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

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include invaluable and authoritative commentary on the poet’s life and analysis of his work, and they reproduce key historical documents that reflect the history of Bharati’s writings.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?