Good News!

Blog Editor Mira T. Sundara Rajan writes:

This week is a historic week in Bharati studies. For the first time, an authoritative, STANDARD EDITION of the poet’s works is available to his readers. S. Vijaya Bharati, the poet’s granddaughter and leading Bharati scholar, has just published Mahakavi Bharatiyar Kavithaigal: Volume 1 – Desiyam, with extensive notes and commentary on the poet’s life and works. It is now available for purchase directly from Amazon’s website. Here is the link for the book (from Amazon.com):

http://www.amazon.com/Mahakavi-Bharatiyar-Kavithaigal-Desiyam-Tamil/dp/1508658404/ref=sr_1_1/177-4324746-9482759?ie=UTF8&qid=1428266801&sr=8-1&keywords=mahakavi+bharati

The poet, himself, has been waiting for this day since 1921! Vijaya Bharati, and her husband P.K. Sundara Rajan, have been working towards the publication of this standard edition for the past ten years.

The STANDARD EDITION of Bharati’s poems includes:

Volume 1: Desiyam (National)

Volume 2: Deivam-Thathuvam (Devotional and Philosophical)

Volume 3: Kannan Pattu, Panchali Sabatham , Kuyil Pattu

Volume 4:   Bharati’s Autobiographical and Other Poems including Katchi (Vision)

Availability of Volumes 2, 3, and 4 is pending, and will be announced with blog updates in the coming days.

The description of the book follows (and a short version also appears on Amazon):

“His powerful words kindled passion and patriotism in the hearts of the Tamils.”

This book is a work of historic importance: the first volume in a new, four-volume STANDARD EDITION of Mahakavi C. Subramania Bharati’s poems. Edited by his granddaughter and leading Bharati scholar, S. Vijaya Bharati, this Standard Edition represents the first authoritative publication of Bharati’s works since the poet’s death in 1921. Bharati’s poems are published in comprehensive and error-free form, organized according to the various themes addressed in his writing, and presented to the reader as the poet meant for them to be read. The Editor has meticulously prepared these volumes in authentic and modern Tamil spelling that accurately conveys the rhythm of Bharati’s poetry, while remaining easy of access to the modern reader. These volumes include invaluable and authoritative commentary on the poet’s life and analysis of his work, and they reproduce key historical documents that reflect the history of Bharati’s writings. As such, they are suitable for all Bharati-lovers – from the general reader interested in Bharati’s poetry, to scholars in search of an authentic, reliable, and authoritative text.

C SUBRAMANIA BHARATI (1882-1921) was the most important writer and thinker of the twentieth century in the Tamil language. Now known as an Indian National Poet, Bharati holds the unique title of Mahakavi, the greatest of poets. His importance for the Tamil language and literature today can only be compared to that of Shakespeare in the English-speaking world. Bharati’s writings sparked a renaissance in Tamil literature. While he drew his inspiration from ancient sources of literature, in both the Tamil and Sanskrit traditions, his works were truly innovative, and, in form and expression, established a new modernity.

At the time of Bharati’s premature death in 1921, when the poet was 38 years old, much of his work remained unpublished. For the works that had been published, the poet himself had no opportunity to edit or publish them in a standard edition as he wished to do. His attempts to raise support for the publication of his works fell afoul of the British government of the day, and were largely unsuccessful.

After Bharati’s death, his family members made several attempts to publish his works. Notably, Chellamma Bharati, the poet’s wife, was keenly interested in bringing out her husband’s writings, and published two volumes of his work under the name Bharati Ashramam; but she was greatly hampered in her efforts by poverty and the difficulties faced by women, and widows, in her time. Later attempts were made by Bharati’s half-brother Viswanatha Iyer (Bharati Prachuralayam) and the Government of Madras. In 1954, the government “gave” the poet’s works to the people of India. Since that time, numerous commercial publishers have taken advantage of the opportunity to publish the works of this well-known and important writer. The result has been a proliferation of books filled with errors, many of which present works that were never actually written by Bharati at all.

Most of these publications violate the moral rights of the poet. The poet’s great granddaughter, Mira T. Sundara Rajan, is an expert on copyright matters, and she has emphasized the value of the author’s moral rights of “attribution” and “integrity” in protecting our literary heritage. She noted the injustices done in the handling of Bharati’s works in a scholarly article on this subject, published in 2001. The principle of respect for the poet’s moral rights has provided the fundamental basis on which the STANDARD EDITION has been prepared, and is now offered to the public.

The role of Bharati’s family in preserving this important national literature should be recognized. The poet established a family oral tradition surrounding his own work, teaching his poems to his wife and two daughters, who subsequently taught the poems to their own children. S. Vijaya Bharati is not only a Bharati scholar with some four decades of experience in research; she was also raised by the poet’s wife, Chellamma, and his daughter, Thangammal, giving her privileged access to information and knowledge that can help to establish the authenticity of the poems by tracing their origin to the poet, himself.

Highlights include:

  • The painstaking selection of poems offered, which eliminates the questionable selections in unauthorized versions, respecting the poet’s own rights to attribution, integrity, and the disclosure of his works.
  • A detailed list of unauthorized poems is provided to assist readers with tracing the publication history of Bharati’s works.
  • The poems are categorized and assembled in a new and useful system of organization.
  • Previous changes to titles, words, lines, or personal names (such as the elimination of Chellamma’s name from the so-called Kannamma love poems) have been restored to the poet’s original versions.
  • Footnotes provide additional information relating to the poems, the circumstances and events surrounding their composition, and their historic significance.

        The four Volumes of Bharati’s poetry, edited and published by the Mahakavi’s granddaughter, fill a vacuum in Bharati studies by providing the first-ever Standard Edition of C. Subramania Bharati’s Works. It is a primary work of its kind, and supercedes all publication of the poet’s works to-date.

