C.SUBRAMANIA BHARATI
(S.VIJAYA BHARATI)

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ADVENTURES IN JOURNALISM

AT THE age of twenty-seven Bharati was in Pondicherry, a charming, energetic and flourishing youth. Bharati was a handsome person; thin and fair, with powerful eyes, a broad forhead and a pointed nose, he was indeed good-looking. His wife describes Bharati’s complexion as ‘golden’. Va.Ra.remarks on Bharati’s physical appearance:

Bharati was a handsome man, fair in complexion, a little taller than five foot six, his nose was particularly pretty, the nose was carved out becomingly on his face; the nose was not bent like that of Caesar or Rajagopalachari. Caesar’s nose bridges on high in the middle, is bent sharp in end and appears to peak at any one. Bhartai’s nose was chiselled out beautifully without a trace of ugliness through its length.

Bharti’s eyes were red-lined like the lotus flower. The eyes that were the centre of the face flowed like to balls of fire. It never satiated one to look at them.

Bharati had a broad forehead and a most ache kept in trim. It was not the pricking variety of Kaiser’ moustache. It grow of its own accord and appeared to smile with great jot and pride.
Suddhananda Bharati saw Bharati, and was bewitched by his appearance. He describes Bharati as he saw him;

His courageous face as appears to me now seemed to sparkle like a tower, and to tell one to be fearless and without shame. The flaming eyes gleam before me now-the eyes that were full of wisdom and courage. His moustache, unlike Kaiser’ stood up like a tongue of flame. Such descriptions, help us link Bharati’s physical personality with his inner personality. A poet’s inner personality, in spite of his physical appearance, speech and action all marks of an outer or visible personality, remains invisible. The relationship beween aspects of visible, out personality, and the invisible, inner personality, remains open to discussion. A man’s inner and outer personalities by definition, may appear to be at variance with each other. It is common experience that a wicked man may bear happy appearance and a right-eous person may have an ugly exterior. This disparity in the inner and outer personalities is of one kind; complete harmony between the inner and outer personalities is a different matter. Very few people are blessed with a complete harmony n their personalities. Bharati belongs to this class of rare and out-of-the-ordianry people.

It is known to use from his many friends that Bharati’s exterior was as handsome as his inner, harmonious personality. His poetry too reveals the harmonious blending of the inner and outer personalities. In Tamil poetic tradition it is held possible to determine the inner workings of a man through his external appearance. The outer in some measure reflects the inner form:

As the marble reflects a near object
Sol does the ace reveals a bitter hear,
The eye reveals friendship and enmity,
If you can read its language,

Says Thirukkural. The face indeed is the index of the mind. Eyes are capable of revealing a person’s soul. Nature constantly attempts to express a man’s nature by same means of another.

Bharati’s friends have uniformly noticed the flaming splendour of his eyes. Not only people who had known him when he was alive but even those who see him in portraits and photographs have noticed the courage and glory reflected in his eyes. Even for a casual observer it seems as if the wisdom of his mind and the light of his genius were reflected in his flaming eyes. In an easy entitled the Eyes (Kangal) Bharti speaks of the revealing quality of the eyes:

Nammazhwar speaks of ‘the eyes that are red and large’, when he describes the eyes of Lord Krishna. The eyes of the sages too resemble those of the Lord. The eyes must be like lotus flowers.

Looking at Va.Ra.’s description of Bharati’s eyes as ‘the red-lined eyes like lotuses’, we may infer that Bharati’s eyes revealed a sage whose soul had attained true freedom. His eyes revealed his genius; they fascinated a casual observer at the very first meeting; they revealed the purity and bounty of his heart; their purity was born out of the purity of heart. In the case of a harmoniously blended personality like Bharati, the inner workings of his heart could be perceived in his eyes.

When there is no falsehood, the eyes look straight. Behold! When falsehood dies it is possible to look straight ahead. When fear dies it is easy to look straight. Behold ! when there is no false hood, there is no fear. Fear dies and so does falsehood.

