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Subra­ma­nia Bharati also known as Bharathi­yar was an In­dian poet, writer, jour­nal­ist, free­dom fighter and so­cial re­former from Tamil Nadu. He is pop­u­larly known as "Ma­hakavi Bharati" and was a pi­o­neer of mod­ern Tamil po­etry. Bharati is con­sid­ered to be one of the great­est Tamil lit­er­ary fig­ures of all time. Un­like pre­vi­ous cen­tury works in Tamil which had com­plex vo­cab­u­lary, his po­ems used sim­ple words and rhythms. Bharati's po­etry ex­pressed pro­gres­sive and re­formist ideas. He also em­ployed novel ideas and tech­niques in his de­vo­tional po­ems. Bharati's works on var­ied themes cov­ered reli­gious, po­lit­i­cal and so­cial as­pects. His nu­mer­ous works on pa­tri­o­tism and na­tion­al­ism helped to rally the masses to sup­port the In­dian In­de­pen­dence Move­ment in Tamil Nadu.

Subra­ma­nia Bharati was born on 11th De­cem­ber, 1882 in Et­taya­pu­ram, Thoothukudi district, In­dia. He was born to Chin­naswami Subra­ma­nia Iyer and Lakhsmi Am­mal. He was ed­u­cated at a lo­cal high school called ‘The M.D.T. Hindu Col­lege’. At the age of seven, he be­gan to write po­etry. When he was eleven, through his great writ­ings the ti­tle of "Bharati" was con­ferred on him. He mar­ried Chel­lamma when he was fif­teen years old. Soon Bharati left for Be­naras. Dur­ing his stay in Varanasi, Bharati was ex­posed to Hindu spir­i­tu­al­ity and na­tion­al­ism. This broad­ened his out­look and he gained a fair knowl­edge of San­skrit, Hindi and English. The Ba­naras stay brought a change in his out­ward ap­pear­ance. He sported a beard and wore a tur­ban due to his ad­mi­ra­tion of Sikhs.

Bharati be­gan his ca­reer as an As­sis­tant ed­i­tor in “Swade­sami­tran” in No­vem­ber 1904. Through the job of an As­sis­tant ed­i­tor, Bharati be­come aware of the rich­ness of the Tamil lan­guage. Dur­ing this time, Bharti was very much in­volved in pol­i­tics. Bharati called ‘pa­tri­o­tism’ a ‘new flame’ as it was ca­pa­ble of dis­pelling the dark­ness of slav­ery. Bharati was also an ac­tive mem­ber of the In­dian Na­tional Congress. In De­cem­ber 1905, he at­tended the All In­dia Congress ses­sion held in Be­naras. On his jour­ney back home, he met Sis­ter Nivedita, the spir­i­tual heir of Swami Vivekananda. She in­spired Bharati to recog­nise the priv­i­leges of women. Sis­ter Nivedita was con­sid­ered as his Guru and Bharati penned a cou­ple of lyrics prais­ing her. The In­dian Na­tional Congress ses­sion in Cal­cutta un­der Dad­ab­hai Naoiroji was at­tended by him. This ses­sion de­manded Swaraj and boy­cott of Bri­tish goods. By April 1907, he started edit­ing the Tamil weekly “In­dia” and the English news­pa­per “Bala Bharatham”. In 1908, an ar­rest war­rant was is­sued against Bharati by the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment for his revo­lu­tion­ary ac­tiv­i­ties. Faced with the prospect of ar­rest, Bharati es­caped to Pondicherry, which was un­der French rule. He lived there un­til

1918. Dur­ing this pe­riod in ex­ile, Bharati had the op­por­tu­nity to meet many other lead­ers of the revo­lu­tion­ary wing of the In­de­pen­dence move­ment. Pondicherry was a place of in­spi­ra­tion

for Bharati. Three of his great­est works namely, "Kuyil Pattu", "Pan­chali Sa­p­atham" and "Kan­nan Pattu" were com­posed dur­ing his time in ex­ile.

Bharati as a poet and a Na­tion­al­ist:

Bharati was a lyri­cal poet. He had a prodi­gious out­put pen­ning thou­sands of verses on di­verse top­ics like In­dian na­tion­al­ism, chil­dren's songs, na­ture, Tamil lan­guage, etc. He even penned an ode to Rus­sia. His po­etry not only in­cludes works on Hindu deities like Kali, Vi­naya­gar, Mu­ru­gan, Kr­ishna, Siva, etc. but also on other reli­gious gods. In Bharati's “Pan­chali Sa­p­atham”, he com­pares 'Pan­chali' or 'Drau­padi' with Bharat Mata. He vi­su­alised Drau­padi to In­dian women who were held by slav­ery and so­cial clutches of the so­ci­ety.

