Subramaniya Bharati’s call for national integration is increasingly relevant

As Bharat approaches 75th year of Independence... 
Subramaniya Bharati’s call for national integration is increasingly relevant
This happened last week in Chennai. School children were walking past a sculptor’s shed. They noticed statues of Subramania Bharati and his wife Chellammal kept ready to be taken to Puducherry. A little boy asked the sculptor, “Is this Bharati?” pointing to the statue of Chellammal. The sculptor was shocked. He expressed his desire to take Bharati to the next generation now in schools. 

So, it is a sad state of affairs that the ideas of Bharati, the fiery poet and freedom fighter (1882 – 1921), is not as popular as film stars particularly among the youth in Tamilnadu even after more than seven decades of Independence. Not that nothing is being done. Stage depiction of Bharati by a dedicated drama group of volunteers gets wide appreciation. On occasions, a picture of Bharati is placed in a palanquin and taken in a shobha yatra along the streets of Triplicane in Chennai where the Tamil poet lived and worked. Routine esaay writing / oratorical competitions on Bharati are held and children win prizes. Leaders never forget to garland statues of Bharati on the Marina Beach in Chennai or the one in Ettayapauram where Bharati was born on his birthday falling on December 11. 

But the question is, do families take upon themselves the responsibility of nurturing the patriotic values that were extolled by Bharati in his songs? Last week, taking a cue from an aspect of Kutumba Prabodhan, Tamil weekly Vijayabharatham asked its readers to try discussing Bharati’s life and work in the weekly domestic meet, with the young and old in the family participating. The paper also suggested that chai pe charcha type gatherings of neighbours could be apt avenues for remembering Bharati. It is noteworthy that inculcation of desha bhakti in gen next is not a one day affair. It is a process most needed in the vitiated atmosphere of today’s Tamilnadu, with umpteen groups active in spreading Tamil separatism all over. 

Leave alone kids, middle aged Hindu Tamilians do not know Bharati’s personality in full. A couple of inspiring anecdotes circulated by Uttara Tamailnadu Vishwa Samvad Kendra through its recent issue of ‘Chennai Sandesh’ is an eye opener. Read on : On two occasions, Bharati sends out a distinct message to the modern Hindu mind. One: Through Draupadi Vastrapaharanam scene in his mini epic Panchali Shapatam Bharati makes Draupadi question Bhishma whether Yudhishtira had the authority to use her as pawn in the game of dice after he himself had been defeated and had become the slave of Kauravas. Bhishma accedes: “the equal status for women existed during the ages of the Vedic Rishis; but the practice prevailing right now is a degenerate version and according to it, woman is not equal to man.” That is how history of Hindus as written by a Hindu would look like. The past is neither painted all black nor it is shown as all rosy. Two: During Bharati’s lifetime, in 1911, a comet passed by close to earth. Several astrological predictions as to the impact of the comet’s arrival were discussed by Indians. But the astronomical explanation for the event was sought from the Europeans. Then an assistant editor in a daily, Bharati was pained at this predicament of the Hindus. He reasoned out that Hindus have forgotten their Gyan Parampara over the centuries. Thus he pointed out that in matters of science our ancestors were no less endowed than anyone in the world. 

Actually, Bharati enumerates examples of past glory while berating ‘English Education’ imposed on an enslaved Bharat, thus: “Those who attend English schools are ignorant of the humaneness of Kamban and the poetry of Kalidasa; they have never heard of Bhaskaracharya of yore who measured the dimensions of stars and planets nor the unbelievable efficacy of Panini’s grammer; they never appreciate Silappadhikaram (the story of Kannagi) sung by a Chera prince - turned - ascetic by name Elango nor the divine scripture Thirukkural by Thiruvalluvar; they are total strangers as to the benign rule under Chatrapati Shivaji, Ashoka and the Chera-Chola-Pandiyas”. This predicament of ignorance in the second decade of the past century is no better today. So, when Bharati is taken to the living room in Hindu houses, the badly needed morale boosting is taken care of. 

Tamilnadu is clamoring for a strong message of national oneness. See what expert Bharati analyst Dr. Prema Nandakumar of Srirangam has to say: “ Above everything else, he was one of the earliest to speak of India as one entity.In his poems and prose writing he stressed the need for an integrated India and exhorted the Indians to eschew regional rivalries and think in terms of an ‘Indian’. Poem after poem describes the best in each region and how these should be brought together to build a glorious future for India.He was sure when the call came, India’s millions would answer with one voice. So, he sang of Mother Bharat at the dawn of our Independence movement thus: ‘She has thirty crores of faces, But her heart is one; She speaks eighteen languages, Yet her mind is one.’ His message for national unity is still relevant for our life and times”, she concludes. Our life and times! Premaji wrote this in 1972 when Bharat celebrated silver jubilee of its Independence. Today we are approaching the platinum jubilee and we keep repeating the clished phrase ‘Bharati’s message for national unity is still relevant’. How sad! 


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