C.SUBRAMANIA BHARATI
(S.VIJAYA BHARATI)

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A POET’S POLITICS

BHARATI was a great devotee of Shakti. It cannot however be said that he followed the pattern of worship called saktham. Shakti is a movement that is full of strength and life and speed, attraction and vigour. Bharati’s ideal was to possess in his soul and spirit, body and mind, great vigour, and attaining this became for him a way of life, a religion. He describes in his poem “Shaktikku Atma Samarppanam” the way to attain shakti in life.

Make you had might.

Let it have the power to break away stones.

Make your vision powerful.

You will have good sight;; you will develop truth
and kindliness in your vision.

Make your ear sharp.

Good music will flow into it; let it receive good messages.

Train your nostrils in such a way that they are capable of smelling sweet things only.

Make your body strong.

It will help you conquer death and liv long.

Make your voice powerful.

Make your shoulders capable of withstanding any weight.

Embolden your heart; fear will flee from it.

Make your stomach capable of degesting anything.

Make the loins powerful; your offspring will ge good.

If your feet become as strong as steel they will have the strength to go where they wish to go.

Make your mind powerful.

It will always rejoice, and forget unhappiness.

Good thoughts, order and strength will come to it

It will be full of shakti, spreading shakti everywhere, and it will accomplish all things.

It will be full of force and save you from evil deeds and evil consequences.

It will grant you your desires.

It will increase beauty and grace.

It will perceive good writings

The light of truth will flow into it.

In this endeavour to make his body, mind and spirit powerful, he tried all possible methods of exercising the body, and followed Bhakti-yoga to strengthen and purify his mind and spirit.

Though Bharati was handsome in appearance, he was not very strong in structure. In fact he was quite thin, lean and famished. He tried to strengthen his body bye getting trained in sword-fighting which eventually he could not continue to do. He used to take long walks on the beach, in the beautiful places close to Pondicherry. He would look at sunlight as he believed that sunlight was capable of making his eyes powerful. He was very careful in his dietary habits. He never ate left-overs. Even food freshly cooked in the morning became un acceptable at night if left over. He would fly into a age if he saw some one not conforming to his own ideas of eating.

He was no very strong in mind either. He could never bear anyone suffer for lack of anything- food, clothing and shelter- and on account of disease. He used to give away everything-his coat and every piece of clothing regardless of the person’s need. He was as scared about disease as he was about death. Bharati’s life abounds in instances in which one or more of these charactereistic were expressed clearly.

Once his younger daughter, Sakuntala, fell ill. The child could not open her eyes in high fever, and Bharati became so restless and sad as to plead to Shakti for the recovery of his daughter. He did not have money to pay the doctor, but the doctor was content to hear Bharati sing the song “ Bhaktiyinale” in lieu of his fees. The poem is an example of his unshakable faith in Shakti.

By bhakti the mind will be chastened

Order will be established in all actions.

To Bharati, bhakti meant faith. Bhakti is the realization that the contradictions in this world are illusory, and there is a unity pervading all the contradictions, a unity which we will ultimately join. Being one with the harmony of cration and finding the joy of this unity without always being in a nervous hurry is bhakti. Bhakti brings forth an orderly life, peace and supreme joy. As Bharati lacked in physical and mental strength, he would strive to attain strength again and again, with his belief in Shakti.

Once a friend of Bharati, who was a victim of leprosy, came to see him, and with great enthusiasm he took Sakuntala in his lap. Bharati would not hurt others’ feelings and so kept calm, exercising great restraint. After the friend left, at once he gave Sakuntala a bath after applying kerosene oil wherever she had been touched by the leprous friend. His fear of disease and death was so strong that he began a search for a way to become immortal in this world. One day, in the early morning, he happened to hear the following song of one of the siddhas by a pandaram who was trudging along the street:

The breathing that is regulated in sleep

May turn its course, and be gone.

