five decades owes its existence to
Bharati. Above everything else, he was one
of the earliest to speak of India as an entity.
In his poems and prose writing he stressed
the need for an integrated India as an entity.
In his poems and prose writings he stressed
the need for an integrated India and exhorted
the Indians to eschew regional rivalries and
think in terms of an Indian.
Poem after poem describes the best in each
region and how these should be brought together
to build a glorious future for India. He was
sure that when the call came, Indias
millions would answer with one voice. So he
sang of Mother Bharat at the dawn of our Independence
She has thirty crores of faces,
But her heart is one;
She speaks eighteen languages,
Yet her mind is one.
His message for national unity is still relevant
for our life times.