 Volume 1: Desiyam (National Poems)

Bharati was an ardent Indian nationalist, an impassioned advocate of social reform, and a pioneer of the Freedom movement in early twentieth-century South India. He belonged to the extremist party of the Indian National Congress, and worked alongside the great leaders of the Freedom movement, including Tilak, Lajpat Roy, Bipin Chandra Paul, and Sri Aurobindo, from the North; and G. Subramania Iyer, V.O. Chidambaram Pillai, Subramania Siva, and Surendranath Arya in the South. Bharati’s contribution was unique – as a journalist and writer, his powerful words kindled passion and patriotism in the hearts of the Tamils. A true visionary, he anticipated freedom and independence for the three hundred million Indians of his day, at a time when the entire world was dominated by British Imperial force and a decline in British power seemed unthinkable. For Bharati, freedom meant freedom at every level – political, social, and personal – and for every individual, irrespective of caste, colour, gender, or religion. Almost a century later, has modern India fully caught up to his ideals?

Scenes from Bharati’s “Vision” (Kātchi)

 

1. Shakti

Bharati’s “Vision” is a picture gallery of the Universe. They are portraits of the cosmic objects (Jagat Chitram). The picture gallery consists of the two worlds, the Earth and the Heavens; they display the “Joys” of the Earth and the “Divinity” of the Heavens. They are vignettes of the Joys and Divinity. They are manifestations of the infinitesimal aspects of Shakti. Bharati realized that the powers of the Divine can be achieved by the human – the light (wisdom) of the Sun, the strength and knowledge (arivu) of Indra, the energy and vigor of the Agni, the life-force of Vayu (kārru), the truth, clarity and purity of Saraswati – all these powers can be captured in the human body and mind.

The Joys:

“The World is Sweet.The Firmament in this world, the Wind, the Fire, the Water, and the Earth are Sweet.

The Sun, the Moon and the Stars in the sky are all sweet.

The Rain, the Lightining, and the Thunder are Sweet.

The Sea, the Mountain, and the Forest are sweet.

The Rivers are Sweet.

The metal, the tree, the plant, the vine, the flower, the ripe and the

un-ripe fruits – are all sweet.

The Birds, the Moving objects, all the Animals and the aquatic organisms are also good.

Men are very sweet.

The Male is good, the Female is sweet, and the Child is joy.

Youth is sweet and the Old is good.

Life (uyir) is good and the Death is sweet.”[1]

The Divinity:       

Prakriti (Shakti) is the form of Nature; the world that we see is the body of Vishnu. The soul that permeates through the body is Vishnu. . . The Vedic seers directly perceived and worshipped Vishnu, Indra, Suryan, and Rudhra. As the World is the body of Vishnu, they worshipped the World. . . The Within and the Without are One (and the same).”

As the Rishis of the Vedic period discerned the objects of Nature as their inner self, they were not afraid to confront the forces of Nature:

“A violent storm hit the Earth; the Seers stood in front them. A thousand lightning struck (the Earth) like swords; the world shook; there was a deafening noise like the planets broke into pieces. The Rishis fearlessly chanted mantras. Isn’t Nature the body of the Rudhra?”[2]

Shakti is Infinite – limitless, endless.

It shows movement in immobility.”

“சக்தி அநந்தம் – எல்லையற்றது, முடிவற்றது.
அசையாமையில் அசைவு காட்டுவது .”[3]

“However you look at it, it is a wonderful entity which has no beginning or end. It is (capable) of breaking thousands of crores of planets with a little nose.It is so fine and minute as to paint colors, patterns, and designs in the petals of a small flower; it has the determination, strength and patience (neLNeh;ik) to wait for many, many thousands of years to originate a little flower.”

“எப்படிப் பார்த்தாலும் ஆரம்பமில்லாமலும், எப்படிப் பார்த்தாலும்
முடிவில்லாமலும் இருக்கும் அற்புத வஸ்து.
கோடானுகோடி அண்டங்களை ஒரு சிறு மூக்கினால் உடைப்பது .
ஒரு சிறிய மலரின் இதழிலே வர்ணம் தீட்டுவதற்குப் பல்லாயிர
வருடங்கள் இருந்து பழகும் நெடுநேர்மை கொண்டது ;
பெரிதும் சிறிதுமாகிய முதற்பொருள்; பராசக்தி.”[4]

The Vignettes:

“The snake charmer plays the flute.

We have heard that ‘sweet music is sorrowful’.

But, although the music of the snake charmer is sweet,

it is devoid of sorrow.

This music sounds like a scholar arguing (about something).

An eloquent speaker (nāvalan) building meaningful small words, one on top of the other.

What is this snake charmer arguing about?

“Thāna-thanda thāna-thanda thā – thana

Thāna -thandana thāna -thandana thā –

Than-danathana than-danathana thā”

He plays like this – changing it in many different ways – in winding, continuous spirals.

What is the meaning of this?

A child began to explain the meaning as follows:

‘I adorned Kali with flowers

And, a donkey has come to eat it.’

I built this body for Parashakti.

And, the disease, a consequence of sin (pāvam) has come to eat it.

I surrendered (under the feet of) Parashakti.

The disease has disappeared.

Parashakti has begun to exist in my heart as the form of light.

Hail to Her! (vāzhga!)” [5]

“The snake charmer plays the flute.

Did the music originate from the flute? Did it originate from the holes (of he flute)?

Did it initiate from the breath of the snake charmer?

It originated from his heart. It exited through the flute.

The heart doesn’t sound by itself. The flute doesn’t create music.

The heart doesn’t adhere to the flute.

The heart adheres to the breath. The breath adheres to the flute.

The flute sings.

This is Shakti’s Play (Lila).

She sings in the heart. That sounds through the holes of the flute.

Attaching the un-related objects and creating music in it – is Shakti.

The begging children make a loud cry for food.

Who tuned the flute of the snake charmer and the voice of the begging children into harmony (sruti)? – Shakti.

A man asking for jarigai (gold thread woven at the border of old silk saris) shouting and passing by, in the same sruti.

Ah! I found the (underlying) meaning (of all this)!

The same Shakti plays in the life-breadth of the snake charmer, begging children, and the Jarigai man.

 

The instrument(s) are many. The musician is one.

The forms are many. The Shakti is one.