Bharati was shocked to realize the truth of these words, and he wrote his thoughts inspired by this lore in an essay, In Search of Immortality:

When I listened to this song, I became very thoughtful. What is this? When the body is so uncertain what can we begin and achieve in this world of uncertainties?.... Great is the wisdom needed. There must be great courage of heart. There must be learning; fame; wealth, and we must render our relatives, friends and people around us happy in their lives. We have great desires. If these goodly desires have to succeed, we must lay a good foundation and must build step by step. It is not possible to create lasting happiness in a short span of time…. Time is required for attaining knowledge of the self… When the next moment is uncertain, what to cherish?

Bharati followed Kullachami who led the way to show men immortality. He introduces himself as a siddha in Bharati Arubattaru and considers himself an immortal, who had come to establish Krutha Yuga in this world. In a poetic play called Viduthalai he portrays that all the powers of Indra, Agni, Vayu, Jyoti, Maruthu and other divine powers contribute to him their strength and bring him out of his stupor; they ask him to bring order into the human face. This is this excuse for wanting to live eternally in this world by controlling his body, mind as well as his spirit.

It is generally believed that siddhas had mastery over the art of living long years by strengthening their bodies through kayakalpa methods. To send the Sushumna, Swadhisthana, Manipura, Anahata, Visuddha, Ajna and Sahasrara through certain ordained patha is part of their way of life and the eight siddhis namely anima, laghima, prapti, prakamyam, mahim, ishitwa, vashitum and kamavasayita are attained through such methods. Bharati has described in his works his meetings with many such siddhas, and his understganding of their extraordinary powers. But, nowhere do we find any evidence of his having tried to follow their pattern of life himself by putting the body to hardship or by controlling the breathing-system except that he did some exercises sporadically. Bharati discovered bhakti-youga as his way of controlling the mind and spirit. He believed that the spirit could be controlled by exercising control over the body and mind.

Control the body;

You may control the life.

But, for several reasons, Bharati’s health was deterioratilng through the years, and he did not live to be more that thirty-nine years in this world. The hardships he had experienced in his life, the heart of a poet which was naturally under stress of various emotions, his passion for freedom and not getting it, were some of the reasons which frustrated him mentally sometimes and effected decay in his body. He tried again and again till the day of his death to straighten himself in all respects with the power of his will, hope, and finally, faith in God.

* * * * *

After 1915, Bharati started writing for the “ Swadesamitran ” again at a salary of thirty rupees a month, irrespective of whether he contributed or not to an issue. In the meantime the control of the British police indirectly over the political figures in Tamil Nadu became excruciating, and Bharati was not able to get any help either from Pondicherry of outside the French territory. Even if he came by some money, it would not last in his hands for a day. Many attempts had been made by the British police to force Bharati out of the French Territory. Once when he came across such an incident of an act of treachery by the British police, Bharati composed the poem “Pagaivannukku Arulvai”, He never became angry with the traitor but simply forgave, and even loved him following a principle that even the enemy should be loved as a mark of God’s presence in all beings.

Bharati found the life in exile intolerable, and decided to leave Pondicherry with his family. After World War I ended, in November 1918, he came out of Pondicherry, and courted arrest in Cuddalore. Chellamma and the family went back to Kadayam, Chellamma’s native village, and Bharati wa released from Cuddalore jail after some time with the help of Rangasamy Iyengar and other friends. Bharati then went to live in Kdadayam for about two years, till the end of November 1920.

