Kuvalai Krishnamachari: “Kannan – My Disciple”


“Indian devotion has especially seized upon the most intimate human relations and made them stepping stones to realize the superhuman.”[1]


The realization of the self came to Bharati through his many relationships. Kannan Songs, the most mature of Bharati’s philosophical poems resulted from these experiences: in the master and the disciple, patron as well as servant, friend, guru, mother and father, child, lover and the beloved Bharati visualized the Lord’s manifestation – and sings of these exceptional experiences.

Bharati’s friends were all various kinds of men attracted to Bharati and loved him. They all respected him, believed in what he said and did, followed his principles and ideas.

Basically Bharati’s friends and disciples were of two kinds: one, who would follow him without question, and the other, would like to irritate him at times, even hit by him and enjoy him. Kuvalai Kannan belonged to the second category.

“There were about thirty five disciples, young and courageous, would normally be around Bharati,” says Chellamma – boys like Sankara Krishnan, Balu, Thothatri, Harihara Sharma – each one was quite a character and behaved in a strange way. Both Thothatri and Kuvalai Kannan were about the same type. They both would test Bharati’ patience.

Chellamma reminisces in her biography that Kannan was completely different from others and just the opposite of Bharati.

“In the early mornings, at about 3o’clock, Kannan would start memorizing Panchali Sabatham or one of Bharati’s songs in the nondi chindu mettu. He would sing it in a loud, coarse voice. Kannan would come to her house most of the days at lunch time and eat, and she would hardly have much to eat herself.”


Bharati’s realization of the self starts from the beginning of his relationship with (Kuvalai) Kannan, his disciple.


The beautiful experience with Kannan unfolds as follows:

“Lord Krishna who was myself – other than myself – something other than both – came to me and became my disciple,” Bharati describes this mysterious experience.


“Kannan would behave as though he is less intelligent than myself – as though he would obsequiously seek my help for betterment of himself – he would admire my poetry.

“In fact, he would make me feel like a superior person:

– I, who has not conquered my mind, but wanted to conquer the world,

– who has not burnt my ego, but wanted to make others demolish their ego,

– who has no clarity of mind or never found joy in my heart, wanted to      change the sorrows of the world and make them happy,

– would make me swell with pride.

For making this mistake, the Lord has decided to come to punish me!

“I started to teach him dharma enthusiastically: Don’t do this – don’t talk like this – don’t learn this – don’t mingle with such people; read these books, do have these relationships, do like these things – I toiled incessantly with him, giving my life and energy.

“Kannan, strange as he was, behaved irresponsibly and just did the opposite of what I preached. He would just do exactly what other people disliked. He was behaving in a mad-manner, whereas I wanted to enlighten him.

“I was distressed to see Kannan’s attitude, and started to correct him in many ways: I would admonish, rebuke, tease, scold, laugh at him – and said angry words like fire. As a result, Kannan became like a monkey, a bear, and a ghost with horns (pisasu) and stood far away from me – somewhere.

“I, hurt with ego and pride, decided to see to it that somehow, I must straighten him out. One day, I called him up and said,

“Oh, my son, you have enormous of love towards me. I would ask you to do something for me. I will be happy if you associate with people (like me) who have a liking in shastras, interest in higher things and an understanding of poetry. All human actions are determined by his association with others. I ask you to be with me for a few days. I know that an intelligent person like you, would like to be with me. I ask you to be my patron for my benefit, and please be with me for my support.”

         He said “alright, but how can I be with you here without doing anything? If you show me something to do, I will just do that.”

Considering his character and talent I said, “please do write a copy of all my poetry in a clean sheet of paper everyday.”

“Fine,” he said, and stayed there for some time. Then he said, “I shall go.”

I brought a part of an old story of mine and said, “write a nice copy of this.” He took it in his hand, as though he was going to do that, but stayed there only for a moment. He said again, “I shall go.”

Anger rising up in my heart like a fire, I said, “why, you didn’t keep your word? It is not a mistake that people called you a crazy-man”.

“I shall come tomorrow and do the work.”

“Are you going to do the work now or not?”

“No, he said, before blinking his eyes.

“Don’t see my face or never come to me again; just go away,” I thundered.

Kannan got up and started to go.

With tears gathering in my eyes, my sorrow disappearing, with peace in mind, I said: “Oh, my son, go, let devas (gods) save you! I did certain things in order to enlighten you; all my schemes were demolished. Oh, I am DEFEATED. Do not come back again! Long live you!”

Kannan left, and returned in a moment; he brought a pen from somewhere and wrote my script.

“Sire (Iya in Tamil). I shall follow and do everything that you have advised; you will have no trouble with me from now on,” he laughed and disappeared!

Next moment he became visible in my mind and spoke: “Oh, my son! To create, change, or destroy is NOT your job. When you said that you were DEFEATED, you WON! Whatever you want to achieve in your life, do them without desire or eagerness with impatience. Long live you! (Vazhga)!”                


[1] Bharati’s English Writimgs: Andal, the Vaishnava Poetess

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