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....

Bharathidasan: An Assessment

Dr. R. Subramania

Dr. R. SUBRAMANIAN, M.A., M.Lib.Sc., B.L., PH.D.,

BHARATHIDASAN (Kanga Subburathinam, 1891-1964) a great Tamil poet was born in Pondicherry when it was under French Rule. Having come in close contact with poet Bharathi who was then in voluntary exile in pondicherry, Subburathinam admired his poetry and developed a personal love for him. Soon he assumed the pen­name Bharathidasan (Devotee of Bharathi).

Bharathidasan was one of the greatest modern Tamil Poets after Bharathi. He gave us a rich collection of long and short poems and some plays. Some of the short pieces of his descriptive and reflexive lyrical poetry are in the best tradition of Tamil classical literature, full of sonorous melody of works and hunting rhythms. In some of his longer poems he tries to evoke the vision of an ideal casteless and classless society and free individual in an independent, flouriding, Dravidian State in which the Tamils and their language and culture would play the leading part. His copious poetic inheritance contains very powerful and quite fascinating poems glorifying the toil of the masses, the beauties of the Tamil language, the splendour of South Indian nature.

Bharatidasan is the champion of Tamil Renaissance and social reforms. He has produced more than fifteen poetical compositions, and some prose works and a few dramas. Among them the four anthologies of his poem, Alagin sirippu, kudgmba Vilakku, Pandiyan parisu and Chera Thandavam are the most important works.

His love for nature with rare sensibility is expressed in a fresh and conventional way in Alagin Sirippu. Tamil is his religion and his songs on Tamil are rightly popular, as indeed they are in the best tradition of Bharathi. He looks on Tamil from the Universal point of view and calls her the world mother.

His constant themes are love, place of women, Tamil, Tamilians, Children and democracy which gives man his rightful place. The inspiration, here also may be traced to Bharathi but Bharathidasan goes beyond his matter in his depth of force, in the breadth of his vision, in the length of his range and in the height of his poetry. Sanjivi parvatattin saral and puravehikavi are his best.

In Kurinji-t-tittu, democracy is established after the king dies, but here the labour movement is hinted at, though not brought into participate in the revolution. The country is ruined by a vile, corrupt group of pretenders parading in the garb of religion and culture.

In kadala kadamiya, poetry moves the heroes and the king him­self grants freedom at the sight of the lovers attempting to sacrifice themselves for the freedom of the country in a better way than that shown in the early Pormaravan where the warrior sacrifices his love and life for his country.

He was a great believer in education and he speaks of compulsory education in his new democracy. Inrunda veddu describes how without education a house is unhealthy full of derbis and dirt and how the people therein are ugly, unhealthy, superstitious and negligent-all leading to poverty, disease and death - a portrait standing in contrast to the happy family described in his earlier Kudumba vilakku, where education, love and sense of duty reign supreme. He is interested in a happy family and bringing up children male and female. He was a believer in the great power of women and therefore it is not wonder his women characters are superior in all respects.

In Kudumba Vilakku, Bharthidasan presents a family modelled on the Tirukkurel philosophy of family life. His treatise on the family life of a couple, with minute details of everyday life, seem to have the wife as the main figure. His strong belief that a man blessed with a dutiful virtuous wife has nothing else to aspire for, reminds us of the poet in puram, picirantayar who attributed his youthful looks and vitality to his virtuous wife, children and servants.

The Wife I begot is my
pleasure and my guiding eyes
faultless as she is, she wills
to sacrifice her life for mine.
She keeps me away from all evils.
She keeps my family flawless and
painless. Therefore man who beget
wives such as here are full of
praise and life on earth,

In his songs he introduces the labour, the weaver, the worker in the factories and workshops-refreshingly to a new and realistic vein of the Tamil Literature which he had been singing in a conventional way of Pallus and kuravanji’s.

He expresses his great joy in the vision of the great ocean of mankind without any division whatsoever and working for the world; for wealth there is common to all. He slyly, points out in his Panamum Manamum that the social rules and structures that are today based, not on human values, but on money value.

He was a great believer in Tamil Literature as an embodiment of culture as shown by his revised revisions of the great epics of Silappatikaram and Manimekalai, in which narrative poetry on the life of Kumaraguruparar and in the dramas on the lives of Satimurrappulavar and the Sankam poet picirantaiyar.