Kadayam is a beautifyl village situated near the east-coast mountains, in Tirunelveli District. Though the village is quite small, it abounds in natural beauty and a spiritual atmosphere pervades the scenery. There are quite an few temples around the village, and Bharati became accustomed to taking long walks, to enjoy the beauty of nature in these resorts. The Nityakalyani temple stands about three or four kilometers away from the village, and Bharati sings of Her in great love. At the foot of the mountain, in a Kali temple, Bharati sat and litened to the music of the birds thrilled to a mood of poetic frezy. At noon various birds assembled thre-sparrows, parrots, nighteingales, crows, the naganavai birds and numerous others, The misic of the birda created in Bharati varied imagingings and effected or in his poetical thoughts. His inner ear was capable of keen concentration on the nuances of the complex sounds around him and he attempted to capture the varied noises, and to express them in Tamill words similar in sound structure. ‘Ranga’, ‘Dairya’, ‘Jiva Jiva’, ‘Siva Siva’ ‘Kottada’ are some of the words which Bharati assembled from the bird noises. Bharati’s Jagat Chitram was born out of his experiences in these places where a man could realize the vastness of the universe and his own relatively insignificant place in it. The blue mountains. The vast skies and the firmament, the light of the sun, the birds-all together produced in him poetic emotions. From the language of the birds Bharati learnt a new way of life, a life of freedom-tatal freedom in all respects-and the principle of immortality.

During this period, Bharati was living in a house situated at the west end of the street. There was a temple of rama where many festivals were held, and great musicians were brought to perform at the festivities. Bharati, himself a great lover of misic and a musician, enjoyed these festivities greatly. Sometimes he would lead the early morning Bhajan groups which wen though the streets singing the praise of Lord Rama. On one such occasion he composed the poem “ Nandalala” , a piece which attains to the heights of philosophic experience. Bharati believed, and sang that if he surrendered at Lord Rama’s feet, he would never die, and live inthis world for ever.

Political and patriotic activity for Bharati continued in visits to nearby villages to Kadayam, and speaking to small audiences. Pottalpudur is a small village near kadayam where there is a predominant Muslim populations. Bharati once visited this place, and spoke to a Muslim audience on Islam. As Bharati was as proficient in matters of other religions as in Hinduism, his talk on Islam and Loran became a memorable experience to the community. It was onthis occasion that he composedand sang the poem “Allah”, a piece unique for its intene religious experience.

A meeting between Bharati and Mahatma Gandhi cameabout in March 1919, when the latter visisted Madras to consult with congress leaders befor launching a movement against the Rowlatt Act. As Va. Ra. describes the incident , Bharati met Gandhiji in C. Rajagopalachari’s house where he was staying. There were Gandhiji’s secretary Mahadev Desai, Adinarayana Chettiar, A. Rangasamy Iyengar who was theeditor of “Swadesamitran”, S. Satymurti Rajaji, Va. Ra., and others surrounding the Mahatma. Bharati entered and sat besides Gandhiji and asked him if he could preside over a meeting in which Bharati was going to be the featured speaker.

Gandhji enquired Desai as to his engagements for the day, and as he had another engagement, he asked Bharati if he could postpone the meeting for the newxt day. Bharati said this was not possible, and blessed Gandhiji’s movement and quickly took his leave. Gandhiji asked who his visitor was and Rajaji answered that he was a nationalistic poet from Tamil Nadu, On hearing this Gandhiji sems to have remarked that good care must be taken of such poets as Bharati.

Bharati paid a poetical tribute to Gandhiji later. In a poem forecasting the freedom of India by Gandhiji’s non-violent methods Bharati speaks of the Mahatma:

You have brought into politics a spiritual
awareness and courage-

Politics that is entwined with war, murders
and chastisement-

To regard all human beings children of God and to perceive in them forms of Godliness,

To regard one’s own life on a par with other lived that may be full of evil-

…..All this you have done.

This poem must be dated later in 1921 because Bharati wrote an article about his own ideas against Gandhiji’s non-cooperation methods in “ Swadesamitran” in November 1920. This essay is in the form of a reply to friends who were asking him in letters and in person, about his ideas of the Mahatma’s non-cooperation movement.

