Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

Subramania Bharati's Prose-Poetry

K. C. Kamaliah


Subramania Bharati is more sung than read. He is more a poet than a writer of prose. The general impression is that the Tamils wrote only poetry and not prose. It has to be remembered that commentaries to Tamil classics came from prose writers of repute like Nachinarkkiniyar, Ilampuranar, Peraciriyar, Parimel Alagar and others. Sivgnana Munivar’s commentary on Sivagnana Bodham known as Dravida Mapadiyam, though of later origin, is a monumental one in terse prose, reflecting his scholarship in Tamil and Sanskrit. But currently more prose is written in Tamil than poetry, Subramania Bharati wrote an unfinished novel, Chandirikaiyin Kathai, echoing the reformist views of Viresalingam Pantulu and G. Subramania Aiyar. Other than that, he wrote his musings on the Vedas, which he called Vachana Kavithai–ProsePoetry. This portion of Bharati’s writings deserve a closer look. The same has, not attracted the attention of scholars to the extent that it must have been.

Under the title “Pleasure”–Inpam, Subramania Bharati writes:

“This world is pleasant. The atmosphere herein is charming. Air is pleasing. Fire is pleasing. Water is pleasing. Soil is pleasing.

The sun is fine. So is the moon. Heavenly planets are very endearing. Rain is endearing. Lightning and thunder are endearing.

Sea is fine. Mountain is fine. Forest is good. Rivers are fine. Metal and tree, plant and creeper, flower and fruit, ripe or otherwise, are all endearing.

Birds are charming. Reptiles are also good. Animals are dear ones. So also the denizens of water.

Men are very lovable. Male is good. Female is sweetness. Child is a pleasure. Youth is fine. Old age is good. Life is good. Death is sweet.”

To one detached, good and bad are the same. Everything and everyone in the universe are looked alike and nothing but good wished for.

“I know not anything but to think that:
All must live in peace and pleasure.”

sings the saint-philosopher Tayumanavar. All in the universeis nothing but Vishnu. Sarvam Vishnu mayam jagat.This is the essence of Bharati’s saying under Inpam.

The Vedas

Before getting to know of Bharati’s thoughts, it would be fruitful to remember what Max Mueller says of the Vedas. “In the hymns of the Veda, we see man left to himself to solve the riddle of the world. We see him crawling like a creature of the earth with all the desires and weakness of his animal nature. Food, wealth and power, a large family and a long life, are the themes of his daily prayers. But he begins to lift up his eyes. He stares at the tent of heaven, and asks who supports it. He opens his eyes to the winds, and asks them whence and whither? He is awakened from darkness and slumber by the light of the sun, and him whom his eyes cannot behold, and who seems to grant him the daily pittance of his existence, he calls ‘his life, his breath, his brilliant Lord and Protector’.”

A. C. Clayton quoting the above passage of Max Mueller, observes: “One of the most precious heirlooms of the ages for all thinking men are the hymns which were sung first by the poets among those primitive warriors and herdsmen.” Of the four Vedas, “It is the Rigveda which gives the most valuable materials to the student of the Aryan religion.” The more important of the Vedic gods are: (1) Gods of the Upper World, (2) Gods of the Air and (3) Gods of the Earth. For the purpose of our study here, Surya, the Sun God, Usha, the Goddess of Dawn of the first category, and Vayu, God of the Wind of the second category, are taken into account. Surya, the Sun God, and Savitur are treated as separate and as one deity sometimes. The Sun is known as Savitur before his rising and Surya from his rising to his setting. A hymn of the Rigveda sings thus of the Sun God.

“The soul of all that moveth not or moveth, the Sun hath filled the air and earth and heaven.

Like as a young man followeth a maiden, so doth the Sun the Dawn, refulgent goddess.

This day, O gods, while Surya is ascending, deliver us from trouble and dishonour.” (Book I, Hymn 115. R. T. H. Griffith’s translation.)

Bharati on Sun

Bharati echoes the Vedic ideas in his “Short treatise on the Sun.” Is not the Sun, the soul of all?

“Who gives light? Who retains eternal youth? Who disseminates warmth? Whose is the eye? Who infuses life? Who gives glory? Whose wealth is fame? Like what will knowledge shine? Which is the temple of the deity of knowledge? That is the Sun.

Eternal darkness will bring nothing but ruin to the animate and the inanimate. Light and Sun are indivisible. Bharati associates allsources of light to the perennial source, the Sun. What is the relationship between Light and Sun?