So writes Bharati. Purity of the eyes is dependent upon a heart, free from falsehood and fear. When the heart is false there is the fear of discovery. Since the eyes must reveal the heart, they dare not look straight. The light of truth sparkles in a person’s eyes when he is without falsehood and fear. The eyes then carry the flame of truth. Bharati’s eyes reflected such fearlessness and truth.

Bharati’s forehead revealed the nature of his intelligence, wisdom and poetic genius. Though Bharati was lean, he was majestic. He was fascination, and inspired awe and respect in anyone who came into contact with him.

Bharati was always surrounded by a crowd. When he came out one or two always followed him. When bharati walked along Pondicherry roads people who sat on their pyols would stand up in respect and with folded hands salute him.

Bharati’s walk too reflected the majesty of his appearance. His walk also revealed fearlessness, by being rhythmical. As a born-artist, Bharati expressed the harmony and rhythm of his being even in his walk. Va. Ra. Describes the uprightness and rhythm of Bharati’s walk:

Bharati never walked with a stoop. He used to tell young men never to stoop. His chest completely dry and without flesh, would come out, his head will go up high as he walked on like a soldier. Bharati was very fond of marching to the tunes of “ La Marseillels “ and “ La Sombre De Muse, “ the French marching songs hummed with a rhythm.

In consonance with Bharati’s rhythmical appearance devoid of hunches, his inner personality was also harmonious. The aspects of his physical personality must be studied as they reveal his inner personality to a great extent. Yet, the body has its laws and limits, while the heart is limitless in its vastness.

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During the ten years of his life in Pondicherry, Bharati was exposed to a great variety of experiences. Some of these experiences were extraordinary in character. As a poet, a patriot and a journalist, as a person and a humanitarian he had experiences in this ten year period of self-imposed exile that enabled him to evolve into a saint.

Life in Pondicherry began innocuously enough with the first day of his exiled life spent in Chitti Kuppusami Iyengar’s home, for whom the poet had carried a letter of introduction from Srinivasachariar of Madras. He could not stay there long, however, as the British police was constantly persecuting people who helped Bharati, at the same time warning potential patrons against him. Within the month of Bharati’s arrival in Pondicherry “ India “ magazine resume publication. To continue their nationalistic work both Srinivasachariar and Thirumalachariar joined the poet, come to life in Pondicherry from Madras. “ India “ magazine had last appeared in Madras, British India, in the last week of September, and resumed publication in the French territory of Pondicherry on the 20th day of October.

“ India “ magazine carried the motto “ Liberte, egalite, fratenite, “ and appeared every Saturday from Etranger Street in Pondicherry. The 15’ x 10’ size, sixteen pages of the weekly, revolved completely round its editor’s personality. Bharati was in contact with a wide cross-section of the people, and was recognised as a great patriot and political propagandit. His editing was very imaginatively done, and the magazine took an almost entirely political appearance. Its circulation in the Madras presidency became quite wide, it spite of the British Government’s displeasure with the newspaper and its editor.

“ India ” magazine became successful enough to claim a circulation of over 4,000 copies weekly, literally a feat for a vernacular newspaper in those days. As a journalist, besides writing talent, Bharti had a good deal of experience in the art of printing ad techniques of publishing. The editorial, cartoons, pictures, presentation of matter, quality of writing as well as the magazine’s layout and type-setting contribute to its success. Bharati published a political picture in the first page and wrote the commentary of the picture and editorial on the next page. Bharati found that ‘ truth ’ presented imaginatively made a havier impect.

The picture which “ India ” carried every week on its first page described metaphorically some important political event of the week. This was a very effective political weapon as it created the effect of a thousand words. It attracted the people as well as the Government, leading to the Government’s prohibition against the publication.

Bharati’ strongly believed that propaganda was the best method to fight the British. He insisted on propaganda as a successful political method later in 1921, when one crore of rupees were collected for the freedom movement by Gandhi throughout the country. He asked the leaders to spend more money on propagating the ideals of nationalism and the evils of the british rule in India.

