Subramania Bharati

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C. Subramania Bharati[1]
Bharati on a 1960 Indian stamp
Born(1882-12-11)11 December 1882
Died11 September 1921(1921-09-11) (aged 38)
Other namesBharatiyar, Subbaiah, Sakthi Dasan, Mahakavi, Mundasu Kavignar, Veera Kavi, Shelly Daasan
  • Journalist
  • Poet
  • Writer
  • Teacher
  • Patriot
  • Activist
  • Carnatic musician
MovementIndian independence movement
SpouseChellamma (m. 1896–1921)

C. Subramania Bharati[1] (IPA: /ˌsuˈbrəˌmənˈjʌ ˈbɑːˌrʌθi/; born C. Subramaniyan[1] 11 December 1882 – 11 September 1921) was a Tamil writer, poet, journalist, Indian independence activist, social reformer and polyglot. He was bestowed the title "Bharati" for his excellence in poetry. He was a pioneer of modern Tamil poetry and is considered one of the greatest Tamil literary figures of all time. He is popularly known by his mononymous title "Bharati/ Bharathiyaar," and also by the other title "Mahakavi Bharati" ("the great poet Bharati"). His numerous works included fiery songs kindling patriotism during the Indian Independence movement.[2][3] He fought for the emancipation of women, against child marriage, vehemently opposed the caste system, and stood for reforming society and religion. He was also in solidarity with Dalits.[4][5]

Born in Ettayapuram of Tirunelveli district (present-day Thoothukudi) in 1882, Bharati had his early education in Tirunelveli and Varanasi and worked as a journalist with many newspapers, including The Hindu, Bala Bharata, Vijaya, Chakravarthini, the Swadesamitran and India other work as Panjali Sapatham, Kannan Pattu, Kuyil Pattu, translation of Patanjali Yoga sutra, translation of Bhagavad Gita, Chinnanchriu kiliye, Vinayagar Nanmanimalai, Viduthalai Padalgal, Gnana Padalgal...

In 1908, an arrest warrant was issued against Bharathi by the government of British India, which resulted in his moving to Pondicherry where he lived until 1918.[6]

His influence on Tamil literature is phenomenal, although it is said that he was proficient in around 32 languages,[not verified in body][citation needed] including 3 foreign (non-Indian) languages. His favorite language was Tamil. He was prolific in his output. He covered political, social and spiritual themes. The songs and poems composed by Bharathi are very often used in Tamil cinema and have become staples in the literary and musical repertoire of Tamil artists throughout the world. He paved the way for modern blank verse. He wrote many books and poems on how Tamil is beautiful in nature.


Photograph of Subramanya Bharathi with his wife Chellamma
Bharathiyar House in Puducherry

C. Subramaniyan (Tamil: சி. சுப்பிரமணியன்) was born in a Brahmin[7] family[8] on 11[9] December 1882[7] in the village of Ettayapuram, Tamil Nadu to Chinnaswami Subramania Iyer and Lakshmi Amma. From a very young age, Subramaniyan was musically and poetically inclined. He lost his mother[7] at the age of five and was brought up by his father who wanted him to learn English, excel in arithmetic, and become an engineer.[10][11] At around the young age of 11, Subramanian won a Debate contest which was held at the court of Maharaja of Ettayapuram. Seeing young Subramanian debating abilities with eminent scholars, the Maharaja of Ettayapur.. he was conferred the title[7] of "Bharathi", meaning blessed by the goddess of learning Saraswati, by the Raja of Ettayapuram on seeing his excellence in poetry. Henceforth he was known as C. Subramania Bharathi (Tamil: சி. சுப்பிரமணிய பாரதி). At the age of 15 he was married[7] to Chellamma who was seven years old. Chellamma was from Kadayam town[7] near Tenkasi. He lost his father at the age of sixteen.[7] He went to the M.D.T. Hindu College in Tirunelveli. Bharathi was a proficient linguist, he was well-versed in Tamil, Sanskrit, Hindi, Telugu, English, French and had a smattering knowledge of Arabic.