Reference has been made to the non-Brahmin and Dravidian movements. Bharathidasan came under this influence and developed a phobia against Brahmins and Northeners, and this colours all his writings after independence. This had affected him deeply and at that very thought he is thrown into violence. He believes in one formless God and in great men like Kumarakuruparar, Ramalinga and even Brahmins like Ramanuja Bharathi and paritimarkalaignar and that therefore he must be taken to be revolting against pretension. He describes Bharathi as the fire which no false religion could approach.

Avaricious parents, who intended to increase their own wealth by the bride price they received, blindly gave their daughters away to wealthy men. Such detrimental practices harassed Tamil women for a long time. In counselling unmarried maidens, Bharathidasan urges them to mould their destiny.

They will come to purchase you
with their cunning words. They
will make a good bargain and
your parents too will treat
you like a stone and will
refuse to show you your own
husband to be. But do not be
afraid. Plead with your parents
and soften their stone-like
hearts with your tears. If
you are unsuccessful, then
maintain your freedom.

Picirantaiyar, a drama, combines poems with dialogues. ‘Pici­rantaiyar’ was an ancient Tamil poet whose poems are available in Purananure. Ahananure and Natrinai all classical Tamil anthologies. The story is about picirantaiyar’s friendship with the king of Chola Nad, Koperumcholan. While picirantaiyar was born in Piciri, a place in pandia kingdom, he was serving the pandian king. The interesting point about both of them is that they never met each other.

The play is in chaste Tamil, which has its own sweetness and style. The poems included in the play, however, are not Bharathidasan’s best. Sahitya Akademi Award for 1969 was awarded to him, since Bharathidasan is a great name in contemporary Tamil Literature.

Bharathidasan with his unshakable faith in the ancient Tamil culture, sings the glory of Tamil language with full pride and enthusiasm;

Our life and fortue is ours
eternal Tamil! Our enemies have
disappeared with fear and frustration
having seen the unity and strength
of us. O coach! convey this message to the world:

Bharathidasan has to his credit a number of love lyrics, ballads, and patriotic songs: the fire of Bharathidasan’s romantic genius burst into living flames in metrical romances like Puratshik Kavi (The poet of revolt) and Ethiraparathi Muththam.

Polyandry was never existent in Tamil Nadu, except among tribes like the Todas. Bharathidasan reassures the Tamils that Draupathi, the legendary figure who is said to have been the wife of the five brothers called pancha pantavas, belongs to the Aryan culture, which is foreign to the Tamil country. Tamil, Tamil Nadu and Tamil culture are Bharathidasa’s life-giving forces. His fervour against alien civilisations that corrupt the Tamil Culture and way of life is evident in stories like Akattiyan Vitta putuk Karati and long narrative poems like kuringitittu. He dismisses the practices of one man marrying more than one wife, as alien to Tamil culture. Vinotai from Madras is the mistress of the king of kuringi Nad. A debate is held during a temple festival in kuringi Nad and Vinotai speaks ill of Tamils and their culture. The poet takes this opportunity to glorify Tamil Nadu and its culture by refuting vinotai’s accusations. He claims that

One man marrying one woman is our Culture
Women maintaining their chastity is our Culture
There is no caste in our Culture
Education and wealth are everyone’s in our Culture.

Here are a few poems of Bharathidasan rendered into English. They are examples of the poet’s humanism and universal outlook. The poet belongs not merely to the Tamils but to all humanity.

Come, let us destroy this warring world
Blowing it off like chaff before storm­-
And blind superstitions-
And create a world afresh
And call it the world of self-respect.
Fail not to see this, O society.
We have laid out the path for you.
Who else is there for you to do
But march ahead, ahead ... ahead ....
O earth, are you not the standing proof
of the tireless toil of the working class?
How is it then the rich are callous
To the hunger of the labourers?
Should the lions give all their share
To the little rats and pine?
Should the tigers feed the foxes well
And in hunger go to sleep?
No more fear. No more bending down.
The workers will all arise
And will prove to the world
That their own strength will bring them life.

Azhahin Sirippu - one of the best literature of Paventhar Bharathi­dasan, completely deals with nature. In that sense, it is unequally su­perior in Tamil Literature and comparative excellent with wordsworth’s ­work.

Oh! My dear! See
the beauty plays!
The wind jumps and
makes the flowering bunches shake;
The immense darkness
of the reopened clouds
Over the blue sky
spreads dud thickly moulds;
Under the black cloud
the glistening rays dip;
from which the numerous
splendid colours peep;
No words to say
the glorious lustre how;
It is the beauty
that forms the rainbow!