“ India ” magazine thus became a powerful instrument of propaganda in Bharati’s hands. He concentrated on two elements, namely, the importance of political freedom, and the injustice done to the Indian people bye the British rulers. A simple truth in Bharati’s powerful imagination assumed the force of its new appearance, and appealed even to the most pedestrian mind.

An example is Bharati’s inclusion of the news item about “ National Circus Company “ in Pondicherry. Bharati rendered the ordinary occurrence so imaginatively as to convey, besides the plain information, a subtle message about the British Government. Bharati explained an accompanying cartoon in the following manner:

A big stone is being carried by Venkatasamy of the National Circus Company with many people on it. He is called the Indian champion.

Wilson Circus.
Wilson, the finance minister of the British Indian Government, the proprietor of that circus is levying a burden of taxes with machine guns on them, on the weak people of India.

Besides being the editor “ India ” , Bharati also published a daily called “ Vijaya “ from Pondicherry. “ Vijaya “ was first published from Madrs and later on. When the poet moved to Pondicherry, the newspaper also moved with him. “ India “ announced the arrival of the new daily “ Vijaya “ from September 7. 1909. There came also the Tamil monthly “ Karmayogi “ on the pattern of Aurobindo’s English counterpart “ Karmayogin “. There followed an announcement in “ India “ of December 4, 1909 that another monthly “ Chtravali” a periodical devoted chiefly to pictures, would be published and the pictures would be interpreted both in English and Tamil. Whether this magazine ever saw the light of day is yet to be determined by historical research. In addition to these, an English magazine “ Bala Bharata “ was published from Pondicherry which had the distinction of being edited by Bharati.

Bharati’s journalistic activity extended to articles, poems and stories to other journals as well such a s “ Swadesamitran “, “Gnana Bhanu “, “ Aryan ”, “ New India “, and “ Common Weal “. In its second year “ India ” magazine published in a larger size and it was made clear to the public that its objective was to propagate the three vital. Principles of democracy, liberty, equality and brotherhood and that it would never draw back from its ideal or stop the holy war against the Britis rulers. “ India “ magazine never let go of an opportunity to focus attention of freedom and democracy. For example, the magazine felicitated France on her republic day and offered its blessings. “ Vive la Republique !”.

The format of the “ India ” magazine was divided quite clearly to hold different subjects such as literary matter, handicrafts, and miscellanea. In it was published Bharati’s Gnana Rathnam, that marvel of Tamil prose, every week. The magazine frequently published special numbers, and was always resorting to new methods to hold the public’s attention. Bharati published a series of little comments entitled “ Contradictions “, this that the officials of the British Government said at different points of time, e.g.:

Lord Morley said some time ago that the British were ruling India only for the benefit of the Indians; recently he said that India was the life-spirit of their British properties. Which one o thes statements is true?

“ India ” magazine ceased publication because of direct and indirect attempts of the British /government to prevent ist appearance. In one of his essays, Bharati discusses barious problems of running a magazine in Tamil area. Difficulties encountered by Tamil journals and newspapers at that time were the lack of money and lack of support from the Government. Bharati was convinced that Tamil magazines, because they were careless, idle, and had no knowledge of politics, or love of their language, and because they were crazy about everything that was British. In Bharati’s case, however, he had a trementdous knowledge of politics and dexterity in handling a magazine He had many disadvantages as well in running his magazines. One of the problems with “ India ” magazine was that it was not allowed to circulate outside Pondicherry. Money form British India would not reach “ India “ office. In March 1910, the British Government imposed a law on journals which at last put an en to “ India “ and one after the other all the other journals also ceased publication.

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Bharati’s efforts at running magazines stopped before the year 1910 came to a close. The next five years were difficult years for the poet. He tried to publish his poems in book-form. He had published two volumes of his national songs earlier, one in 1908 (Swadesa Githangal ) and the other in 1909 (janma Boomi). Another collection of philosophical poems appeared in the year 1914 (Mada Mani Vachagam). Most of Bharati’s great works were written in 1912. The Tamil translation of the Bhagavad Gita, Kannan-Pattu, Kuyil-Pattu and Panchali sabatham were among his other works in this period. The first part of Panchali Sabatham was published that year.