During his stay in Varanasi,[9] Bharathi was exposed to Hindu spirituality and nationalism. This broadened his outlook and he learned Sanskrit, Hindi and English. In addition, he changed his outward appearance. He also grew a beard and wore a turban[9] due to his admiration of Sikhs, influenced by his Sikh friend. Though he passed an entrance exam for a job, he returned to Ettayapuram during 1901 and started as the court poet of Raja of Ettayapuram for a couple of years. He was a Tamil teacher from August to November 1904 in Sethupathy High School in Madurai.[11] During this period, Bharathi understood the need to be well-informed of the world outside and took interest in the world of journalism and the print media of the West. Bharathi joined as Assistant Editor of the Swadesamitran,[9] a Tamil daily in 1904. In December 1905, he attended the All India Congress session held in Benaras. On his journey back home, he met Sister Nivedita, Swami Vivekananda's spiritual heir. She inspired[9] Bharathi to recognise the privileges of women and the emancipation of women exercised Bharathi's mind. He visualised the new woman as an emanation of Shakti, a willing helpmate of man to build a new earth through co-operative endeavour. Among other greats such as Bal Gangadhar Tilak, he considered Nivedita his Guru, and penned verses in her praise. He attended the Indian National Congress session in Calcutta under Dadabhai Naoiroji, which demanded Swaraj and boycott of British goods.[11]

By April 1907, he started editing the Tamil weekly India and the English newspaper Bala Bharatham[9] with M.P.T. Acharya. These newspapers were also a means of expressing Bharathi's creativity, which began to peak during this period. Bharathi started to publish his poems regularly in these editions. From hymns to nationalistic writings, from contemplations on the relationship between God and Man to songs on the Russian and French revolutions, Bharathi's subjects were diverse.[10]

Bharathi participated in the historic Surat Congress[9] in 1907 along with V.O. Chidambaram Pillai and Mandayam Srinivachariar, which deepened the divisions within the Indian National Congress with a section preferring armed resistance, primarily led by Tilak over moderate approach preferred by certain other sections. Bharathi supported Tilak with V. O. Chidambaram Pillai and Kanchi Varathachariyar. Tilak openly supported armed resistance against the British.[11]

Cover page of the 1909 magazine Vijaya, published first from Madras and then from Pondicherry. The cover showing "Mother India" (Bharat Mata) with her diverse progeny and the rallying cry "Vande Mataram”.

In 1908, the British instituted a case against V.O. Chidambaram Pillai.[9] In the same year, the proprietor of the journal India was arrested in Madras. Faced with the prospect of arrest, Bharathi escaped to Pondicherry, which was under French rule.[12] From there he edited and published the weekly journal India, Vijaya, a Tamil daily, Bala Bharatham, an English monthly, and Suryodayam, a local weekly in Pondicherry. The British tried to suppress Bharathi's output by stopping remittances and letters to the papers. Both India and Vijaya were banned in India in 1909.[11]

Subramanya Bharathi with his family and friends.

During his exile, Bharathi had the opportunity to meet many other leaders of the revolutionary wing[9] of the Independence movement like Aurobindo, Lajpat Rai and V.V.S. Aiyar, who had also sought asylum under the French. Bharathi assisted Aurobindo in the Arya journal and later Karma Yogi in Pondicherry.[10] This was also the period when he started learning Vedic literature. Three of his greatest works namely, Kuyil Pattu, Panchali Sapatham and Kannan Pattu were composed during 1912. He also translated Vedic hymns, Patanjali's Yoga Sutra and Bhagavat Gita to Tamil.[11] Bharathi entered India near Cuddalore in November 1918 and was promptly arrested.[9] He was imprisoned in the Central prison in Cuddalore in custody for three weeks from 20 November to 14 December and was released after the intervention of Annie Besant and C.P. Ramaswamy Aiyar. He was stricken by poverty during this period, resulting in his ill health. The following year, 1919, Bharathi met Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. He resumed editing Swadesimeitran from 1920 in Madras (modern-day Chennai).[13]


He was badly affected by the imprisonments and by 1920 when a General Amnesty Order finally removed restrictions on his movements, Bharathi was already struggling. He was struck by an elephant[9] named Lavanya at Parthasarathy temple, Triplicane, Chennai, whom he used to feed every day. When he fed a coconut to Lavanya (the elephant), the elephant attacked Bharathi. Although he survived the incident, his health deteriorated a few months later and he died[9] early morning on 11 September 1921 at around 1 am. Though Bharathi was considered a people's poet, a great nationalist, outstanding freedom fighter and social visionary, it was recorded that there were only 14 people to attend his funeral. He delivered his last speech at Karungalpalayam Library in Erode, which was about the topic Man is Immortal.[14] The last years of his life were spent in a house in Triplicane, Chennai. The house was bought and renovated by the Government of Tamil Nadu in 1993 and named Bharathi Illam (Home of Bharathi).[15]


He who forgets not God and fails not in his duty, no matter whatever befalls him and however much he suffers, will at the end attain honour and happiness.[16]

Bharathi is considered one of the pioneers of modern Tamil literature.[17] Bharathi used simple words and rhythms, unlike his previous century works in Tamil, which had complex vocabulary. He also employed novel ideas and techniques in his devotional poems.[2] He used a metre called Nondi Chindu in most of his works, which was earlier used by Gopalakrisnha Bharathiar.[18]

Bharathi's poetry expressed a progressive, reformist ideal. His imagery and the vigour of his verse were a forerunner to modern Tamil poetry in different aspects. He was the forerunner of a forceful kind of poetry that combined classical and contemporary elements. He had a prodigious output penning thousands of verses on diverse topics like Indian Nationalism, love songs, children's songs, songs of nature, glory of the Tamil language, and odes to prominent freedom fighters of India like Tilak, Gandhi and Lajpat Rai. He even penned an ode to New Russia and Belgium.

