Bharati Arubattaru is an autobiographical poem, which consists of 66 stanzas about Bharati’s life in Pondicherry. When the British police closed his magazine India in Chennai and curtailed all of the activities of the nationalists, arresting many of them, Bharati took refuge in Pondicherry. It was 1908; he would stay until the year 1918.
While in Pondicherry, Bharati met many Siddhas – Kullachamy, Govindasamy, and the Swamy of Jaffna. He was impressed by their way of life.
Govindasamy, who came to Bharati’s house one day, showed him the image of his father, long-dead; and then, the Swamy himself became the image of his beloved mother, whom the Poet had lost when he was only five years old. Bharati understood that he was a yogi who had attained jnana (wisdom). Bharati worshipped the Swamy of Jaffna as the great Shankara, and surrendered himself to him.
In Bharati Arubattaru, Bharati introduces himself as a siddha. The word siddha may be interpreted to mean “one who has attained wisdom, siddhi.” It is generally believed that siddhas mastered the art of living long years by strengthening their bodies through kayakalpa methods. It is by the observation of many varied methods, that the siddhas attempt to perpetuate the body, making it eternal, and golden in character; to send the Sushumna, Swadhisthana, Manipura, Anahata, Visuddha, Ajna, Sahasrara through certain ordained paths is part of their life. The eight siddhis anima, laghima, prapti, prakamyam, mahima, ishitwa, vashitum and kamavasayita are attained through such methods. Each of these siddhis contributes to the much greater realization of the “knowledge of self.” Bharati does not proclaim his way to be that of the siddhas who perform wondrous feats through mastery over the eight siddhis. The whole poem Bharati Arubattaru explains siddhi in a larger sense, and how he has attained this goal.
In a number of his poems and prose writings, Bharati speaks of meeting many such siddhas, and states that he understood their extraordinary powers. But nowhere do we find any evidence of his having tried to follow their patterns of life by putting the body through trials of hardship, or by attempting to control the breathing system.
Bharati followed Kullachamy, who led the way to show men immortality. Bharati calls him his guru. There were many instances by which Kullachamy taught him about this secret:
“He is about four and a half feet tall, dark in colour, his face is round and awkwardly large like a gunduchatty (round pot). Nobody knows his age; it may be fifty, sixty, seventy or eighty years. Ordinary people imagine that he should be more than a hundred years old, and has looked like forty-five all his life. But nothing is certain. A strongly built body as if made out of diamond; he was never afflicted with sickness in his entire life. We could say that this man is in the state of a Jatabharatha, who lives in the state of an ascetic.”
When he talks, he talks like a madman – drawling words, stuttering now and then (thikki thikki), swallowing – his speech would be disjointed. He would be lying in the street. Whenever he felt hungry, he would go somewhere, beg for food and eat. He would drink toddy and take drugs.
Suddenly he would enter a house and smear vibuti (holy ash) on the foreheads of the children. If anyone scolded or hit him, he would bear with it and run away. Many people believed that his vibuti would cure all deceases.
One day, Bharati saw Kullachamy walking by in the street, carrying a torn bundle of dirty clothes on his back. Usually, when Bharati saw the Swamy, he would greet him. When he did so now, Kullachamy laughed innocently, showing his teeth; his eyes were mischievous.
Bharati asked, “Why, Swami, are you insane? Why are you carrying this bundle of torn, dirty clothes on your back?”
“I am carrying it on my back; you are carrying it in your heart,” said Kullachamy, and ran away.
“Ah, I understand what the Swami meant,” thought Bharati. “Ordinary men carry in their hearts ignorant (agnjaanam) old refuse, old worries and sorrows, and wasteful and ignoble meanness that we should have long since thrown away.”