Thursday, August 14, 2008

Freedom poet

During the 19th century, British power moved away from Madras and was concentrated at Delhi. Most of the agitations against British rule happened closer to that city, though many movements were pan-Indian in scope. In the Madras Presidency, there were quite a few leaders who not only exercised influence at a national level but were also key figures in organizing local resistance. One such was Subramania Bharati. A precocious poet, he went on to be a path-breaker and an inspiration for modernizing Tamil literature.

He had the opportunity to travel around much of the country before he turned 20. His thinking broadened by his travels, Bharati railed against not just the British, but against various social inequities as well. A feminist ahead of his times, he ridiculed practices that did not allow women to participate more fully in matters of economics and politics. Bharati wrote not only for the older audience, but through his 'Songs for Toddlers', attempted to sensitise children at a very early age. Apart from his writings, he was also a vigourous supporter of various enterprises that thumbed their noses at the British and had to flee to Pondicherry, which was under French rule. Though he was later imprisoned for a short spell, Bharati was keen to stay out of jail to ensure that the various newspapers and magazines he published were uninterrupted, going so far as to swear off all political activities.

This statue of his, on the Marina, is quite close to where he spent the last few years of his life. He died before he turned 40, penniless and friendless - mainly because he was seen as having succumbed to British pressure!


sreesnake said...

"... penniless and friendless - mainly because he was seen as having succumbed to British pressure!"???? Where did that come from? Maybe this is a knee-jerk reaction from a Bharathy fan, but I would rather say that it was so because he DIDN'T succumb to British pressure!!During those times, ardent freedom fighters only had those of their ilk as friends. It was no secret that the 'agraharam' treated him as an 'untouchable' more for his principles (both against the British as well as social evils)which didn't sag a bit till his death.

Shantaram said...

>> Sree>> Once he agreed to stay out of politics, his sources of revenue thinned out, but he still continued to publish. But you are right, the 'friendless' part is more because he was ahead of his time on social issues.