(Mainfestations of the primal power)

Whichever side the eyeturns to
It sees but the Mother’s Majesty,
Seven foaming seas clothe Her from divine
Scores of worlds which will roll in boundless space
Are tiny balls in Her playful hands.
The roaring thunder in the raining cloud
Is the whisper of Her smile, a
suppressed laugh
Where the dreamer stands on the shore of poesy
And speds his soul across the waves
In his fancy the Mother steps out a dance
The world acclaims him poet and sage.
When seift you draw the sword and say
“With this I cleave the world in twain”
And your inner soul echoes that vow
The Mother shines in the sinews of your arm.


Dig Dig Dig
Dig a pit deep down to the underworld
precipitate and sink
Down down down you go
Go headlong down
Oh, you insect wallowing in slush
Bow your head, hand down your face,
Droop your shoulders, loose your lips
Contract your mean head, body and soul
And lick and declare
To do so is fine and fit.
Cringe, creep and crawl
much lower than a dog could do.
Bend, cling to the lowly dust
and shrink within like a tortoise.
You spotted beetle and toad
Cry, bare your teeth in
suppliant smile, bend, tremble
and blabber.
You indelible stain on the blackness
of the darkest nights!
A segment of the sagging sinews
Lo, Look, Listen!
Thou art a man just like other men,
not dust
Open thine eyes, Stand upright,
Square thy shoulders
Lift up thy face
twist up thy world with thine
wakeful eyes
Sound thy heart in joyous laughter
Lead the world
Pull down the walls that stand between
thine house and thy neighbours’
Remove the curtain that
separates street from street,
Break all barriers and
Bring all nations together,
Onward go, upward go
Make thine ascent up the mounts
that touch the skies
Climb up and go on
Stand thou there and look all around.
Look around, about, below
Look upon the peoples of the world
Look upon the expanse of humanity
Aye, look upon the legions
that were born with thee.
Look upon the oceans of men who
took thee to them as theirs;
Cry out “They’re mine” and rejoice.
Expand the mind upto the
limitless space beyond all bounds
Devour these men with thy widened eyes.
Brace them; Blend with them
and sing thou art the human ocean.
No difference No distinction.
Eat when the world has eaten
Dress when the others have dressed
I’ll admire you!
All things are common to all men
Conduct the world in common
Even as the sky that spans above all men
With surging love and affection
Proclaim this even to
dwarfish men.



Oh! joy, joy! joy of the dance
Of, Mother Nature doth our hearts entrance!
Oh! Joy, joy, Joy!

The splendour of Her light all space
prevades all things in its embrace!
Oh! joy, joy, joy!

The dark’ning sky, her flowing, flowing hair,
Her garments tangle floating everywhere;
Her gleaming smiles the name of lightning bear,
Her voice, the thunder, all heaven and earth doth tear!
Oh! joy, joy, joy!

One of her hands the gaudy rainbow grasp
The all-destructive javelin one hand clasps!
The sparks, her flashing eyes emit like wasps!
The clouds of darkness flee to die in gasps!
Oh! joy, joy, joy!

The moon doth hold the candle to Her plat;
The sweet cadences of TEMPANGU lay
keep measure, and the stars of heaven gay
Dance round; Her, lip and eyes join in the fray,
Oh! joy, joy, joy!

At one with reason and with very life
She drives all other passions as of strife
Her poses Her purposes are; Her life
Our life’ She dances to time’s lasting life
Oh! joy, joy, joy!

Down with ignorance! Down with mankind’s foe!
Dire grovelling poetry with all her curses, so!
The rule of man o’er man for ever go!
Hail Mother from they dance, let freedom, new
birth grow!
Oh! joy, joy, joy!


In the Lord Haris’ name, O mother,
Give me a little rice.”
The mendicant said, climbing up the steps.
He was fat, and on his forehead
Were the usual religious marks.

There was a carpenter working
On the varanda.
He stopped the beggar with a scowl and said,
“Go away, man, you won’t get anything here”.
I am not asking much,” the tiady whined.

“A little given to you is a little thrown away”
The worker said.

“A handful given to me
will ensure that much good returns in heaven”
The beggar persisted.

“Lazy sycophant,
Every handful given to the like of you
Will push the nation one step ward!”
Snapped the carpenter.
The begger answered,
“I can quote from the Vedas and the Agamas:
I am steeped in the puranas and the Epics.
And you do not know them!
You are just a carpenter”.

“Indeed I am,” the reply came:
“And I work by the sweat of my brow.
But what good are you
With all your Vedas and your Agamas?
You only beg!”.

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