Bharathi's poetry not only includes works on Hindu deities like Shakti, Kali, Vinayagar, Murugan, Sivan, Kannan(Krishna), but also on other religious gods like Allah and Jesus. His insightful similes have been read by millions of Tamil readers. He was well-versed in various languages and translated speeches of Indian National reform leaders like Sri Aurobindo, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Swami Vivekananda.[13] Bharathi's works can be found at Tamil Wikisource Subramaniya Bharathi and also at the open access Tamil literature repository called Project Madurai.[19] Bharathi's works were nationalized meaning they were brought under public ownership of the government thus becoming public domain works in 1949[9] by the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Omandur Ramasamy Reddy.

Bharathi describes the dance of Shakthi (in Oozhi koothu, Dance of destiny) in the following lines:

சக்திப் பேய் தான் தலையொடு தலைகள் முட்டிச்
சட்டச் சட சட சடவென்றுடைபடு தாளம் கொட்டி அங்கே
எத்திகினிலும் நின்விழி அனல் போய் எட்டித்
தானே எரியும் கோலம் கண்டே சாகும் காலம்
அன்னை அன்னை
ஆடுங்கூத்தை நாடச் செய்தாய் என்னை

It is the opinion of some litterateurs that Bharathiar's Panchali Sapatham, based on the story of Panchali (Draupadi), is also an ode to Bharat Mata. That the Pandavass are the Indians, the Kauravas the British and the Kurukshetra war of Mahabharat that of the Indian freedom struggle. It certainly is ascribed to the rise of womanhood in society.[10][11]

பட்டினில் உடையும் பஞ்சினில் ஆடையும்
பண்ணி மலைகளென வீதி குவிப்போம்
கட்டித் திரவியங்கள் கொண்டு வருவார்
காசினி வணிகருக்கு அவை கொடுப்போம்

[English Translation]
We make Dresses from Silk and Cotton
In quantities as large as mountains
They bring lot of wealth
The traders around the world,
to whom we give it(dresses)

He is known to have said, "Even if Indians are divided, they are children of one Mother, where is the need for foreigners to interfere?" In the period 1910–1920, he wrote about a new and free India where there are no castes. He talks of building up India's defense, her ships sailing the high seas, success in manufacturing and universal education. He calls for sharing amongst states with wonderful imagery like the diversion of excess water of the Bengal delta to needy regions and a bridge to Sri Lanka.

Bharathi also wanted to abolish starvation. He sang, "Thani oru manithanakku unavu illayenil intha jagaththinai azhithiduvom" translated as " If one single man suffers from starvation, we will destroy the entire world".

Some of his poems are translated by Jayanthasri Balakrishnan in English in her blog, though not published.[20]

Even though he has strong opinions about Gods, he is also against false stories spread in epics and other part of social fabric in Tamil Nadu.

In Kuyil paattu (Song of Nightingale) (குயில் பாட்டு) he writes..

கடலினைத் தாவும் குரவும்-வெங்

கனலிற் பிறந்ததோர் செவ்விதழ்ப் பெண்ணும்,

வடமலை தாழ்ந்தத னாலே-தெற்கில்

வந்து சமன்செயும் குட்டை முனியும்,

நதியி னுள்ளேமுழு கிப்போய்-அந்த

நாகர் உலகிலோர் பாம்பின் மகளை

விதியுற வேமணம் செய்த-திறல்

வீமனும் கற்பனை என்பது கண்டோம்.

ஒன்றுமற் றொன்றைப் பழிக்கும்-ஒன்றில்

உண்மையென் றோதிமற் றொன்றுபொய் யென்னும்

நன்று புராணங்கள் செய்தார்-அதில்

நல்ல கவிதை பலபல தந்தார்.

கவிதை மிகநல்ல தேனும்-அக்

கதைகள் பொய்யென்று தெளிவுறக் கண்டோம்;

Monkey that jumps the seas;

Woman who born inside the hot fire;

The sage who came to south to equalize because of lowered;

The man called Bhima who submerged and swim inside the river and married the daughter of serpent king of fate;

We have seen all those are just imagination..