During these years poverty played a major role in Bharati’s life. Bharati describes the torments of poverty in an ode to Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth;

We shall surrender unto the feet of Mother Lakshmi,
as this poverty is unbearable.
The heart is clouded by the smoke of insinuation,
The mind that takes a dislike even to the Vedas……
I am unable to bear this torment
Poverty in this world is a great torment as
It rings forth insult from the unworthy,
the comraderie of the lazy,
As a light that is drowned into the well,
All our efforts become fruitless.

Poverty distracted him from poetry and the other blessings of life:
How many days has this Chetty been lying for the sake of money? False postponement …. Every day this torture persists it is detestable, O Parashakti ! if you go on subjecting me to such trivia, I will certainly become an atheist. O Mahashakti! Who has seen your Presence ? Who knows that you have knowledge? This world ……. All right, all right, I am not going to abuse you now. Protect me, I praise you…..

The disturbance due to the creditor has also come into the picture. There is no money to pay the doctor. Confusion, confusion, utter confusion. How many days, months , ears? Parashakti, won’t you bless me with the habit of writing poetry……. O Mother ! if the creditor continuously makes me miserable and if I go on worrying about buying rice and salt. How can I sing of you?

Nevertheless he had sufficient strength to face such poverty In life. He was not afraid of poverty. Both my grandmother (the poet’s wife ) and mother (the poet’s daughter) have told me that Bharati boldly faced all the misery of poverty, and remained at peace even at times we new was penniless. R. Kanagalinkgam has the following to say on his preceptor’s defiance of poverty:

There is a lot of difference between Bharati’s mental state and that of other poor scholars of his time. Bharati’s bhakti towards Parashakti was deep. Because of this, he was always happy. His wife Smt. Chellammal also never felt disgusted with life on account of their poverty. I have never seen my guru of his wife despairing.

But the poet’s life is truly the life of the inner spirit which is invisible. Each person dwells in a world of his own, in which all his joys and sorrows are experience through his heart. The importance given to a life – internal or external – depends on the individual according to is vales of life. He is completed to follow the customs and regulations of society and has to live in accord with them. When faces something which is contrary to his own ideals and feeling emotional conflicts appear. Since the common man sets greater store by the needs and activities of the external world he does not usually bother to listen the inner voice of his consciousness. He suppresses the conflicts, and adjust to society and its values.

On the contrary, the genius considers his inner life the more essential and, therefore, seems to come into conflict with the external activities of life. Bharati however did not avoid the external world. While he emphasized the importance of inner life, he did not shun the external world altogether. Like the sages of the vedic period, he found the external world an expression of his own inner harmony. He tried to bridge the gulf between the inner and the external worlds, and to establish an ideal life in an actual world. As may be surmised, he faced many difficulties and encountered much unfavourable criticism from society around him.

Bharati yearned for Krutha Yuga to become established at once in this world. Kurtha Yuga was to him the conception of his ideals as expressed in the external world. He conceived Kurtha Yuga in which the universe would be perfect and without evil. He pictured a joyous world free from sufferings, a world of enlightenment unmarred by ignorance, a world which rejected superstitions, a world of progress that had done away with corruption. Justice and wisdom lived together in this paradise of his conception; here unity and goodwill prevailed among men. Bharati tried to establish this Kurtha Yuga in the actual world and to link both the inner and the external worlds; but his attempt was interpreted as insanity by the society around him. This is a common enough experience for poets and geniuses of this world in their own lifetime. But Bharati’s personality was strong enough th endure such criticism and continue to be firm in establishing his ideals in the outer world. He had enough strength and tenacity of purpose to endure the sufferings that came in the wake of his efforts.

Love was the basic emotion of Kurtha Yuga, preached as a religion and a complete way of life:

I am fearless of anything, O men,
You embrace my religion……….
Your duty is merely to love, learn this.