“O Light, who art thou? Art thou the daughter of the Sun? Nay, thou art the very life of the Sun, his god.

Of the Sun, we sing only thy praise. The Sun is the body. Thou art his soul. O Light. when didst thou come into being? Who created thee? O Light, who art thou? What is thine nature?

Thou art perhaps the daughter of knowledge. Knowledge slumbers. Thou art its clarity–perhaps knowledge’s body. How long art thou familiar with the space of the sky? Of what sort is thine love with it ? How dost thou unite with it becoming one without a second? The lady that created thee all is a magician. She is a bewitching beauty. She performs miracles. We make our obeisance to her. May you live long. O Light!”

No orderly life can there be without the Sun. He is the dispenser of favours to all. Everything depends on the Sun’s goodwill. But for him. there can be no rain or cloud. Lightning is a great debtor to the Sun. Bharati wishes a lightning touch in all that he does.

“Rain showers. Wind blows. Thunder roars. Lightning flashes. Come, ye poets! Let us sing the praise of Lightning. Lightning is a play of the god of Effulgence. It is his apparition. Worshipping it. Yavanas got enlightenment. Our salutation to Lightning. Let it enlighten our knowledge. Cloudlings shower lightning-flowers. There is no place where there is no glowing energy. All deities are so. In black granite rock white sand, green leaf, red flower, blue cloud, wind and mountain. Lightning is latent energy. We sing its glory.

May Lightning grace our eyes! May Lightning’s spreading wings jump into our hearts! May Lightning descend on our right hand! Let our song get possessed of Lightning! Let our utterances be moulded after Lightning!

The glow kills the weak. It strengthens strength. Light, lightning, flame, diamond, the sun, the moon, the heavenly planets, stars, victory to all that emit light.

Let us sing the praise of all! Let us sing the glory of the Sun!” Savitur is praised in eleven hymns of the Rigveda.

“May this god Savitur, the strong and mighty, the lord of precious wealth, vouchsafe us treasures.

“May he, advancing his far-spreading lustre, bestow on us the food that feedeth mortals.” (Book VII. Hymn 45. R. T. H. Griffith’s translation.)

The tenth verse in Hymn 62 of Book III of the Rigveda is the Gayatri which every Brahman utters in his daily prayers.

Tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi
Dhiyo yo nah prachodayat

Griffith translates the verse thus:

“May we attain that excellent glory of Savitur the god:
So may he stimulate our prayers.” (Rigveda. Book III. Hymn 62. Verse 10)

Bharati has put this Tamil rendering of the Gayatri verse in the mouths of Arjuna and Draupadi, while on their journey to Hastinapuram, when they said their evening prayers in his Panchali Sapatham. The transliteration of the Tamil rendering is as follows:

Cenkatir-t-teevan ciranta olvinai -t - teerkinroom - avan
Enkalarivinai-t-tundi nadattuka.

The Tamil rendering of Bharati may be brought into English as follows:

“We seek the effulgence par excellence of the god of lustrous rays;
May he stimulate our consciousness and guide.”

Preceding this prayer, Arjuna describes the splendour of the setting sun to Draupadi. The poet has taken Savitur god as the Sun.

The Goddess of Dawn

The early Aryans saw in dawn a captivating charm and the hymns to Usha are among the finest in the Vedas.

“This light has come, amid all lights the fairest born is the brilliant far extending brightness.
Bright leader of glad sounds, our eyes behold her; splendid in hue she hath unclosed the portals.
She stirring up the world hath shown us riches; Dawn hath awakened every living creature.
In the sky’s borders hath she shone in splendour: the goddess hath thrown off the veil of darkness.” (Rigveda. Book 1. Hymn 113. Griffith’s translation)

“She hath beamed forth lovely with golden colours, mother of kine, guide of the days she bringeth.
Distinguished by her beams Dawn shines apparent, come forth to all the world with wondrous treasure.” (Rigveda. Book VII. Hymn. 77. Griffith’s translation)

Subramania Bharati in his short eulogy of Usha, the goddess of Dawn, gives a digest of the Vedic hymns. Is not Usha nobly born and daughter of heaven?

‘The reddish tinge of Dawn is sweet. Hail to Usha whose laughter is flower-like!

Our salutation to Usha! She is Prosperity incarnate. She enlightens, bestows clarity, infuses life, gives inducement, radiates beauty. Victory to her. Bees seek her because of honey dripping from her. Nectar she is! Immortal she is! Strength only unites with beauty. Lofty indeed is pleasure.

