Though in the present times it is difficult to find and ideal person in India, in ancient times, there were several examples. Though “Satyameva Jayate” from Mundakopanishad was etched as the tag line for India by Asoka, the person who lived by the quotation was the legendary Harischandra, the ancient king of Kasi. The cremation ground on the banks of holy Ganges withstood the test of time, immortalizing the Harishchandra’s devotion to truth, where even today many a bodies devoid of souls are absorbed into the nature.
While one climbs back from the banks from the Ghat, to the left there is the temple dedicated to Lord Siva, which was maintained by the ‘Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham’. Just before reaching the main gates of the temple, there is an old concrete bust that was coated with dust and what not, like many other statues and busts in all cities, towns of India. Only a curious visitor would go to read the inscription below the bust before raising eyebrows. The bust is of Subramania Bharathi , a Tamil poet and freedom fighter.
As a child, he preferred to romance with the green fields, bird chirps, flowing streams and playing with words and creating poems. Even when he was a child, for his exemplary knowledge of words and mastery of piecing them together, the young ‘Subbaya’ was given the title of ‘Bharati’ and became ‘ Subramania Bharathi ’.
When he left for Varanasi, after his father’s demise, his love for words had grown breaking the barriers of language, where he learnt Hindi, English and mastered Sanskrit. May be in those days there was neither imposition of nor opposition to Hindi, the language that started to evolve as a common language for most of northern India. Hindi was evolving rapidly, absorbing words and phrases from other dialects of north, yet kept the basic Khadiboli dialect.
Apart from becoming a linguistic expert, like all visitors to the great city, Subramania Bharathi got stimulated by the climate to become a radical, who started questioning the very base of customs that were not at all related to those taught in the Sanskrit texts. It was here at the ghats of Varanasi, he witnessed the sins being committed in the name of religion. It was the introspection that transforms simple men into great men.
And when one starts questioning, the questions would never stop. He started questioning, why the British were ruling a country that was populated by three hundred million. His meetings with Congress leaders like Tilak, Nauroji and thinkers like Aurobindo and Nivedita had transformed him to a fiery person and he vented his frustration against the British by giving the clarion call through one of his famous poems “Viduthalai! Viduthalai!!” (Freedom! Freedom!!).
His meeting with Sister Nivedita, when she questions him why his wife was not accompanying him, pushes him into the depths of introspection. He churns his mind till it is clear to him that the basis of Advaita he learnt by heart was – Parashakti is equal to Siva, and without woman, man doesn’t exist. On his return to Tamilnadu, he looked at the society from an improved perspective and abhorred the discrimination of people, in his words – blacks against blacks. And his call for freedom was not only from the White men, but also from the Black men who declared themselves superior to their brethren.
Both his ideas of treating women and backward caste people, as equals didn’t have many takers and he had to pay a price at personal level. However, the seeds he sow have later strengthened the movement against caste based discrimination. And if today’s Tamilnadu has many working women, efforts of Bharati would definitely find a mention in the long struggle.
The young man who wrote romantic poems on his imaginary ‘Kannamma’ and became a spiritualist by writing songs on Kannan (Krishna) and Parashakti had finally became a fierce poet who dared the entire world to come united for a fight – and thus gave birth to the classic ‘Achamillai Achamillai’ (No fear, No fear).
After he blessed Gandhi wishing the best for his mass movement during his only and brief meeting with Mahatma, Gandhi told Rajaji they need to take care of this nationalist poet. Yes, Gandhi was correct, though his poems have set patriotic fire in Tamilnadu that spread rapidly, Gandhi’s insight into the condition of Subramania Bharathi was correct.
Spiritually, Subramania Bharathi was the true follower of the Advaita – “The God is One. All people are One”. However, in the society that discriminates its own people on almost all possible types of classifications, he was a radical and his thoughts were way above the heads of the so called intellectuals. His economic condition was not so good, for he belonged to the clan of leaders who never thought of their own lives and comforts. He lived poor and died poor. The irony was, despite being the most popular poet of his times and remained so even nearly after a century, only fourteen people chose to attend his funeral. This in all probability shows they obscure way he chose to spend his end days, practising what he preached – never living for the lime light nor craving for material comforts.
I DON’T FEAR
even armies, onslaughts,
poisonous talks and venomous looks,
abuses and slanders;
even if the sky falls!
I DON’T FEAR
Hope, if not political leaders who claim his legacy, at least poets will try to rise to at least half of his stature, by being sincere to – themselves