Bharati as a Jour­nal­ist:

Bharati spent many years of his life in the field of jour­nal­ism. He be­gan his ca­reer as a sub-ed­i­tor in “Swade­sami­tran” in 1904. By 1907, he started edit­ing the Tamil weekly “In­dia”. “In­dia” was the first pa­per in Tamil Nadu to pub­lish po­lit­i­cal car­toons. Soon an ar­rest war­rant was is­sued against Bharati by the Bri­tish gov­ern­ment forc­ing him to go away to Pondicherry, a French ter­ri­tory at that time. There he con­tin­ued to pub­lish the “In­dia” mag­a­zine. Dur­ing this pe­riod, he edited and pub­lished the weekly jour­nal “In­dia”, a Tamil daily “Vi­jaya”, an English monthly “Bala Bharatham” and a lo­cal weekly in Pondicherry named “Sury­o­dayam”. In Pondicherry, Bharati also as­sisted Aurobindo in “Arya” jour­nal and later “Karma Yogi”. In 1919, Bharati met Mo­han­das Karam­c­hand Gandhi at Ra­jaji’s home in Madras. In 1920, he re­sumed edit­ing “Swade­sami­tran” in Madras. Bharathi had main­tained good re­la­tions with some of the na­tional lead­ers like Aurobindo, La­j­pat Rai and V.V.S. Ai­yar. He shared his thoughts and views on the na­tion and of­fered his sug­ges­tions to strengthen the na­tion­al­ist move­ment. Bharathi played a piv­otal role in the free­dom of In­dia.

Bharati as a so­cial re­former:

Bharati was against caste sys­tem. He wrote about a new and free In­dia. He be­lieved that all In­di­ans should have equal op­por­tu­ni­ties. He also de­clared that there were only two castes one of men and the other of women. He ad­vo­cated tem­ple en­try of Dal­its and also stated that not even a sin­gle per­son in the coun­try should suf­fer from hunger. Bharati paved the way for mod­ern day Tamil po­etry and was an avid sup­porter of fem­i­nism. He be­lieved in women’s rights, gen­der and equal­ity. He rec­og­nized the priv­i­leges of women and the eman­ci­pa­tion of women was his pri­or­ity. He boldly de­clared that women will have equal rights with men and none will ill-treated, in­sulted or abused. He op­posed child mar­riage, dowry and sup­ported widow re­mar­riage. He stated that girls must get an equal share in an­ces­tral prop­erty, women like men, should be al­lowed the ad­van­tages of higher ed­u­ca­tion, etc.

Life and Death of Bharati:

Bharati had a rel­a­tively short life. His death came about in an un­usual man­ner. Dur­ing his daily vis­its to the Parthasarathy Swamy tem­ple, Trip­li­cane, Chen­nai, he was in the habit of feed­ing fruits to the tem­ple ele­phant there. On a fate­ful day, the ele­phant had a spell of rut. He was struck by the ele­phant named La­vanya at the tem­ple. Although he sur­vived the in­ci­dent, he be­came weak­ened by the shock of this ex­pe­ri­ence and was af­flicted with a stom­ach ail­ment soon af­ter. Bharati passed away on the night of Septem­ber 11, 1921.

The Gov­ern­ment of In­dia in 1987 in­sti­tuted a high­est Na­tional “Subra­manyam Bharti Award” which is a lit­er­ary hon­our in In­dia con­ferred an­nu­ally by Min­istry of Hu­man Re­source De­vel­op­ment on writ­ers of out­stand­ing works in Hindi lit­er­a­ture. There is a statue of Bharathiar at Ma­rina Beach and also in the In­dian Par­lia­ment. Bharathiar Univer­sity which is a state univer­sity in Coim­bat­ore, Tamil Nadu is named af­ter Subra­ma­nia Bharathiar. The univer­sity was estab­lished in Fe­bru­ary 1982.

Bharati’s at­ti­tude to­wards life was op­ti­mistic. Po­etry was the very essence of life to him. Bharathi­yar was an In­dian poet, writer, jour­nal­ist, free­dom fighter and so­cial re­former who had made a great im­pact on the en­tire hu­man so­ci­ety. Bharathi did not live for him­self but for the peo­ple and na­tion.

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