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Updated: August 31, 2009 17:02 IST

Was his trinity talking?

ENNAPADAM S. KRISHNAMOORTHY
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Subramania Bharathi: Visionary creativity...
The Hindu Photo Library Subramania Bharathi: Visionary creativity...

These varied often interlinked passions probably resulted in intense bouts of inspirational creativity, resulting in some of the finest poetry and music

Bharathi was arguably one of South India's most creative individuals of all time. Born into an orthodox Brahmin family, he lost his mother when he was a child and his reportedly rigid father when an adolescent. Brought up by an uncle in Benares at a time of growing nationalistic fervour, Bharathi soon became a "rebel with a cause". He dispensed with his tuft, grew a moustache and began to sport a turban, all anathema to his native traditions.

Paradoxically, his rejection of rituals and convention were matched only by his devotion to his preferred goddess "Parashakthi". A regular visitor to temples, he wrote "Kannan Pattu" viewing and describing the antics of Lord Krishna through the eyes of the "Gopis" (female consorts). He also threw himself into the freedom movement with complete passion and devotion. His "Kaani Nilam Vendum" is a prayer to his favourite goddess Parashakthi asking for a small piece of "free land" that he could call home, his evocative description of the desired land masking his desire to end "British Occupation". Bharathi thus curiously straddled many contradictory worlds. Conventional religiosity combined with the unconventional dispensation of rituals; burning patriotism in thought, feeling and expression, not always matched with action (for example it is observed that he never courted arrest, popular among nationalists at that time); a burning passion for social causes combined with agnosia for his own family and social obligations. His "Kuyil Pattu" for example is said to have been composed by him in the context of birds feeding on the precious grain he was supposed to watch over.

He is also reported to have shared a "conventional" relationship with his wife until this paradox was pointed out to him by Sister Niveditha during his visit to Kolkata. Bharathi's response was typically "excessive"; walking beside his wife in public and putting his arm around her (unheard of at that time), actions that resulted in the family's alienation from the traditional society they inhabited.

Bharathi reportedly suffered from bouts of depression brought on by psychosocial adversity; for example, his daughter's ill health. Clearly, his emotionality and creativity were closely linked; as were his poetry and music and his devotion to Parashakthi, his motherland and love for his mother tongue, Tamil. These varied often interlinked passions probably resulted in intense bouts of inspirational creativity, resulting in some of the finest poetry and music that the sub-continent has witnessed. Indeed, Bharathi is also unique in his generation for having blended in a most effective way, south Indian classical and folk music with poetry. While his work was in all probability driven by religious fervour and passionate nationalism, his emotionality and propensity for lateral thought clearly did influence his life and work. Was his Trinity Talking? In all probability a resounding YES!

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