Monday, 23 December 2013

Throwing New Light on Bharathi’s Life

A participant in the fancy dress competition at a school, who plays the revolutionary Tamil poet Mahakavi Subramania Bharathi, wearing a white head gear, black coat and white dhoti with a long stick in his hand, may not know the reason for the poet’s covering his neck and chest with white cloth that is visible in a shape of triangle. But, ask Prof. Sethupathy, a well-known researcher into Bharathi’s life and mission, and he will tell you the story behind it.

“A popular photo, which shows Bharathi wearing a white cloth inside his coat, was taken in Madras by his disciple Kanaka Subburathinam alias Bharathidasan. Had Bharathidasan not shot his teacher without the white cloth covering his neck, the country could have understood from his weak emaciated body, the poverty he experienced in his short span of life” informs Sethupathy, a 43 year old researcher.  

Sethupathy, who is a professor of Tamil at Bharathidasan Government College for Women, Puduchery, was in the city recently to address on the poet’s birth anniversary at the literary organizations Tamil Nadu Arts and Literary Forum and Sangamam.

Sethupathi is an author of around 50 books including Bharathi Thedalil Pudhiya Parimanangal and Thamizhil Mahakavi Thondruka, which are research works on Subramaniya Bharathi.

Admiring the literary merits in the devotional writings of the poet, Sethupathy says that Vinayaga Naanmani Malai is Bharathi’s masterly work, in which he describes Lord Ganesha as an embodiment of religious harmony and sees in Him Jehovah, Jesus and Allah.   

“But, Lord Vinayaka, whom Bharathi adores in his Vinayagar Naanmani Malai, is not the present day Ganesha, which has become the symbol of Hindutva politics” underlines Sethupathy.  

Sharing interesting information from the great poet’s life, Sethupathy says that, as many believe, Bharathi was not trampled by an elephant.

“The poet, who was very weak due to abject poverty, died naturally” he informs.

In contrast to the common belief that Bharathi went underground in Pondicherry by boarding a train from Madras, Sethupathi’s discovery throws new light on the poet’s life history.

“Bharathi, who was wanted by the police for his revolutionary activities in Madras, escaped to Pondicherry by boarding a boat at the Buckingam Canal in Madras”

In support of his discovery, the scholar shows evidence from the book Glorious Years by G.K. Damodara Rao, a retired judge and the grandson of Dr. Nanjunda Rao, a medical practitioner and philanthropist, who provided shelter to Bharathi at his home Sasi Vilas in Madras.

“Dr. Nanjunda Rao, who smelled the possible arrest of Bharathi, woke up the poet in the dead of night and made him board a boat at Buckingam Canal and sent him to Pondicherry accompanied by his loyal servant Raman Nair”  

Sethupathy says that Damodara Rao collected this new information from his grandmother Mrs Nanjunda Rao and also confirmed it from Raman Nair, who accompanied Bharathi to Pondicherry in the boat.

B.Meenakshi Sundaram

Link to my article in The New Indian Express:



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