Hail to Her!  (vāzhga!)” [6]

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Bharati — Katchi: Branch 1 –“Joy”

[2] Bharati: The Poetry of the Vedic Rishis – Maruthu (The Storm) — Epilogue

[3] Katchi (Vision): 2. Shakti (1)

[4] Bharati: Articles: Philosophy — Navarathri

[5] Katchi (Vision): 2. Shakti (6)

[6] Katchi (Vision): 2. Shakti (7)

 

Bharati – Gnāna Guru

A Prayer on His Birth Anniversary (December 11, 1882)

“An offering to Grace

A Temple of Love

The Sun that dispels the darkness in my heart

Rain to the fields of our great country

Wealth to the destitute who know not how to acquire wealth

Fire to base slavery”

– Bharati’s Poems: Nivedita Devi

I fall at your feet on your birth anniversary

– To attain Freedom from the tangles in the forest of my heart,

I pray that you show me the Light of knowledge and wisdom.

S. Vijaya Bharati

Nivedita

 

 

The Pope’s “Culture of Inclusion”: What does it have to do with Bharati?


“May the ‎Transcendent Light illumine your hearts, homes and communities, and may all ‎your celebrations deepen the sense of belonging to one another in your families ‎and neighborhoods, and so further harmony and happiness, peace and ‎prosperity.‎” Thus did the Pope bless the people of India when they celebrated “Deepavali” a short time ago, on 23rd October, 2014.

What a great thing to say! And, this, we heard from the great spiritual leader of Christianity!

The world has changed a great deal since Bharati’s times. And yet, in these hundred or more years, the world has not quite changed. While certain positive changes have occurred due to globalization, some negative consequences have also come into existence, bringing challenges to the situation of the world. In fact, the “old” problems – in spite of the persistent efforts of great religious leaders and social reformers – have been accentuated, and have taken on various forms on an enormous scale, wreaking havoc and causing disharmony.

At this time, it is necessary that these crucial social themes and messages be restated, so that the goal of a just and peaceful society can be achieved. Globalization has not achieved what should be its primary objective – that of uniting people – it has, rather, acted negatively, to induce widespread “materialism” and “consumerism” which in turn, have had a negative impact on humanity. As a result, “self-absorption,” the hunger for power, and, in general, an “indifferent” attitude towards other human beings have developed in societies around the world. What the great Catholic leader has said is absolutely true: this “indifference makes us slowly inured to the suffering of others and closed in on ourselves.”

Pope Francis created a new “theme” for the Deepavali day, and he called it, “a culture of inclusion.” “Inclusion” – meaning, to include others in your circle – other races,  religions, nationalities,  classes, and people of different economic and educational levels – not to exclude or alienate them. Creating a culture of inclusion in the global environment is a grand scheme, and the idea holds great importance.

On the other hand, the hoped-for results might or might not happen. Why not? There is dissatisfaction, greed, hatred, jealousy, and inequality – there are religious, caste, class, racial, and other differences – in the world, in almost all sectors of societies, leading to violence and cruelty all over the world.

The problems are severe, and have already started affecting the roots of  social structures; perhaps, there is clearly much more to do. A fundamental change of attitude among people everywhere will have to occur. Somebody will have to take charge of cleansing the debris, building new paths, and re-establishing our cherished values – the values that lead us towards these desired goals.

Early in the 8th century, Adi Shankaracharya organized Hinduism to include six religions which believed in the principles established by the Vedas. The disparities between these religions were eliminated and a clear goal was achieved. This was, perhaps, an essential step in the history of Hinduism, in order to establish and further develop a peaceful social environment. Shankara’s philosophy was Advaita – that, all beings are one and the same, and in unity with God – therefore, they are all equal. For Hinduism,  Advaita was a leading light. It set everything right in the human mind, and clarified all doubts concerning existence and the existence of God.

Bharati was a firm believer in Advaita philosophy. All his poetry was based on this principle. The culmination of this philosophical approach is the realization of oneself. As Bharati writes, “I am God”.

Bharati “included” all men and women of the world within one circle: on a global level  the patriots of India who suffered ill-treatment under the British rule, the women who drudged in the cane fields of Fiji, the Russians who suffered the cruelty of the Czar, the Belgians who confronted the consequences of World War I; he talked about supporting the freedom of women in China, he joined with Mazzini, the Italian patriot, in his vow to fulfil “the Order of God” in his country – in general, he was in fellowship with the human beings who suffered “exclusion,” poverty, and sickness.

His “inclusion” further extended to birds and inanimate objects:

Kakkai

 

 

 

 

“The Crow and the Sparrow are of our caste

The Sea and the Mountain are of our crowd

Whichever way we look, there is none other than ourselves

Looking again and again, oh dance of joy!”

— Poetry: Philosophy– “Jaya Berigai

Ella Uyir

 

 

 

“ ‘I exist in all lives’, said Kanna peruman (Krishna).” On the basis of this Truth,

Mannar

 

 

 

 

 

“All belong to one Class, one Race. We are all people of India, the Kings (rulers) of this country,” said Bharati to the Indians who were then enslaved under British rule. He declared, “if one person goes without food, we will destroy the whole world”.

—  Poetry – Nationalism: “Bharata Samudayam

Bharati, while fighting for India’s freedom from British rule, simultaneously worked towards  eradicating social problems such as religious and caste differences, superstitions, inequality between men and women, ignorance, and poverty.

Bharati’s Drum (Murasu) beats loud to celebrate success when the negative elements of Indian society were destroyed:

Murasu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

—  Poetry – Nationalism: “Murasu

 

“They are fools who cultivate the flames of enmity

Insisting on the existence of several Gods

God is One, Which exists in all beings.”

“There should be no cruelties of caste . . .

The world will flourish only by love.”

“God blessed woman with wisdom

A few fools on earth destroyed their intellect.”

 

Bharati’s main theme was to free women who suffered inequality at the hands of men. In his times, women had no access to education, no freedom of speech or movement; they lived in darkness in a corner of the house, they followed and adhered to the qualities of “fear” (acham) and “shame” (naanam), which “foolish” men established as virtues for women.

