Tamil Nadu

Penchant for equality in songs

For him, the birds, the mountains, the seas and everything that he saw around were one and no different from human beings.

Yes, nationalist poet Subramania Bharathi, whose 100th death anniversary is being observed in a fitting manner by the State government and others, had a penchant for treating every object and person equally, with an aim to bring about unity among the masses of the country.

“When he saw that Indians did not have the will to fight the enemy, he took every opportunity to unify them. In the poem Jayaberigai, kaakai Kuruvi engal jaathi, neel kadalum, malayum engal koottam, he goes beyond grammar, and says he sees life even in inanimate objects,” said Ma. Ki. Ramanan, a Tamil scholar.

In the poem Vellai nirathu oru poonai engal veetil valarudhu kandeer, under the title Murasu paattu, Bharathiar equates different coloured cats to human beings, and says colours may vary, but all of us are human beings at the end of the day.

Mr. Ramanan goes on to explain that in his Pudhiya aathichudi — Ellaarum orkulam, ellaarum orinam, ellaarum or Indhiya Makkal — fashioned after Avvaiyar’s Aathichudi, Bharathiar says the 30 crore population of India is one in all aspects.

“He saw no difference among the people. He detested divisions based on caste and creed,” the scholar said.

Not just through his words, but even in his deeds, Bharathiar ensured that equality, unity and upliftment of the downtrodden was promoted. Puducherry-based Bharathiar-scholar N. Senkamalathayar and daughter of journalist R. Nagarathnam, who had taken part in Bharathiar’s last rites, said in November 1916, there was a massive cyclone (Tamil year of Nala, Kaarthikai month), and Bharathiar and his friends, including Va.Ve.Su. Iyer, collected 315 padi of rice and ₹89 in cash, and fed 4,000 people for 10 days. “Of this, he spent ₹2 and 2 annas to collect and give a decent burial to 790 birds and small animals like crows and sparrows. They prepared a white paper to show how much was spent since it was public money,” the scholar said.

Another instance was that of adorning Kanakalingam, a Dalit, and Nagalingam, the then priest of the Desa Muthu Mariamman temple that he used to frequent, with the poonal (the sacred thread), Ms. Senkamalathayar said, adding that he used to take people from the Uppalam area to his house and provide them food.

“As far as women rights are concerned, he saw equality among men and women after the Surat Congress, and the guidance of Sister Nivedita, whom he considered guru,” she said.

The list of songs talking of equality by the poet goes on. They include Vandhe Matharam enbom and Sindhu nadhiyin, which were adopted for films too.

Chief Minister M.K. Stalin has now announced that the songs of Bharathiyar will be translated into English, and books of his songs will be published and distributed to students. A way forward to take his thoughts and vision to the present generation.

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 3:37:54 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/penchant-for-equality-in-songs/article36409769.ece

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