One blame the other;

And say the truth is only here, and other is lie;

They made good epic, with that

They gave good poems;

Even though the poems are good;

We saw clearly that those stories are lies;

Bharathi on caste system[edit]

Bharathi also fought against the caste system in Hindu society. Bharathi was born in an orthodox Brahmin family, but he considered all living beings to be equal, and to illustrate this he performed the upanayanam for a young Dalit man and made him a Brahmana. He also scorned the divisive tendencies being imparted into the younger generations by their elderly tutors during his time. He openly criticised the preachers for mixing their individual thoughts while teaching the Vedas, Upanishads and the Gita. He strongly advocated bringing the Dalits to the Hindu mainstream.

"சாதிகள் இல்லையடி பாப்பா!-குலத்
தாழ்ச்சி உயர்ச்சி சொல்லல் பாவம்;
நீதி உயர்ந்த மதி, கல்வி-அன்பு
நிறைய உடையவர்கள் மேலோர்."

[English Translation]
There is no caste system.
It is a sin to divide people on caste basis.
The ones who are really of a superior class are the ones
excelling in being just, wise, educated and loving.

Here he expresses the love between human beings, where a man should not see their caste. They should see them as human beings. Not only human beings, they should see them as their brothers and sisters. This means that a well-educated person knows to treat them equally and not by their caste.


This is a photograph of writing by Mahatma Gandhi in Tamil language commending the effort to build a monument in memory of poet Subramaniya Bharathi at Ettayapuram.

The Government of India in 1987 instituted a highest National Subramanyam Bharati Award conferred along with Ministry of Human Resource Development, annually confers on writers of outstanding works in Hindi literature.

Bharathiar University, a state university named after the poet, was established in 1982 at Coimbatore.[21] There is a statue of Bharathiar at Marina Beach and also in the Indian Parliament. A Tamil Movie titled Bharathi was made in the year 2000 on the life of the poet by Gnana Rajasekeran, which won National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil.[22] The movie Kappalottiya Thamizhan chronicles the important struggles of V.O.Chidambaranar along with Subramanya Siva and Bharathiar with S.V. Subbaiah starring as Subramania Bharathi. On 14 August 2014 Professor Muhammadu Sathik raja Started an Educational trust at thiruppuvanam pudur, near Madurai named as Omar -Bharathi educational trust, the name is kept to praise the two legendary poets Umaru Pulavar and Subramania Bharathiyar from Ettaiyapuram. Though these two Poets are having three centuries time interval, the divine service and their contribution to the Tamil language are made them unparallel legends. Both two poets are offered their services at vaigai river bank of thiruppuvanam. the two poets were strongly suffered by their financial status, so both of them were unsuccessful to fulfil their family members need. Many roads are named after him, notable ones including Bharathiar road in Coimbatore and Subramaniam Bharti Marg in New Delhi.[23][24] The NGO Sevalaya runs the Mahakavi Bharatiya Higher Secondary School.[25]

In popular culture[edit]