Penn

 

 

 

 

 

– Poetry – Nationalism: “Pudumai Penn

 

Bharati’s “New Woman” (Pudumai Penn) declared that women would learn many new sciences (sastras); they would destroy all of the old rules and foolish ties that controlled them; they would travel all over the world and bring all that is new of their learning to India, and work to make their country great.

 

Let the Murasu beat, “all are equal” . . .  “all are one.”

Let the Murasu beat “destroy all Classes” . . .

Let the Murasu beat “Love” . . .

— Poetry  Nationalism: Murasu

“Let there be Light!” – said God.

“Tatsa vitur varenyam” – chanted the Veda mantra (Gayatri)

Gayatri

 

 

 

“Let us discern the Light of the Deva of red rays (The Sun)

Let him illuminate and guide our intellect”

— Translation in Tamil by Bharati of the Gayatri mantra

                                                                       (Panchali Sabatham: Canto 1, poem 153)

“May the ‎Transcendent Light illumine your hearts .. .” said the spiritual leader of Christianity.

Fire

 

 

 

— Poetry – Philosophy: “Agni Sthomam

 

“Agni, grows towards the sky to see Usha, the Dawn of wisdom.”

— Bharati: The poetry of the Vedic Rishis: interpretation of Agni

 

Mahatma and the Mahakavi

On this day, October the 2nd, we celebrate the birth anniversary of the Mahatma. This brings to us the memory of our past – the struggle we went through, the miseries we tolerated – for more than a century under British rule. The memory is impossible to bear when we think of the enormous suffering of our leaders – physically, mentally and morally – individuals who sacrificed their lives to set us free from slavery and ill- treatment. Today, we can perhaps console ourselves with the thought that their struggle and sacrifice were worth it, as it succeeded in opening up a new future for the present and future generations, enriching our lives and making India one among the Nations of the world. Was it not the same goal that our ancestors had striven for and accomplished in our glorious past?

In their human characteristics, the Mahatma and the Mahakavi were astonishingly similar. Determination and perseverance in the pursuit of accomplishing their goals – imagination, creativity, and clarity of mind – truth and loving-kindness – were the striking qualities of these two extra-ordinary personalities. As true patriots, their Vision of the country, their ability to foresee its future, and their optimistic view of human life were alike. Both visualized India as the Mother Shakti and Her people as the children of God. Both were devout Hindus and whose faith in God was unshakeable. Their perception of creation, life, and humanity were based on the Advaitic principles, that all beings are the forms of God and, therefore, equal. Their treatment of Harijans and their rejection of caste prejudice were based on this Advaitic ideal.

Neither Bharati the Mahakavi, one of the greatest poets in the world, nor Gandhi the Mahatma, the great soul and peerless leader, was awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize.

What could be the reasons for this oversight? Perhaps in those days, Bharati as a Tamil poet, was unrecognized by the world; perhaps the world did not know either the language of his poetry or India’s greatness at the time that she was still a subject nation. With few exceptions, Bharati’s poems were not translated into English or other European languages.

On the other hand, a poet like Bharati, Rabindranath Tagore, the poet of Bengal, did gain the world’s recognition and was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in the year 1913. Tagore was well-known, not only in India, but also abroad. He had written a substantial volume of poetry, translated into English with the help of a powerful friend, W.B. Yeats. He traveled across continents on lecture tours, and, in fact, Bharati wrote about, and celebrated, Tagore’s remarkable trip to Japan.

Tagore lived a long life of 80 years; Bharati died when he was 39. Tagore was wealthy; Bharati lived in poverty for most of his life. While Bharati was totally involved in the Indian National Movement and lived all his life fighting for India’s freedom, Tagore, although he participated in the National Struggle, was largely involved in writing and traveling around the world, spreading India’s great culture.

The Mahatma had been nominated for the Nobel prize several times. In 1948, following his death, the Nobel Committee declined the award to the Mahatma on the ground that “there was no suitable living candidate that year.” Later, when the Committee awarded the Peace Prize in 1989 to the Dalai Lama, the members of the Committee expressed their regret for the omission of the Mahatma, and the Chairman said that the award was “in part a tribute to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi.”

Bharati and the Mahatma met once; it was an exceptional and memorable incident. Gandhiji visited Chennai and stayed in Rajaji’s house to discuss the Rowlett Committee’s Report. The Mahatma thought that the Report was not acceptable to any human being who had any self-respect. He wanted to take action against the Report, and sought to organise a nation-wide satyagraha (passive resistance) to oppose it.

The Meeting of the two is described by Va. Ra., (a disciple of Sri Aurobindo and Bharati) who was present when it happened:

[The] Mahatma was surrounded by a group of people . . . In this group, the elite personalities of Madras were present, such as Adi Narayana Chettiyar, Rangasamy Iyengar, Satyamurti, Rajaji, and Va. Ramasamy Iyengar.

Bharati came to Rajaji’s house to see the Mahatma. As soon as he entered, he went straight to Gandhiji where he was conducting the meeting. He asked him if he would be able to preside over a meeting at the Marina beach, where he was giving a lecture. Gandhiji turned around and consulted with his secretary Mahadev Desai as to the details of his program for that evening. It turned out that he was not free that evening, and he asked Bharati if he could postpone the meeting for another day. Bharati said that this would not be possible. He then “blessed” Gandhiji’s new Movement, and left the group.

Mahatma asked the group who the man was, and Rajaji answered, “He is a Tamil national poet.” Gandhiji remarked, “You should take good care of this man.”

Obviously, upon Bharati’s appearance, and witnessing his majestic behaviour, the Mahatma was immediately able to recognize the value of the Mahakavi and he was clearly concerned that it was important that he should be “taken care of.”

Why was Bharati not properly introduced to the Mahatma? The incident happened so quickly, and perhaps, there was not enough time. There was no other reason why Bharati should not have been introduced to the National leader.

