Bharati, awakener of Tamil Nad

Poet, patriot, savant, awakener of Tamil Nad — Bharati is all these. There is a magic spell of intimacy and national feeling woven around the very name of Bharati. For it is true, as it was yesterday and will forever be, that his songs have an astonishing power to quicken the tempo of the patriotic fervour of his countrymen.

When his political life fell under the shadow of danger, he fled in 1908 to Pondicherry, then a French settlement. For some time he was lost to the public eye, and his life was poverty stricken.

In 1910 occurred a stroke of Providence. Aurobindo Ghosh of Bengal was no more in the vortex of politics. The presiding Deity of Pondicherry housed the fiery apostle of Indian Nationalism not only peacefully but also cheerfully.

The opportunity was too good to be missed. For years, when the sun would go down, Bharati would go to Sri Aurobindo's place to bask in the sunshine of his affection. Under that great influence, his head began to teem with national songs which brought him, in after years, transcendental praise. Sri Aurobindo taught him how to vision the country as the Mother personified. Bharati saw that, while mankind was engrossed in the immediate, Sri Aurobindo was devoted to the Ultimate. It was Sri Aurobindo who so very kindly helped him to launch into the Vedic mysteries, and made him at home in ancient literatures. Let us listen to Prema Nandakumar, an authority on Bharati and a student of Sri Aurobindo, describe the relation between the two: "… a spell-binder, an inspiration, a veritable Krishna to the neophyte Arjuna."

Soon Bharati became a man of great comprehension and was able to animate his mass of fresh knowledge by an active and lucid imagination. Now gradually Sri Aurobindo began to dive within to unveil all the mysteries of life. Bharati found the time ripe to cross the frontier of Pondicherry. In 1918 he left Pondicherry, only to be arrested at a place near Cuddalore. But only for a fleeting month did he have to undergo imprisonment.

On his return to Madras he found Mahatma Gandhi in the vanguard of the fight for freedom. He soon became one of his ardent admirers. And by this time his own admirers, too, were more than sufficient. A unique thrill they felt when he would break into his national songs. He was highly inspired by Bankim's Bande Mataram. He in his own way composed national songs to arouse the slumbering people of Tamil Nad. His songs were not only slogans of liberty but also slogans for social emancipation.

Poet Sarojini Naidu's appreciation of and admiration for Bharati is at once inspiring and significant:

"People like Bharati cannot be counted as the treasure of any province. He is entitled, by his genius and his work, to rank among those who have transcended all limitation of race, language and continent, and have become the universal possession of mankind."

It was from Sister Nivedita that he came to learn that women are not to be looked down upon. They deserve to walk shoulder to shoulder with men. That he was profoundly inspired by Nivedita's lofty teachings can easily be observed from these lines of his:

Gone are they who said to woman: "Thou shalt not open the Book of Knowledge." Nor shall it be said that woman lags behind man in the knowledge that he attains.

Also, Nivedita inspired him to be above the caste system. In accordance with her momentous advice the poet in Bharati sings:

We are of the same caste and race,
We are children of Bharat all;
We are equal in law and stature,
And everyone is Bharat's King!
Long live the Republic.

Nivedita's prophetic utterance regarding Bharati's future came perfectly true: "Some day, I am sure, you will become famous. God bless you."

As Lokamanya Tilak made bold to say that "Home rule is my birthright," even so Bharati's fearless heart voiced forth:

"Freedom is our universal speech,
  Equality is the experienced fact."

Bharati's cosmopolitan heart cried out to see a lucid interrelation among his Indian brothers.

What is life without unity?
Division can only spell ruin.
Could we hold fast to this truth,
What more should we need?
We'll bow to thee, Mother.

What an irony of Fate! Bharati had hardly reached the age of 39 when Death snatched him away. But he has left an imperishable imprint on Rajagopalachari: "Agastya incarnate who has given us Tamil afresh."