Bharati had a critical reception from the Tamil music director Adhithya Venkatapathy through the musical duo Hiphop Tamizha which features Bharati in its logo.[26][27] Many of the poems written by Bharati were used in various Tamil films in the form of songs. AVM productions was the first company to use his songs in films, "Aaduvome Palli" from Naam Iruvar (1947) was the first song inspired from Bharathi's poem.[28] Many of the film titles were taken from his poems like Vallamai Tharayo (2008), Aanmai Thavarel (2011), Nayyapudai (2016), Nerkonda Paarvai (2019),[29] Soorarai Potru (2020).[30][31]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Birth name: C. Subramaniyan, the person's given name: Subramaniyan, father's given name: Chinnaswami. (C. Subramaniyan by the prevalent patronymic initials as prefix naming system in Tamil Nadu and it is Subramaniyan Chinnaswami by the patronymic suffix naming system.) Bharathi is a conferred title meaning blessed by the goddess of learning. His name became C. Subramania Bharathi and he is also widely known mononymously as Bharathi. (In this article, the subject is referred to using his title Bharathi because the subject is not known without his title. (Permitted in WP per Wikipedia:Naming conventions (Indic)#Titles and honorifics))
  2. ^ a b Natarajan, Nalini; Nelson, Emmanuel Sampath, eds. (1996). Handbook of Twentieth-century Literatures of India. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 290. ISBN 9780313287787.
  3. ^ "Congress Veteran reenacts Bharathis escape to Pondy". The Times of India. Archived from the original on 2 April 2021. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  4. ^ "Knowing Subramania Bharati beyond his turban colour". Archived from the original on 26 February 2021. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  5. ^ Raman, Aroon (21 December 2009). "All too human at the core". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Archived from the original on 10 February 2021. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  6. ^ "On the streets where Bharati walked". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 25 June 2020. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g "Subramanya Bharathi biography". Tamil Virtual University. Archived from the original on 12 October 2022. Retrieved 30 November 2022.
  8. ^ "Why we're so turned off by Bharathiyar's saffron turban: Did the orange fall too far from the tree". Edex Live. Archived from the original on 28 December 2023. Retrieved 22 January 2022.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Kasi Viswanathan, Muralidharan. "In Memory of Bharathi. (Bharathi's biography. பாரதியார் நினைவு தினம்)". BBC News Tamil. Archived from the original on 30 November 2022. Retrieved 30 November 2022.
  10. ^ a b c d Indian Literature: An Introduction. Pearson Education India. 2005. pp. 125–126. ISBN 9788131705209. Archived from the original on 28 December 2023. Retrieved 6 October 2016. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  11. ^ a b c d e f g Bharati, Subramania; Rajagopalan, Usha (2013). Panchali's Pledge. Hachette UK. p. 1. ISBN 9789350095300. Archived from the original on 28 December 2023. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  12. ^ "Bharati's Tamil daily Vijaya traced in Paris". The Hindu. 5 December 2004. Archived from the original on 21 November 2016.
  13. ^ a b Lal, Mohan (1992). Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature: sasay to zorgot. Sahitya Akademi. pp. 4191–3. ISBN 9788126012213.
  14. ^ "Last speech delivered in Erode". The Hindu. 15 April 2008. Archived from the original on 15 April 2008. Retrieved 20 December 2013.
  15. ^ Rangarajan (11 January 2021). A Madras Mystery. Notion Press. ISBN 9781637147573. Archived from the original on 3 September 2023. Retrieved 28 December 2023.
  16. ^ "Brief Shining Moment in Judicial History". Daily News. Colombo, Sri Lanka. 11 June 2013. Archived from the original on 10 June 2014. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  17. ^ Annamalai, E. (1968). "Changing society and modern Tamil literature". Tamil Issue. 4 (3/4): 21–36. JSTOR 40874190.(subscription required)
  18. ^ George, K.M., ed. (1992). Modern Indian Literature, an Anthology: Plays and prose. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. p. 379. ISBN 978-81-7201-324-0. Archived from the original on 28 December 2023. Retrieved 20 December 2018.
  19. ^ "Project Madurai"., open access Tamil literature repository. Archived from the original on 21 September 2022. Retrieved 26 November 2022.
  20. ^ "Jayanthasri translations". Archived from the original on 24 May 2017. Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  21. ^ Gupta, Ameeta; Kumar, Ashish (2006). Handbook of Universities, Volume 1. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. p. 14. ISBN 9788126906079.
  22. ^ "SA women 'swoon' over Sanjay". Sunday Tribune. South Africa. 30 March 2008. Archived from the original on 10 June 2014. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  23. ^ "Free helmet distribution". The Times of India. 6 October 2015. Archived from the original on 10 August 2017. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  24. ^ "Subramaniam Bharti Marg". The Indian Express. 3 October 2015. Archived from the original on 6 October 2015. Retrieved 8 October 2015.
  25. ^ "Activities: School". Sevalaya. Archived from the original on 5 December 2013. Retrieved 23 December 2013.
  26. ^ Akshaya Raju (16 October 2014). "English Pesnalum Tamizhan Da – A Hip Hop Tamizha Exclusive". Guindy Times. Archived from the original on 28 November 2014. Retrieved 28 November 2014.
  27. ^ Avinash Gopinath (11 November 2014). "Kollywood Gets A New Music Director!". Archived from the original on 21 November 2014. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  28. ^ "Filmy Ripples – Mahakavi Bharathiyar's works in Tamil Film Music". 7 August 2017. Archived from the original on 23 December 2018. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  29. ^ "Ner Konda Paarvai : Subramania Bharati's line from a poem becomes the title of Ajith-starrer". International Business Times. 5 March 2019. Archived from the original on 9 July 2021. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  30. ^ "Suriya 38 Title Has Bharathiyar Touch!". Archived from the original on 9 July 2021. Retrieved 9 July 2021.
  31. ^ "'நேர்கொண்ட பார்வை', 'சூரரைப் போற்று', 'புதுமைப் பெண்'... தமிழ் சினிமாவும் பாரதியார் ரெஃபரென்ஸும்!". Archived from the original on 15 March 2020. Retrieved 30 November 2021.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]