For, Bharati was more than qualified to meet the Mahatma. First of all, he was a true Nationalist. He had attended the nationally organized Congress meetings in the North. All his life, he was a journalist and the editor of nationalist newspapers and magazines. Indeed, he was the first person to introduce “nationalism” to the people of Tamil Nadu. He had worked hard towards educating the people of the Tamil Land about the greatness of their own country and its age-long culture. He had taught them the value of freedom, and how it was important to live a life of dignity as an equal with all other human beings.

Why, then, was Bharati not included in the efforts of the Mahatma towards achieving their great, and shared, goal?

I am not seeking to awaken the old grievances at this time, after so many years. But, I think that Bharati’s intelligence and acuity in making political decisions could have helped the Mahatma, perhaps a great deal, if the “important” people would have given him the opportunity to meet the great leader.

The Mahatma’s insight, both spiritual and political, was true, in that Bharati was not exactly well taken care of in those days. It was not that people of his times did not recognize his value. On the contrary, India’s first Governor General Sri. C. Rajagopalachari was his friend; he had visited him at his house a couple of times, and enjoyed Bharati and Chellamma’s hospitality. He had read Bharati’s poetry, and commented on the man and his work in newspapers. Co-nationalists such as Sri Aurobindo, the great spiritualist and writer – V.V. Chidambaram Pillai, the Kappalottiya Tamizhan who launched a Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company against the British – G. Subramania Iyer, the founder and editor of the “Hindu” in Tamilnadu – V. Krishnasamy Iyer, a staunch Nationalist and leader of the “Moderate” party in Tamilnadu (Bharati belonged to the “extremist” party), and other patriots such as Subramania Siva, Surendranath Arya – all these individuals sought Bharati’s opinions and ideas on national matters. A few of the great leaders of the North, including his political Guru Bal Gangadhar Tilak – respected him. As a Nationalist and a poet, the Tamil-speaking public respected him enormously and loved his poetry and writings.

But, in spite of this wide recognition – why was he not in the front row along with the Mahatma and his circle?

As two Nationalists working towards one goal, there may have been a few natural differences between them in their approaches to unity and their methods of fighting the British. Indeed, Bharati was not always positive about the Mahatma’s methods in the Struggle. Some of the issues – such as voluntary submission, or the sacrifice of human lives at gunpoint and in the face of violence were difficult for him to accept. I am sure, that these methods were also difficult to accept for the Mahatma. But, in any case, these incidents happened in the history of the Freedom Movement. As a humanitarian, Bharati was anxious to avoid the loss of innocent lives. And Bharati examined and critiqued certain ideas of the Mahatma, including his approach to social issues such as widow re-marriage – Bharati elaborates on this in his own writing, providing statistical data to support his points.

At the same time, Bharati realized that, when a large scale “non-cooperation” movement is involved, mistakes can occur. As a result, the loss of human life was a possibility. Bharati was clear in his mind that Mahatma’s political scheme of satyagraha was an effective tool to use in this struggle; indeed, he came to believe that this was the only method that could be successful for the achievement of freedom for India. Applying this method carefully, it might be possible to protect human life and still be successful.

Bharati, sings of the glory of the Mahatma, who came to revive the down- trodden people of India who suffered under British rule. In his poem saluting the Mahatma, Mahatma Gandhi Panchagam (5 stanzas), Bharati compares him with the historical heroes of the Hindu scriptures: from the Ramayana War, Hanuman, who brought a medicinal herb from the Sanjivi mountains to alleviate the effects of the nagapasa and save the life of Lakshmana, the brother of Rama; and in the Bhagavatam, Krishna, who shielded the lives of people and cattle with the Govardhan giri (mountain), from lightning and thunder caused by the fury of Indra.

Bharati pays homage to Gandhi for creating a powerful strategy which was New and Simple, to treat the debilitating and cruel “disease” of foreign rule. He praises the Mahatma for introducing the basic principles of Advaita – the revelations of the Hindu thought that all beings are embodiments of God and, therefore, equal – into politics, which is filled with war, killing, and cruelty.

Bharati quotes Tagore in his poem Bharata Mata Navaratna Malai, “The Mahatma is the leader of the men of the world and he is the embodiment of dharma.”

He assured the people of India that they should follow the path shown by the Mahatma and be successful. He declared freedom and invited people to celebrate the victory: “Let us blow the conch to celebrate our success!”

 

 

Immortality (Sept. 11, 1921)

Just before his death, Bharati made a trip to Karungalpalayam near Erode. He had been invited to speak at the anniversary celebrations of the local library. The topic that he chose to address was a curious one: the possibilities of eternal life while living in this body. Following his trip, he wrote an article in Swadesamitran on August 4, 1921, describing his visit and transcribing parts of his speech on conquering death and gaining eternal life.

Death came to him within a month. Perhaps, being a great soul himself, he was unconsciously aware of what was going to happen to him. Perhaps he wanted to let the world know of his findings on the theory of immortality, and his new definition of the word.

The word “Immortal” means “living for ever (not mortal),” “divine,” “worthy of fame for all time,” “a person of enduring fame,” – says the dictionary. Bharati used such words as “Devan,”“Amaran,” “Amaranilai” to encompass a whole new concept, and one of unfathomable depth. It comprehends the timelessness and continuity of creation – the continuity of time which has neither beginning nor end – is essentially unchanging – and eternal in the widest sense of the word. It is more than what the dictionary specifies as eternal – that a person’s name and fame last forever.

Nor is Bharati’s concept in the immortality of Hindu thought, which is clearly explained in the Bhagavad Gita as the “eternal” existence of the soul (atman). In “Sankya Yoga,” Bhagvan says to Arjuna:

Atma lives for ever; it is indestructible; it is immeasurable. Even so, they say that its ‘forms’ have an ending.”(Ch. 2; slokam 18)

“It is not born, nor does it die at any time. . . when the body dies, it is not killed.”  (Ch. 2; slokam 20)      

“Like discarding old clothes and wearing new clothes, the atma discards worn-out bodies and takes new ‘forms.’ ” (Ch. 2; slokam 22)

But Bharati, in his Introduction to Bhagavad Gita, takes Sri Krishna’s advice, “the brave hero who treats joy and sorrow equally does not deserve to die,” (Ch. 2; slokam 15) and explains that the essence of the Gita is, “eternal life – to live eternally in the body like Markandeya.”