In later years of his life, Bharati was evolving into an Atma-Gnani, and both inwardly and outwardly he seemed to be flooded with love and bhakti. Such an attitude made him very hopeful of attaining freedom by peaceful methods. Though he suggested in the article mentioned earlier, that people of India might get freedom by immediately following the final stages of non-cooperation methods such as non-payment of tax, he was quitted certain that refusing parliamentary seats, and attorney ships and students quitting schools-were not the proper means of achieving the required results of independence for India. He was convinced that there were too many chances of losing lives and property by violating some of the laws of the British Government, and thought that this method might lead the country to a state of destruction and confusion.

Bharati suggested alternate methods in this article such as propagating the principles of nationalism among the people clearly and strongly, and peacefully attacking the British at the proper time. His love of the country and the people was such that he did not wish to lose anything, anything at all, by methods other that peaceful. He concludes:

It is obvious and certain that the time, circumstances and the benevolence of God are in our support to attain freedom, without any confusion. Why should we follow the path of perplexity in which we might endanger life and property of our countrymen?
Bharati made it clear that “Swadesamitran” and himself as editorial writer were not against Gandhiji personally, but were against some of Gandhiji’s methods,. He wrote clearly that it was a matter of disagreement between nationalists in their ways of approaching the same problem with the same goals in mind.

Bharati supported many of Gandhiji’s efforts, however. In 1908, Bharati published a cartoon in “India” magazine showing Gandhiji as a cow in the midst of South African officials pictured as wild tigers. In the year 1916, Bharati wrote an appeal to the public, asking them to support Gandhiji in his efforts to effect legislation to prevent Indian people being forced to serve in other countries on contract employment. In the year 1921, a month before his death, Bharati wrote an article in “Swadesamitran”, urging the necessity of spending more money in propagation of nationalistic dials throughout the country. He expressed great concern about not wasting the hard-earned money of the people, and spending it properly aimed directly towards efforts to attaining freedom for India.

Bharati realized in the end, before he died, that only Gandhiji could lead the Indian people in their struggle for freedom, and his methods would certainly bring forth the desired results. Though he was greatly disappointed in his own frustrating struggles with the British Government, he still die not lose hope with Gandhiji methods of non-violence to attain freedom.

After coming back to Kadayam in May 1919, Bharati sent two verse- letters to the Maharaja of Ettayapuram seeking his patronage. “Chitukkavi” is a poetic for in Tamil in which the poet describes his own reputation and ability as a poet, and praises the king asking him to reward his poetic talent with patronage and generous gifts. Bharati was aware of his own poet, and praises the king asking him to reward his poetic talent with patronage and generous fifths. Bharati was aware of his own poetic talent, and the extraordinary quality of his poetry. He knew that his poetry was translated into other languages such as French and English, and he was rightly proud of such recognition. So, whatever he wrote in the poems to the Maharaja was the outcome of his critical judgment of his own poetry, and entirely factual. The response from the Maharaja was disappointing. The poems themselves are examples of Bharati’s extraordinary poetic talent, and have an immortal place in the galaxy of Tamil poetry.

Bharati visited places in Chettinad-Kanadukathan and Karaikudi, and wrote in praise of the Hindu Madabimana Sangham in Karaikudi. Some photographs with the members of the sangham have come down to lust. Bharati appears in these photographs with his usual black coat, turban, moustache and with a long walking stick.

Though Kadaym was a place well-suited for Bharati’s poetic Yearning, the people in the village were very backward in many respects. The Agraharam where Bharati lived was dominated by Brahmin power, and the Brahmins were against Bharati’s principles and actions. He was treated as an outcaste and became too restless to continue to stay in that atmosphere of overpowering prejudice of the people and their meaningless religious customs.

Bharati decided to leave Kadayam, and resumed his life as the sub editor in d in Madras towards the end of 1920.

* * * * *

Meanwhile, Bharati had been trying to publish some of his works. He wrote a letter to Nellaiyappar on December 21, 1918, on reaching Kadayam after his release from the Cuddalore jail, asking him to come over to Kadayam to discuss the publication of his works. Again in 1920 he sent printed circular letters in English to some of his friends about his plans for publishing his works. The letter which he sent to R. Srinivasa Varadacharya at Madurai makes interesting reading as reflecting Bharati’s state of mind at this time:

Om Shakti (in Tamil)

C. Subramania Bharati
Kadayam
28th June, 1920


To,
R. Srinivasa Varadacharya,
Madurai.

