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TAMIL NATIONAL FORUM
Selected Writings - N.Nandhivarman
18 December 2008
The 126th birth anniversary of Mahakavi Subramania Bharathiar was celebrated on December 11 of 2008 . The Bharathiar Memorial Museum was set up by the Government of Pondicherry in 1972. In 1984 it was converted into a research center to which from all over the world people have come. The Government of Pondicherry headed by then Chief Minister D.Ramachandiran had brought out a beautiful book in French in 1982, which contains translations of Bharathiar's poems, prose and English articles. Such laudable exercises must be continued by successive governments to foster French and Tamil cultural exchanges by translating literatures belonging to both languages. But during his lifetime Bharathiar had struggled to bring out his works in print.
The ordeals of Poets in the colonial era to see their masterpieces in print could be easily understood by a letter through which Mahakavi Bharathiar sought financial support from his well wishers. In an open appeal written in 1921, the Great Bard of Tamil Renaissance states,
By this appeal the Poet not only exudes confidence in his creative literature and its contents but also is convinced that he is standing at the cross roads of critical times and is destined to play a crucial role. His words further down in the same appeal will be enough to portray the missionary zeal that burnt in him.
The Poet's vision was clear and he pursued his life's mission with all his inherent strength, doing what was destined to be done. He wrote a satirical story " The Fox with a Golden Tail", which was published in 1914.
It should also be mentioned that Aurobindo Ghosh lauded the flowery language of Bharathiar in that story. Dr.Nanjunda Rao of Chennai who was immensely pleased ordered for 500 copies and many letters of appreciation poured in from all quarters. Kuvalai Kannan read those letters to Bharathiar hoping he would be pleased. But Bharathiar stated as follows:
At that point of time when all men of letters under colonial rule were crazy over the proficiency in the tongue of the ruling classes, Bharathiar stands apart as a champion of the Tamil cause. In his book Essays and Other Prose Fragments published in 1937 writing under the title " Vernaculars" Bharathiar extends support to the Tamil medium of instruction in the schools of Education.
Let me reproduce his views in verbatim:
so goes on the Great Bard. This quality and courage of conviction is rare among the educated of his times and even today the ignorance of the educated towards the grandeur of the Tamil language and their wild goose chase of the foreign language continues unabated even after the wise counsel by Bharathiar.
His book Essays and Prose Fragments contains the following topics
The list of the essays will reveal the subjects that were near and dear to his heart.
Of particular mention is his voice for the cause of feminism. Speaking about the greatness of womanhood the Poet stands apart with no sign of male chauvinism, a characteristic flaw that causes even today gender bias and female infanticide. Let me quote him
There cannot be a champion of the cause of feminism than Mahakavi Bharathiar in that point of time in the history of Tamils. A forerunner for the cause of feminism he had left his imprint by way of many articles and poems.
Crusader against Caste
Bharathi describes caste as a crime against humanity and let us know his feelings well expressed in his own style
The scientific temper, which the poet possesses, is what anyone who cares for fellow beings will want to inculcate in a caste- ridden society. The Poets are conscience keepers of their culture and the society in which they hail, and in unmistaken terms Bharathiar registers his voice of protest against the caste-infected society.
Spreading his message globally
Bharathiar's Tamil poems translated in many languages have established his greatness beyond an iota of doubt, at the same time very few attention is shown towards his writings in English, and it is high time his scholarly opinion on contemporary issues be understood. The Hindu in its sub-editorial dated 12th September 1921 records the demise of this great poet thus:
Swadesamithran too paid tributes in its editorial. But it is a sad fact that only handfuls were present when his body was cremated. Let us learn to respect great men when they are alive and be grateful for the great bards who uphold our culture universally.