He further insists: “Immortality; this is the secret of the Vedas.”

Bharati was fascinated by the concept that the limitlessness of “time,” which is infinite, could be captured in the physical body of the human being. He thought it was possible to accomplish that possibility in human life. His in-depth studies of the Vedas and other religious scriptures – his associations with the Siddhas in Pondicherry – and the findings of the great scientist Jagdish Chandra Bose – made him believe in this theory, and he dedicated his life to investigating the possibilities of living forever in the physical body. These concerns preoccupied him throughout his life.

One day, Bharati heard a beggar walking in the street and singing a song:

“The breath that stays regular and constant in sleep, may turn its course and never come back”

Bharati’s immediate reaction was one of intense concern:

“If the body is so unreliable as this, how can anyone begin anything great in one’s life and complete it in one’s life-time? We must accomplish a great deal in life: we need to acquire knowledge – we need strength of heart – we need education, fame, and wealth. . . we need to live a happy life. We have great desires in our hearts. To fulfill them, we need to establish a strong foundation and build them over a period of time. . . But, we need to wait for the ripeness of time to do this. If the next minute is uncertain, what can we possibly achieve?” (Bharati’s Essay: “Amirdham Theduthal”)

In my mind, considering myself a relatively ignorant person, not knowing anything much about matters related to spirituality, the following question arises: Did my grandfather not know about the realities of life? Was he not aware of the inevitability of death? How could he have the idea of conquering death and becoming immortal in the body? Especially when he had seen his mother die when he was five, and his father die when he was fifteen, witnessed these deaths with his own eyes. He knew that our ancestors had lived and died, that their bodies were buried, that their ashes were dispersed throughout the soil. He knew that human history had proved that all living beings, human and non-human, were mortals. In Hindu thought, there is supposed to be a three-fold process of creation (beginning), protection (existence), and destruction (the end) of the world itself; three “eras” occupied a specific, pre-determined time frame, and all existed. An ending of all creation would inevitably happen at the end of kali yuga – on schedule.

Then, how could Bharati sing,

“Oh, Yama, I consider you a slender blade of grass, just come close to my foot, I will push you a little”?(Bharati’s Poem: “Kalanukku uraitthal)

Yet Bharati, in his essay, “There is No Death for Man” (Manidarukku Maranamillai), notes that his convictions were totally agreed upon and approved by the scholars in the meeting at Karungalpalayam.

“I only know one thing . . . that is, men can live eternally without encountering death. . . I proved this theory with supporting evidence: the Vedas and Puranas, religious scriptures, European scientific findings, and from the conclusions of the great scientist Jagdish Chandra Bose.” (Bharati’s Essay: “Manidarukku Maranamillai,”

Of course, what gave him the conviction to say this, were the stories of Markandeya, Prahlada and the helpless elephant who was caught by the crocodile. And he had read the experiences of the Vedic rishis, Siddhas in Pondicherry, who were believed to be living deathlessly in forests, mountains and caves, especially Kullachamy, who showed him immortality (amara thanmai); and the new findings of the scientist Jagdish Chandra Bose.

Bharati raised an interesting question:

“It is possible to control the body; is it possible to control life (uyir)?”

He also provided an answer:

“Control the body; you could control life.

Control life; you could control the mind.

Control mind; you could control Shakti.”

He explained this further with an example:

“There is a cotton pillow in front of me.

It has got a shape – a standard ‘form’ (niyamam).

Shakti is keeping it in its form, protecting it from behind – without destruction.

The same pillow can be protected as long as the human race exists.

If the pillow is renewed every now and then, Shakti will remain in the

shape of the pillow.

If it is not renewed, its shape will change.

A dirty, torn, old pillow – remove the cotton from inside and put it in a new case; throw away the old case.

Now, the “form” is destroyed.

If the form is protected, Shakti will be living in the form.” [Bharati: Katchi, 2. Shakti (5)]

Bharati emphasizes here the importance of maintaining the body by which controlling the mind and capturing the soul (atma) in the body is possible. The temple of Shakti, the body – is destroyed only when it is not protected from the clasps of demons (asuras : ignorance, fear, sorrow, sickness, doubts, worries, ego etc).

In Bharati’s drama Viduthalai – the devas assemble together and discuss the problems of the mankind, and try to resolve them; the Brahma had ordained that this be done; the devastating situation on earth must be changed and the strings that tie the humanity be untangled.

The drama takes place in the Heavens, and the time of action is the end of kali yuga, and the characters are Indra, Vayu, Agni, Light (the Sun) and a few other powers.

The devas are determined to destroy demons and “free” humanity from their suffering. They decide: “let us find someone on earth and assign this task to him; we will give him our powers and he will deliver the humanity from danger and destruction.”

The divine powers found the “deserving” person named Vasupati on earth, in the land of Bharat, in the Pandya kingdom and was born in the Brahmin class, which was void of dharmas.

Vayu gave him “life” (uyir);

Indra gave him strength in mind;

The Sun gave him light in his intelligence. (Bharati: Katchi, 6. Viduthali)

The man was, Bharati!

He writes in his Journal of Thoughts, the “mantras on the plane of Self”:

“I am God, I am God, I am God. I am Immortal. The hours may pass, the days may roll, the seasons change, and the years die away, but I change not. I am firm, fixed, ever alive, ever real, ever happy. I do believe in all this, for I know all this to be true. I know myself to be Immortal, because I am God.”

“I shall not die. I have no Death. No, not even this body shall know death. How can my body die, when it knows no illness? How can it die, when it is ever recuperated, ever refreshed, ever quickened by the deathless Me? How can it die, when I am God? Do the Gods die? They do not.”