Dear Friend,

All my manuscripts- the accumulated labout of my 12 years exile – have arrived her from Pondicherry. There are to be divided into 40 separate books; of each book I print 10,000 copies for the first edition. This work will cost me an initial outlay of Rs. 20,000. And, within one year, or, at the most, two years from the date of publication, I shall certainly be able to get a net profit of a lakh and a half rupees.

Most of the works which I have now selected for publication are prose-stories, sensational and, at the same time, classical; very easy, lucid, clear, luminous and all but too popular in style and diction and, at the same time, chaste, pure, correct, epic and time-defying. This fact and(2) the ever-growing increase of Tamil-reading men, women and Children in the Tamil land and the Tamil world overseas; (3) the historic necessity of my works for the uplift of the Tamil land which, again, is a sheer necessity of the inevitable, imminent and Heaven-or-dined Revival of the East; (4) the novel and American-like improvement which I propose to make in the printing, binding and get-up of my editions-which, aided by the beautiful and suitable pictures illustrating the interesting events occurring in the stories, will make them a tremendous attraction to our public and such a wondrous surprise; (5) the comparatively low prices of my books; for I am going to sell my prose-works uniformly at eight annas a copy and my poems at, so far as possible, for annas a copy; and (6) my high reputation and unrivalled popularity in the Tamil-reading world due to my past publications-all these are bound, most evidently, to make my sales a prodigious success.

Please send whatever you can send as loan towards the printing expenses. I expect from you at least Rs. 100. Kindly induce at least twenty more of your friends to lend me similar and much larger sums, if possible.

I shall give stamped Promotes for the sums I receive from your and your friends , paying the generous interest of 2 per cent per month in view of my large profits. Expecting, very eagerly, you kind reply and scores of money orders from your side and praying to god to grant you a long and joyous life.

 
I remain,
Yours faithfully,
C. Subramania Bharati


N.B.- All Government restrictions against me have been removed and all accusations withdrawn and so Government officials may also be asked to subscribe for this loan. Nobody’s name will be announced to the public in this connection and the subscribers will be merely treated as private creditors. THE DEBTS WILL BE FULLY CLEAR ED WITHIN 2 YEARS.

C.S.B

Bharati never had any response tol his circular letter sent to his friends: he still did not lose his hope of publishing his works. Again, when he served as sub editor for “Swadesamitran”, he printed publicly a notice from “ Tamil Varappu Pannai ” consisting of the same details which he mentioned before in addition this time to reiterating his reputation in other countries also. He quoted from “Common Weal” (December 8, 1916) an article written by James H. Cousins about the Belgian poet Verhaeren in which his poems were noticed:

The seeing eye apprehends Beauty not only in the thing seen but though it; and the more faithfully the thing is seen as channel and symbol, the more certainly will both it and the seer be dignified, not degraded. Verhaeren came within sight of imaginative freedom; but it is in the poetry of Tagore and Naidu, Chose and Bharati, and their spiritual comrades of the Irish School that the purest and truest expression of realized Beauty can be found.

This was early in 1921 and Bharati was greatly disappointed to get nothing out of his publishing efforts. Bharati made some arrangements to start a new magazine “Amirdham” from January 1921. He wrote letter is August 1920 to Strinvasa Varadacharya of “Desabhaktan” magazine asking him to come over to Madras and collect money for the publication of “Amirdham”. He was not able to start this magazine either as there were no sources of income at all for the proposals.

It may be noticed that Bharati who stated his literary career as the sub-editor of “Swadesamitran” was still in the same positional the point of his death. The destiny of poets, like the destiny of kings, is uncertain indeed.

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