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Bharati's Tamil daily Vijaya traced in Paris

By T.S. Subramanian

A.R. Venkatachalapathy, Associate Professor, Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai, shows one of the 20 issues of Vijaya, a Tamil daily that the nationalist poet Subramania Bharati edited from Pondicherry. — Photo: S.R. Raghunathan.

CHENNAI, DEC. 4. In a major breakthrough in tracing the uncollected writings of Subramania Bharati, the great nationalist poet, 20 complete issues of Vijaya, a Tamil daily of which he was the editor, have been discovered. A.R. Venkatachalapathy, a scholar on Bharati's works, found these 1909-1910 issues of Vijaya in the National Library, Paris, France.

Until this discovery, only a few clippings from the little known daily were available: these fragments are on display at the Government Museum, and Bharati Memorial, both located at Pondicherry.

An eveninger

Vijaya was a Tamil eveninger published from Pondicherry for eight months from September 1909 to April 1910. Its first issue was published in September 1909 on the occasion of Krishna Jayanti. Vijaya was the only daily that Bharati edited. He also edited India, a weekly. Although a daily, Vijaya did not come out on Sundays and other holidays. About 160 issues of the daily were published from Pondicherry, and some 140 are yet to be traced.

The masthead of Vijaya is in Tamil and English. Above the masthead is printed the daily's motto in French, Liberte - Egalite - Fraternite, and in Tamil, Swatanthiram, Samathuvam, Sahodharathuvam. It announces that it "will be published every evening."

Part of a larger search

Dr. Venkatachalapathy, Associate Professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS), Chennai, says: "This was part of a larger search for documents relating not only to Bharati but also to the cultural history of colonial Tamil Nadu... For this work on Vijaya, I went to the libraries in the U.K., the U.S. and France. I went to the British Library in London, the Chicago University Library, and The National Library, Paris."

Bharati was an extraordinary genius whose major contribution, his great poetry aside, was in the field of journalism. He began his journalistic career as a sub-editor in the Tamil nationalist daily, Swadesamitran. He edited the weekly India for more than four years. "But in late 1909, a year after he took refuge in Pondicherry to escape the British Indian police, Bharati also edited Vijaya," Dr. Venkatachalapathy pointed out. Bharati was just 28 years old when he edited this four-page daily.

Editorials by Bharati

While the front and the fourth pages carried advertisements, the second page had one long leader and smaller editorials. The third page published news items. Bharati himself wrote the editorials, which "are suffused with sharp and strident criticism of the English Government, and marked by Bharati's trademark wit, irony and sarcasm," notes the MIDS scholar.

Dr. Venkatachalapathy has compiled and edited the material in these 20 issues of Vijaya into a volume. The introduction traces the history of Vijaya, situating it in the heroic life and work of Bharati. The introduction also pieces together fragmentary evidence from British Raj documents, secret reports and memoirs by the poet's contemporaries. The book, titled, Bharati: Vijaya Katturaikal has been published by Kalachuvadu Pathippagam, Nagercoil, Tamil Nadu.

Dr. Venkatachalapathy has edited two other books in Tamil on Bharati, Bharati's Cartoons from 1906 to 1910, and V.O. Chidambaram and Bharati.

In his editorials in Vijaya, Bharati attacks the Minto-Morley Reforms and the New Press Act, which ultimately strangled all the journals he was associated with in Pondicherry. The editorials deal with "Tibet and the Indian Government"; "The Sufferings of Indians in South Africa"; "The Tax of Three Sovereigns on Indian Women in Natal"; "Mrs. Annie Besant"; "The Duty of the Vaisyas of Our Land"; "Conversations with Srimaan Aurobindo Ghosh"; "Students and Politics"; "Lord Curzon on Indian Affairs" and the historical reasons for the downfall of Indian culture and civilisation. These editorials show Bharati's wide interests and deep socio-political concerns.

The colonial Government had weekly summaries prepared in English of what Indian language newspapers had to say on various subjects. "I went through the records of these reports in the archives and culled the extracts. Through these, we get an idea of what was written in Vijaya in its yet untraced issues," explains Dr. Venkatachalapathy. These extracts in English have been published in his book.

Despite the discovery of 20 complete issues of Vijaya, "the search for Bharati's uncollected writings is far from complete," notes Dr. Venkatachalapathy. He adds: "Tracing and compiling the scattered journalistic writings of Bharati is still an incomplete task despite the best efforts of Bharati scholars such as R.A. Padmanabhan, the late A.K. Chettiar, the late Periasamy Thooran and Seeni. Viswanathan over many decades. Renewed efforts are required to trace the missing issues of the journals to which Bharati contributed in his lifetime."

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