In northern Meru, she comes attired in many forms uninterrupted. She saunters around the horizon emitting peals of laughter. May her laughter grow louder.

To us in the South, a lonely dame she appears. Because of her bounteous love, the one in her is sweeter than many. Dawn is sweet. We sing her praise.”

God of the Wind

Vayu or Vata is one of the gods of the air. There are not many hymns on him.

“The soul of gods, and of the world the offspring.
This god according to his liking wanders,
His sound is heard, but ne’er is seen his figure.
This Vata let us know with offerings of worship.”
(Rigveda. Book X. Hymn 168)

“And, Vata, thou art our father, our brother and our friend; cause us to live.
From the treasure of immortality, which is deposited yonder in thy house, O Vata give us to live.”
(Rigveda. Book X. Hymn 186)

Bharati spins a story about the god of the Wind. He sees two bits of coir strand hanging from a pandal thatched with cocoanut leaves, being loose ends. The longer one he calls as Kandan. The other is Valliammai. They are active. The former is making love to the latter. Valliammai felt shy in the presence of a stranger, here the poet. He did not want to intrude into their privacy. He went out and came after sometime. The shorter rope, i. e., Valliammai was in deep sleep. No movement could be noticed in the shorter rope. Kandan asked the poet, “Where had you been, othodox fellow?” All of a sudden, the Wind god appeared. A blaze of light, he was like a diamond needle. The god said. “Did you ask the shorter rope is asleep? No, it is dead. I am its life. In union with me, body is active. Devoid of my touch, it is corpse. I am life. Because of me, that small rope was alive and it derived pleasure. Tired a bit, I left her to sleep. Sleep is but death and death but sleep. In my presence neither is there. Towards the evening, I breathe. They get to life. I rouse them, make them move. I am energy’s offspring. Make obeisance to me and prosper.”

Shakti or Energy

Bharati was an ardent worshipper of Shakti or Energy, Parashakti, or the Supreme Energy of God. The gods specially mentioned in the Vedas are Prithvi, Aditi, Usha, Vach. Mother goddesses form the Dravidian contribution to Hinduism. Valli, consort of Subrahmanya, Murukan, Kumara, Karthikeya or by whatever name we may call, is the Ichcha Sakti. She is the Will of God. Sri or Lakshmi is the first of teachers in Guruparamparai of Vaishnavism. That is why Vaishnavism in the South is known as Sri Vaishnavism.

“He is the One; the second part of Him is His sweet grace” says Tirumular. “Sakti being an essential aspect of God, He is unthinkable without it. It is difficult to describe the nature of Sakti beyond saying that it is a kind of power. It is a power so essential that without it, it would decline. Sakti is God’s love in action. It is His grace made dynamic to save the soul.” (Saiva Siddhanta by V. Paranjoti)

Subramania Baharati was an ardent worshipper of Shakti. He sees Shakti or Energy in action in every deity and in every action of man or beast. He writes: “In the flood of Energy or Shakti, the Sun is but a bubble. In the pool of Energy, the Sun is a flower. Shakti is limitless, knows no borders. Shakti is infinite. Shakti shows mobility in immobility. Shakti is striker, driver, collector, adder, mixer, thrower, stretcher, rotator, sprinkler, infuser, stopper, connecter, divider. Shakti is freezer and heater. Shakti is anger, hatred, pleasure, enmity. Shakti is intoxicator of love, gives determination, makes one fear-conscious, enables one to boil and cool down. In the ocean of energy, the sun is but a foam. In the Vina of Shakti the sun is a string, a note. In the dance deluge of Shakti, light is a beat. It is but one member in Shakti’s art treasure. May the Great Shakti bless us with poesy, protection, imparting, cleansing, doing good and enlightenment. We seek her blessing in our effort to know and enjoy the fruit of growing the Vedic plant, after watering it with love, ploughing with the help of knowledge, removing the weed of Shastras!

The Siddha

Subramania Bhsrati claims himself to be a Siddha.

“Many were the Siddhars before me;
I also came as a Siddha in this land.”

says Bharati. The Tamil Siddhars are avidly read and sung, both by the learned scholars and the ordinary folk. Their songs are surcharged with deep thoughts, philosophic, reformist, revolutionary and a score more. What is the impact of the Siddhars on Bharati? It may turn out to be a fruitful and fascinating study. Is Bharati a Vedantin? Is Bharati a Siddhantin? Or is Bharati a bridge between Vedanta and Siddhanta, here Saiva Siddhanta, as the illustrious Taayumaanavar?

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