It is my honour and privilege to participate in this Birthday Celebrations of great national poet Subramanya Bharathi.
Bharathi’s life and message is like the message of the ancient sages of our great land. Eternally relevant and perpetually inspiring, it is treasure which all of us cherish.
The very name of Bharathi itself is inspiring, not only to me but to everyone who loves Bharath more than his own self. Please take a look at the name again. It is BHARATH followed by an I, (Bharath-I) urging every one of us to put the country (Bharath) before our selfishness or ego (I) If each one of us can put our country above our personal greed and ego, we would be creating an India that visionaries like Bharathi dreamt of.
‘Bharathi’ was the title given to this great luminary. So was the title of ‘Mahakavi’. Both signify his extraordinary contribution to the world of letters through his poetry and his speeches. He was truly blessed by the goddess of learning.
While I was growing through his life history, I was amazed to note the vast canvass of issues and subjects on which he left an indelible impression in a very short period.
His was a vision of ‘freedom’ in the broadest sense. Not only did he join the freedom struggle and relentlessly fight against the foreign rule, but he wanted India to be free from hunger, gender discrimination, untouchability, unclean environment, narrow linguistic and religious dogmatism. This visionary approach makes him so relevant to our times.
Bharathi is a symbol of multilingualism that characterizes India. He knew 32 languages including 3 foreign languages. He composed brilliant poems and essays in English but he took pride in being a Tamil poet and a journalist. He considered Tamil and all other Indian languages are no way inferior to English.
In an Essay in New India, he writes,
“The English educated minority in this country can be pardoned for being frightfully ignorant of the higher phases of our national literatures. But they will do well to drop that annoying attitude of patronage and condescension when writing and talking about our languages. The Tamil language, for instance, has a living philosophical and poetical literature that is far grander, to my mind than that of the vernacular of England”.
He wanted Indians to be proud of their rich heritage. Language and literature was an integral part of this heritage. He celebrated India’s diversity and loved all languages and described Telugu as ‘Sundara Telungu’.
He was against the colonial rule and the British domination but not against all foreigners. if they loved Bharath, he was even willing to revere them as his preceptor. Margaret E. Noble, an Irish woman, who was renamed by Swami Vivekananda as Sister Nivedita, is a classic example.She opened a girls' school in Calcutta and tried to educate her students with the nationalist spirit. She introduced singing of 'Vande Màtaram' in her school as a prayer. On her memorial these words are mentioned, "Here reposes Sister Nivedita who gave her all to India".
To Bharathi, Sister Nivedita was Bharat Mata. In his dedicatory lines of his first anthology of poems, Bharathi writes, “ I dedicate this slender volume at the flowery feet of my guru. I dedicate this book to Srimathi Nivedita Devi, the spiritual offspring of Bhagawan Vivekananda, the most excellent of all spiritual teachers. She taught me the nature of true service to the Mother, and the greatness of asceticism-all this through unspoken wisdom”.
Bharathi saw our country as ‘Bharata Devi’, Mother India. Quite naturally serving the motherland became his life’s mission and Vande Mataram became the theme song that inspired him as it did Sister Nivedita who introduced it as the prayer song her school. Bharathi spread the spirit of Vande Mataram through his songs.
The completeness of this vision had earned for his national poems the reputed title, “ Desopanishad ”, comparing the poems with the Upanishadic wisdom of ancient India.
He urges us to take pride in being Bharatiyas and belonging to a land blessed with ancient wisdom, a land which is
“The glorious symbol (tilak) of the world
Is the Land of Bharat”
பாரத பூமி பழம்பெரும் பூமி;
நீரதன் புதல்வர்; இந் நினைவகற்றாதீர்!
பாரத நாடு பார்க்கெலாம் திலகம்
நீரதன் புதல்வர்;இந் நினைவகற்றாதீர்!
Bharathi’s patriotism is not a blind reverence.
He had a very modern outlook. He was aspiring for the liberated India to be an enlightened India, a skilled India, a scientifically advanced India. He wrote:
We shall master scriptures and learn the skills of work
We shall explore the sky, the and its life
We shall seek the insights on the nature of moon
மந்திரம்கற்போம் வினைத் தந்திரம் கற்போம்;
வானை அளப்போம் கடல் மீனைஅளப்போம்;
சந்திரமண்டலத்து இயல் கண்டு தெளிவோம்;
But Bharathi was no idle dreamer. He was a pragmatist as well. He reminded our countrymen that the real glory lies in keeping our streets clean, echoing Gandhiji’s saying that “cleanliness is next to godliness”. This rings so true more than ever today as we see the renewal of this focus on cleanliness in the Swatch Bharath programme.
He had said:
“We shall seek the insights on the nature of moon
And we shall learn the means of keeping our streets clean”
சந்திரமண்டலத்து இயல் கண்டு தெளிவோம்;
சந்தி தெருப்பெருக்கும் சாத்திரம்கற்போம
Bharathi, like Guru Dev Rabindranath Tagore, wanted India to break the narrow domestic walls.
Bharathi wanted India to break free from the caste system. He considered all living beings as equal and to illustrate this he performed the upanayanam for a young Dalit man and made him a Brahmin. In one of his poems he says:
“There is no caste system.
It is a sin to divide people on caste basis.
Which means a well educated person knows to treat them same and not by their caste.”
This is exactly what the ancient sages had said: “Pandithah sama darshinaha”.
Bharathi is a staunch advocate for women's participation in politics. He advocated greater rights for women and their education. In his view like in ancient Indian world view, women should be at the vanguard of societal transformation.
In many ways, Bharathi was the embodiment of what an ideal Indian should be. He applied the knowledge of the illustrious past to contemporary realities and dreamt of shaping a new brighter future, He was a man with extraordinary vision, passion and erudition.
He was fearless and wanted all Indians to be fearless and united in thought and action.
One of Bharati's most famous poems, AchamillaiAchamillai, contains the lyrics "Uchchi Meedhu VaanIdindhu Veezhugindra Podhinum, AchchamIllai AchchamIllai Achcham Enbadhillaiye" "Let the sky fall, when it crumbles, we will stand tall and face it all together." It echoes Rabindranath Tagore’s famous lines: “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high…. Into that heaven of freedom, let me country awake.”
As we are transforming our country into a Surajya, these are incredibly inspirational thoughts.
I am happy that we are celebrating Bharathi’s birth anniversary by recognising another illustrious son of India who embodies these ideals. Thiru Karthikeyan has demonstrated the fearless approach advocated by Bharathi in his long eventful career as a police officer. He has shown a remarkable acumen for applying knowledge and skills to unravel the truth and protect human rights of people. As the Director General of Police and Director General of the National Human Rights Commission, he has earned the appreciation of the entire country and has been decorated with Padma Sri and a number of awards. Today’s award to him is yet another feather in his cap. It is a happy coincidence that he has somewhat similar interests like me in agriculture and law. I am happy to honour him as I think it is a celebration of the values and ideals that Bharathi keeps reminding all of us.
I congratulate Thiru Karthikeyan and wish him well. I wish Indians all over the world are enthused to recall the glorious Bharathi legacy and commit ourselves to doing whatever we individually and collectively can, to make Bharathi’s dream come true.