Bharati’s inner world was an abode of unbounded love. It was the basic emotion in his personality, which dissolved all the ugly passions of the mid and bound them into a wondrous design of unity; he was able to unify all the forces of his mid in a single harmony, with the melody of love to produce a music of unity in his hearty.

The human mid is a large enough faculty to constantly t produce heterogeneous emotions. Thinkers have always striven to subjugate these emotions by intellect. They employ intellect as an instrument to restrain the struggling forces, which pull the mid in different directions. Bharati recorded all the workings of his mind in his Chittakkadal. His trials in attaining perfection began during these years, and he described all the movements of his mind so that he might conquer them, finally controlling the mind itself completely:

We feel shy of writing about our weakness lest
Others should see them….. I am going to
Describe the movements of Bharati’s mind.
I and he are different persons. I am pure knowledge and he
is a small speck conditioned by his ego. I am going to
control him and mend him.

Elsewhere in Gnana Ratham the Chariot goes around “Gandharva Loka’ and visits every world on the way. In this attempt to conquer his mind, Bharti adopts different techniques to satisfy it. He writes of his extreme love for his mid:

I have great love for this beautiful maiden, the mid. How O began to love here cannot be illustrated here. That is a secret. But in course of time, my love towards this beautiful girl has so increased that I have long since forgotten that I and my mind are separate entities. Unable to bear the sufferings of the mind, I desired to visualize the Shanti Loka.

Out of pity for the mind Bharati tries to take it to the world of peace, but feels despair. Soon he concludes that the mind should be killed in order that peace might be obtained.

There is yet another experiment to conquer the mind:
My opinion is that the mind which is a monkey, can be conquered in course of time, by just going on writing whatever it does. Before controlling an object we should know all of its properties. The one which is not completely known cannot be completely conquered. We should understand the mind before conquering it. My conclusion is that if we continuously watch its motions and write of them, its qualities can be completely understood. O Parashakthi, every moment, bless me with the necessary strength to express the vibrations of my mind.

In his attempt to conquer his mind, Bharatil tried self-analysis. His self-analysis was not the result of self-love or self-pity for it was a sincere attempt to become free from ego in order to conquer the mind. Self-control and perception of truth (in objects) were the ideals of Veda-rishis. Bharthi too, in the way of the Veda-rishis, tried to fee himself from ego and reach for eternal peace. Bharati’s was the method of selecting one of the emotions as the controlling and guiding factor of all the emotions of the mind, and utilizing it for their unification. Bharati chose love, a powerful emotion, to master all the heterogeneous mass of feelings. The principle of love does not analyse the multiplicity of creation as does the intellect, but with its magical power;, is capable of destroying all evil and of establishing the good in a simultaneous effort. Though love was the essential quality in Bharati’s personality, there existed his ‘ego’ which was an impediment in the development of his personality. It was a sort of encrustation, covering the spark of love. In an ordinary man the core of love world perhaps be covered by a thick layer of ego and his personality would be self-centered with an extremely small radius of love. In the case of a poet like Bharati, the layer of ego was extremely thin and, with considerably less effort, he could shed it altogether from his personality.

Bharati was well aware of his egotistic impulses, and realized that unless this negative element was removed, he could not reach the state of perfection which he called ‘ the state of the Devas’. He pleaded to Shakti to remove his ego from his personality, and liberate his soul from its bondage:

Will the heart get drenched?
Will it not be purged of its falsehoods,
Pride and other infirmities?
Will not the lie melt away?
Will the tears of devotion not flow?
In the flood of kindliness
Will this despicable dog not quench its desires?...
Slay my furious passion…….
Make my mind clear or make this body dead,
Lead me to yoga or slay this flesh.

This was the mind that existed in the loftiest state possible but sometimes became frustrated and angry at the imperfections of the outside world. It was Bharti’s desire to reach a state of perfection inllife, over coming the faults of his personality. It was his love towards humanity that angered him as well. He could not bear the sight of an insincere action, or a false superstition.