“And I am a Sada-Nishta (a mystic). Hence I cannot conceive of Death. I can only think of an endless joy, the joy of existence. And this joy is mine for ever and ever.” (Bharati’s English Writings: “Bharati’s Journal, Thoughts”)

 

 

The Legacy Continues . . .

It was 1920. Just about a year and a half earlier, Bharati had been released from the Cuddalore jail. He had been living in Pondicherry, a French territory, for 10 years or so – a life of seclusion and imprisonment – where all his efforts at running a magazine called “India,” in which he promoted his ideas of India’s freedom and sought to educate the British Government and public about India’s needs – were curtailed.

Longing for freedom, he suffered mental agony in the last years of his life in Pondicherry. He knew that, if he did return to British territory, he would be arrested and put in jail. But his agony finally reached a point when Bharati, in disregard of the probable consequences, simply decided that he had to leave Pondicherry and move back to British India.

And indeed, immediately upon his re-entry into British territory, Bharati was caught and imprisoned. This was how the poet of Freedom ended up in Cuddalore jail.

After twenty days, with the help of his friends, Bharati was released; he had signed an agreement with  the British that “in the future, he would not publish any of his works, without showing them to the Police Deputy Inspector General.”

Upon his release, Bharati went to Kadayam, the birthplace of his wife Chellamma. It was a beautiful place that well suited his poetic nature. But, as soon as he arrived there, he realized how much he had to do: first of all, his first duty was to work towards the freedom of India. And yet, his hands were tied; he had been compelled to sign that absurd contract with the British authorities. How was he going to accomplish his goal? Not only there was no possibility of publishing anything through the newspapers or journals, but he was also living in a small village which was far away from the activities of the nation. Most importantly, he had no means of publishing the works which he had written over the past decade in Pondicherry.

Bharati became restless: the creative products of those ten years of labour– the gems of his writings – were sitting in a trunk; they were going to waste without reaching the public. Bharati sorted out all of his works into 40 parts, and he thought that the solution might be to publish them in the form of small books. But, how could he publish them without money? He decided to write a letter to his friends, seeking their support in this important endeavour.

On June 28, 1920, almost exactly 94 years ago, Bharati sent a letter in the form of a circular to all his friends. It was written in English, and read as follows:

“All my manuscripts – the accumulated labour of my 12 years’ exile – have arrived here from Pondicherry. They are to be divided into 40 separate books; of each book I print 10,000 copies for the first edition. This work will cost me an initial outlay of Rs. 20,000. And, within one year, or at the most, two years from the date of publication, I shall certainly be able to get a net profit of a lac and a half rupees.

“Most of the works which I have now selected for publication are prose-stories, sensational and, at the same time, classical: very easy, lucid, clear, luminous and all but too popular in style and diction and, at the same time, chaste, pure, correct, epic and time-defying. The fact and (2) the ever-growing increase of Tamil-reading men, women and children in the Tamil land and the Tamil world overseas; (3) the historic necessity of my works for the uplift of the Tamil land which, again, is a sheer necessity of the inevitable, imminent and Heaven-ordained Revival of the East; (4) the novel and American-like improvements which I propose to make in the printing, binding and get-up of my editions-which, aided by the beautiful and suitable pictures illustrating the interesting events occurring in the stories, will make them a tremendous attraction to our public and such a wondrous surprise; (5) the comparatively low prices of my books; for I am going to sell my prose-works uniformly at eight annas a copy and my poems at, so far as possible, four annas a copy; and (6) my high reputation and unrivalled popularity in the Tamil-reading world due to my past publications – all these are bound, most evidently, to make my sales a prodigious success.

“Please send whatever you can, send as loan towards the printing expenses. I expect from you at least Rs. 100. Kindly induce at least twenty more of your friends to lend me similar and much larger sums, if possible.

“I shall give stamped ‘Pro’ notes for the sums I receive from you and your friends, paying the generous interest of 2% per month, in view of my large profits. Expecting very eagerly, your kind reply and scores of money orders from your side and praying to God to grant you a long and joyous life.

“I remain,

“Yours faithfully,

“C. Subramania Bharati”

A wise business planning indeed, well thought through from start to end; an honest, intelligent way to get his work done.

And yet, no one replied!

As my daughter Mira Sundara Rajan, reiterates in her article about her great-grandfather’s letter:

“. . . In this letter, Bharati argues that the publication of his works would respond to ‘the historic necessity … for the uplift of the Tamil land which … is a sheer necessity of the inevitable, imminent and Heaven-ordained Revival of the East.’ . . . He expected his “high reputation and unrivalled popularity in the Tamil-reading world “to generate a large volume of sales.”

Mira further explains what happened to Bharati’s project of publishing his books:

“Unfortunately, Bharati’s efforts to publish a definitive edition of his works did not bear fruit during his lifetime. After his death, the project was taken up by his widow, Chellamma. Chellamma published notices to the public in several Tamil magazines. In these notices, she stated that she was going to establish a printing press to publish Bharati’s works, and she sought the help of the public in her undertaking.

“Chellamma, with the help of her brother, established a publishing company called Bharati Ashramam in Madras. She advised the public that she intended to publish twelve books. The first volume appeared in January of 1922, and included ninety “National Poems,” patriotic songs in the cause of Indian independence and cultural revival. Chellamma wrote a preface to this volume. She expressed her ultimate intention to publish all of Bharati’s works, and to bequeath these publications to the people of Tamil Nadu as public property upon her death. Bharati Ashramam brought out five volumes. However, Chellamma’s personal commitments prevented her from fully realizing her goal of bringing out a complete edition of her husband’s works.

“In 1924, another publishing company, Bharati Prachuralayam, was formed by Bharati’s brother, C Viswanathan, his son-in-law, and one of his friends. While Chellamma retained the copyright in Bharati’s works, Bharati Prachuralayam went on to publish almost all of his writings. In 1931, the company purchased Bharati’s copyright from Chellamma for what can only be called the ‘astoundingly small sum’ of four thousand rupees.

“When two of the partners in the Bharati Prachuralayam eventually withdrew from the company, the copyright in Bharati’s works became the property of his brother. In 1949, the copyright was purchased from Viswanathan by the government of Madras. Interestingly, the government also paid Chellamma and Bharati’s two daughters five thousand rupees each at this time.

