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Subramanya Bharathi

Subrahmanya Bharathi (December 11, 1882 - September 11, 1921) was a Tamil poet from Tamil Nadu, India, freedom fighter and reformer. Known as Mahakavi Bharathiyar (the laudatory epithet Maha Kavi meaning Great Poet in Tamil), he is celebrated as one of India's greatest poets. Bharathi was prolific and adept in both the prose and poetry forms, and his rousing compositions helped rally the masses to support the Indian independence movement in South India. Bharathi lived during an eventful period of Indian history; 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.

Early life:Bharathi was born Chinnasami Subramania Iyer to Chinnaswaamy Iyer and Lakshmi Ammaal on December 11, 1882 in the Tamil village of Ettayapuram. Bharathi was educated at a local high school called "The M.D.T.Hindu College". He learnt music from very young age and at 11 and was invited to a conference of Ettayapuram court poets and musicians for composing poems and songs. It was here that he was conferred the title of "Bharathi" (Goddess of learning). Bharathi lost his mother at the age of 5 and his father at the age of 16. He married his cousin Chellamal in 1897, at the age of fourteen. After an early marriage, Bharathi, curious to see the outside world, left for Benares in 1898. The next four years of his life served as a passage of discovery, when Bharathi discovered a country in tumult outside his small hamlet. Bharathi worked as a school teacher in Madurai Sethupathy High School (Now a Higher Secondary School) and as a journal editor at various times in his life.

Literary career

Bharathi had an exceptional love and devotion towards his mother tongue Tamil language, which he considered as the sweetest of all the languages known to him. He has written in one of his poems, 'Of all the languages I know, I have not heard a sweeter language than Tamil'. He 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 emphasized that musicians should not sing songs which they don't understand and should learn from Hindustani musicians how to train their voices. 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 his creations are about nature. Both Bharathi and Shelley were soaring spirits and loved the sparrow and the skylark respectively as symbols of freedom. But Bharathi 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 (our sincerest laughter with some pain is fraught), Bharathi’s sparrow asks man to give up not life but desire. Bharathi’s poetry is not an escape from but into life.
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