Chinnaswami Subramania Bharati (December 11, 1882 – September 11, 1921) was an writer, poet, journalist, independence activist and social reformer..
Subramania Bharatiyar was born to Chinnasami Subramanya Iyer and Lakhsmiammaal as "Subbayya" on December 11, 1882 in the village of Ettayapuram. He was educated at a local high school called "The M.D.T. Hindu College" in Tirunelveli. From a very young age he learnt music and at 11th, he learnt songs. It was here that he was conferred the title of "Bharati" (one blessed by Saraswati, the goddess of learning).
Bharati lost his mother at the age of 5 and his father at the age of 16. He was brought up by his disciplinarian father who wanted him to learn English, excel in arithmetic, become an engineer and lead a comfortable life. However, Bharati was given to day dreaming and could not concentrate on his studies. In 1897, perhaps to instil a sense of responsibility in him, his father had the 14 year old Bharati, married to his cousin younger to him by seven years, Chellamal.
During his stay in Benares, Bharati was exposed to Hindu spirituality and nationalism. This broadened his outlook and he learned Sanskrit, Hindi and English.
Soon, Bharati saw beyond the social taboos and superstitions of orthodox South Indian society. 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 daughter. From her arose another of Bharathi’s iconoclasm, his stand to recognise the privileges of women. The emancipation of women exercised Bharathi’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 endeavour.
During this period, Bharati 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 Swadeshamitran, a Tamil daily in 1904. By April 1907, he started editing the Tamil weekly India and the English newspaper Bala Bharatham with M.P.T. Acharya. These newspapers were also a means of expressing Bharati'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.
He was simultaneously up against society for its mistreatment of the downtrodden people and the British for occupying India.
Bharati participated in the historic Surat Congress in 1907, which deepened the divisions within the Indian National Congress between the militant wing led by Tilak and Aurobindo and the moderate wing. Bharati supported Tilak and Aurobindo together with V. O. Chidambaram Pillai and Kanchi Varathaachariyar. Tilak openly supported armed resistance against the British.
In 1908, he gave evidence in the case which had been instituted by the British against V.O. Chidambaram Pillai. In the same year, the proprietor of the journal India was arrested in Madras. Faced with the prospect of arrest, Bharati escaped to Pondicherry which was under French rule. From there he edited and published the weekly journal India, Vijaya, a Tamil daily, Bala Bharatha, an English monthly, and Suryothayam, 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 British India in 1909.
During his exile, Bharati had the opportunity to mix with many other leaders of the revolutionary wing of the Independence movement such as Aurobindo, Lajpat Rai and V.V.S. Aiyar, who had also sought asylum under the French. Bharati assisted Aurobindo in the Arya journal and later Karma Yogi in Pondicherry.
Bharati entered British India near Cuddalore in November 1918 and was promptly arrested. He was imprisoned in the Central prison in Cuddalore in custody for three weeks from 20 November to 14 December. The following year Bharati met with Mahathma Gandhi.
He was badly affected by the imprisonments and by 1920, when a General Amnesty Order finally removed restrictions on his movements, Bharati was already struggling. He was struck by an elephant at Parthasarathy temple, Triplicane, Chennai, whom he used to feed regularly. Although he survived the incident, a few months later his health deteriorated and he died on September 11, 1921
His poetry expressed a progressive, reformist ideal. 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, the National Flag, the Mahabharat, love songs, children's songs, songs of nature, and odes to prominent freedom fighters of India like Tilak, Gandhi and Lajpat Rai. He even penned an ode to New Russia and Belgium. His poetry includes works on Allah and Jesus. His insightful similes have been read by millions of readers.
His poems are brim with an unmatched vigour.If it is love that oozes through his Kannamma songs or valour which breaks through the lines in his patriotic songs he managed to capture the imagination of generations.
The economy of words, the tightness of the construction, the vividness of the imagery and the fierceness that comes through the meaning.... that is quintessential Bharathi.
Adapted from wikipedia