“The government began to publish Bharati’s works in 1950. It established a publishing committee to oversee publication. The committee was composed of the members of Bharati Prachuralayam, as well as two leading post-Bharati poets. This committee attempted to establish definitive texts based on Bharati’s manuscripts and earlier published versions of his works. Any doubts as to content were primarily resolved by incorporating suitable additions at the discretion of the most literary members of the committee.

“The copyright in Bharati’s works was made public by the government of Tamil Nadu state in 1954. From this time onwards, anyone in India was free to undertake publication of Bharati’s works. Members of the public were to enjoy complete freedom to publish. Subsequent publishers of Bharati would not be required to pay a copyright fee, or to submit their editions to the government or any other agency for approval.

THE CURRENT SITUATION

“Over the past seventy-five years, numerous editions of Bharati’s poetry have appeared. His works have been translated extensively, and both his works and his own personality have been featured in a number of films. However, the expansion of public access to Bharati’s works has been matched by a decline in the quality of publication, from both technical and critical points of view. . . .

“The problems that have accumulated over the years in the publication of Bharati’s works include careless printing that incorporates both typographical and interpretative errors into the final texts; false attribution of the works of other poets to Bharati; inaccurate and inappropriate translations; misleading representations of the poet’s personality; and erroneous statements about his life and works. A simple example is the routine misspelling of Bharati’s name – strange when we consider that Bharati was quite particular about the way his name was written in Latin letters. . .”

This situation actually led Mira to become interested in authors’ rights for the first time. As a legal scholar, deeply disturbed by what has happened, she asks:

“How can such problems be resolved legally? Copyright law should provide a framework for regulating both the dissemination of literature and the integrity of literary works. The pursuit of one goal at the expense of the other – in this case, widespread dissemination and minimal concern about integrity – can only result in the impoverishment of cultural heritage as a whole.”

After 93 years, I now find myself in a situation that is very similar to my grandfather’s. While I am proud of my legacy, I am also concerned that this cultural heritage in the form of literary treasures is not being protected as it should be – not by myself, nor by the government or anyone else. But our intention is to do so. Just as we take steps to protect our monumental treasures, such as the Taj Mahal, the Ellora  caves or the Mahabalipuram temples – we should undoubtedly seek to protect and preserve Bharati-literature, and, if we possibly can, to maintain this literary inheritance without allowing deterioration of any kind.

The legacy – the name, the relationship, the property itself which became public in due course – continues. What my grandfather handed down to me – and, of course, to the world – is precious; it is extraordinary,  special – a gift that God has ordained that I, a little person, as his granddaughter should be given!

When I inherited my legacy, I also inherited a few of his own problems – maybe of a different kind, yet similar. Just as Bharati had problems in publishing his Works, for certain reasons, I also encountered problems in the publishing industry, for certain other reasons!

My grandfather had to face the British Empire. And, as a result, he had to face poverty and oppression throughout his life.

In my grandmother’s case, the poverty continued . . . After the demise of her young husband, a still  younger woman of thirty two, with the responsibility of a daughter who had to be married – living in a village which was oppressive – Chellamma was left alone to live her life without any concrete help. She had no education, and no experience in the publishing industry. It was amazing that she had a great and profound understanding of Bharati’s poetry, and nothing short of a miracle that she managed to publish some part of Bharati’s editions successfully after his death!

In the second generation came Bharati’s daughters. His elder daughter, Thangammal, herself became a writer, and published, among other works, a number of articles and books where she wrote about her father and her experiences with him. She spoke to the Tamil public, in India, and attracted huge crowds who came to listen to her in Malaysia and Singapore; his younger daughter Sakuntala, wrote a memoir on her father and spoke to tamil audiences as well.

In the third generation, his granddaughter, myself, undertook, for the first time, scholarly research on his Works, wrote a number of books on his life and poetry, taught Tamil and Bharati literature in various universities around the world, and travelled to many countries to speak about Bharati, his life and literature, to large audiences.

In the fourth generation, a study of Bharati’s English Writings has been undertaken by his great-granddaughter, my daughter, Mira Sundara Rajan; this book (co-edited by myself) is waiting to be published at the desk of an eminent publisher; and a book of translation of Bharati’s poems into English is on her agenda. Mira has been speaking to international audiences about her great-grandfather for the past decade or so.

Now, my goal is to produce STANDARD, DEFINITIVE editions of Bharati’s works. All of Bharati’s poetry is divided into 4 volumes, and my goal, based on my grandfather’s own plan, is to produce:

–       a high quality work that will be the basis for future publications to conform to,

–       publications that will show Bharati’s Works as true “classics,”

–       publications that would be totally error-free, authentic, authoritative,

–       editions that are based on recognized principles of the author’s moral rights, and,

–       books that are reasonably priced, so that the general public will be able to have easy access  to     Bharati-literature.

In the past ten years or so, as far as publishing goes, I encountered great difficulty in accomplishing these goals. There was no cooperation whatsoever from the publishing industry in India. The legacy continued – from my grandfather to myself – in trying to publish his Writings, the cultural and literary treasure of India, challenges were everywhere.

But now, the time has come!

With the advent of modern technology, I am almost ready to publish the four volumes of Bharati’s poetry: 1. Desiyam, 2. Deivam-Thathuvam, 3. Kannan Pattu, Panchali Sabatham, Kuyil Pattu, 4. Bharati’s Autobiographical and other poems of Love, Nature, Vazhtthu and Katchi – all at the same time, followed by his prose-works. With the click of a button, the public can have access to these books via the most modern providers of literature online.

I will let you know as soon as these books are ready to order. There have been innumerable inquiries on my blog as to the availability of Bharati’s works… for which I am delighted to offer this reply, which I could not offer before. I firmly believe that the intervention of my grandfather, and his own determination to see his Works published, after nearly a century, will now make the inevitable possible, and a wonderful reality!

S. Vijaya Bharati

 

 

 

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