Alas ! what a world is this ! Constant cheating, constant cunning, constant worry. There is no substance in it, it is a hollow life……

Too bad, hopeless-is this earth a fit place to live? Can a man live in this world? Tortoises and wolves can live. This is the hell of misery. This is the origin of meanness. One should not look even at the faces of those people who do not hate this despicable world.

But Bharati firmly believed in the principle of love, and thought that all memories of sorrow, weariness and fear would be destroyed by love which itself never perishes. He had this realization in life and so loved all beings of the world. He perceived God in all beings and loved them accordingly. Bharati’s love for the universe expressed itself in curious ways. His feeding the crows and the sparrows is an expression of his love for creation. Chellammal, Bharati’s wife, has narrated a particular incident. One day, Bharati kissed a small beautiful ass which was playing in the street and the people of his village, who observedit, thought he was insane. She comments:

Bharati was an Atma-gnani. He acted in the actual world according to his principle that all created beings should be equally loved. His actions may seem insane tol us. Once he took a small ass over his shoulders and kissed him…. People who looked on this treated this young, the great gnani, as insane…… Poor little peasants used to pick up small margosa fruits and collect tamarind leaves for making fire. One day Bharati asked them why they were picking them up. The replied, ‘Sir, we have nothing to eat except these margosa fruits.’ Bharati joined them in collecting the unripe margosa and tamarind fruit, and ate them too.

From that day onwards he gave up his taste for food, saying that all objects created by God were filled with nectar, the divine drink. That margosa tastes bitter, because we think it is bitter, and that if it was considered nectar, it would accordingly taste sweet.

How to account for these incidents except ;by saying that he perceived God Himself in the beauty of the ass, in the appearance of the crows and sparrows, in the sourness of the unripe fruit, in the sweetness of recipe fruit, the coolness of the breeze and in the heat of the blaze, and that he live up to his ideal of perceiving unity in diversity?

These incidents date back to Bharati’s life in kadaya, his wife’s native village, after he returned to British India form Pondicherry. The seed of this great realization had already been sown while he was still in Pondicherry. Poverty and the need to live in accord with society brought untold sufferings and misery to Bharati and his family. His experiences during hits period were unique and typical, for Bharati not only responded as a poet but as an ordinary human being as well. As a patriot opposing the exploiting government, and as a reformer keen on abolishing the caste system and superstitions that perevailed in society at this time, He came across stange experiences of life. This uncommon incident is reported from his Pondicherry days:

It was eight o’clock in the morning. Byl chance, I came to Bharati’s house from the Aurobindo Ashram. There was a small gathering in the verandah of the house. From the centre of the verandah smoke was coming out. It looked as though somebody was lighting a fire. Some people were uttering Veda_mantras. Bharatis was seated beside the fire. An untouchable boy, Kanakalilngam was sitting next to him. There were also present some scholars like Professor Subramania Iyer. I asked the professor what was going on. He said, ‘ Kanakalingam’s holy thread ceremony is just over and he is learning the Gayatri-mantra now., I again, asked him, ‘ Is is the untouchable kanagalingam who is seated there?’ ‘Don’t you doubt it,’ the professor replied, ‘he is the same person. Bharati is teaching him Gayatri-mantra.’

Bharati believed in abolishing the caste system to the extent of selecting a non-Brahmin from the them considered most backward community, and making him wear the holy-thread, thus emphasizing the importance of equality of all castes. Bharati who felt God’s presence in all beings treated untouchables as his own brothers and ate with them in the same row. Kanaglingam who wore the holy thread under Bharati’s compulsion writes:

In the olden days when caste system and untouchability prevailed in the country, Bharati not only invited the untouchables to his house but gave them a permanent place in his heart…. My guru Bharti shared the joys and sorrows of the untouchables as Mahatma Gandhi does today.

In spite of these varied experiences Bharati led a happy life as life was poetry to him. He considered all the aspects of life-positive as well as negative- s the expressions of life-poetry. He patterned his own life fully suggesting the power of the soul which is infinite, and beyond the ken of ordinary minds.


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