all towns are
one, all men our kin.
Home > Tamils - a Trans State Nation > Tamil Language & Literature > Thamizh Literature Through the Ages - Preface > 1. Introduction > 2. The Sangam (Academy) period. > 3. The Didactic Period > 4. The Era of the Thamizh Epics > 5. The Era of Devotional Period > 6. Epics of the ChOzha Period > 7. Grammar and Lexicography > 8. Philosophical Literary Period > 9. Thamizh purANangaL and Minor Poems > 10. IslAmic and Christian Contributions to Thamizh Literature > 11. Modern Period > 12. Present Situation > 13. Conclusion
Dr. C.R. Krishnamurti,
Several changes in the social and political environment of the Thamizh region have taken place in the nineteenth century. The most significant changes occurred in the political scene. During the course of about two centuries, all the Thamizh Kings and their chieftains, who were ruling the region have gradually lost their power and their place was taken over by foreign rulers who initially came into the region for purposes of trading. The struggle for supremacy among the British, French, Portuguese and Dutch traders, the ultimate triumph of the British who exploited the internal squabbles among the indigenous rulers and the establishment of the British rule in the whole of the Indian subcontinent are very well known historical facts.
It is understandable that under these circumstances, the imposition of the western culture on the indigenous people was inevitable. The establishment of the Saiva Mutts (மடங்கள்) was a valiant attempt on the part of the Thamizh people to safeguard their language and other indigenous traditions. The role of these mutts and their contribution to Thamizh literature have already been referred to. The premier institutions in this regard are the ThiruvAvaduthurai (திருவாவடுதுரை), Dharumapuram (தருமபுரம்)and KunRakkudi (குன்றக்குடி) mutts.
The head of the ThiruvAvaduthurai mutt was SubramaNia DhEsikar (சுப்பிரமணியதேசிகர்) (d.1888). He has written a commentary on SivagnAna sitthiyAr (சிவஞானசித்தியார்). He is noted for his ability to recognize literary talents among his students and develop them with his support. He was the patron for MInAtchi sun^tharam PiLLai whose literary contributions are dicussed below.
11.2. Thirisirapuram MahA VidwAn MInAtchi sun^tharam PiLLai (திரிசிரபுரம் மகாவித்துவான் மீனாட்சி சுந்தரம் பிள்ளை)(1815-1876)
MInAtchi sun^tharam PiLLai joined the mutt at an early age and was involved in teaching Thamizh literature and Saiva SitthAn^tham to the students. Based on his extraordinary talents, he was conferred the title of MahA VidwAn (மகாவித்துவான்) (great scholar).
PiLLai was so famous in his days that it is said that a letter from London addressed to him as MahA VidwAn MInatchi sun^tharam Pillai, India, reached him safely! A teacher's eminence is based not only on his own credentials but also on the caliber of his students. PiLLai's students include U.V.SAmin^Atha iyer (உ.வே.சாமிநாதஐயர்), MAyUram VEthan^Ayakam PiLLai (மாயூரம் வேதநாயகம் பிள்ளை), Sauvri rAyalu PiLLai (செளரிராயலு பிள்ளை), PUvaLUr ThiyagarAja ChettiAr (பூ வளுர் தியாகராஜ செட்டியார்) all of them famous in their own rights. PiLLai was a prolific writer and had the incredible talent of writing quickly as well. The work, akilANda n^Ayaki MAlai (அகிலாண்டநாயகிமாலை) is said to have been completed by the time he returned from the temple. After Kampan he appears to have written the most number of poems which exceed 200,000 in about 80 works.
11.2.1. Salient Features of PiLLai's literary works
PiLLai belonged to a generation of Thamizh scholars who had the highest regard for tradition (மரபு வழிக்கவிஞர்). His policy regarding Thamizh and literature is indicated by his extreme love for the language and the need to write in a heart moving fashion. The following statements bear testimony for this: (கல்லுங் கரையக் கரையக் கவிபாடுங் கனிவாய்). He has committed himself to sing in praise of Sivan. He feels "whatever he wears, sings, sees or wishes should be for His sake".
In the following poem he laments that though he wants to sing in praise of only Sivan and not any other God, he has not acquired the courage to do so:
Based on his literary policy his works can be grouped as follows: புராணங்கள், பிரபந்தங்கள், தனிப்பாடல்கள், & சிறப்புப்பாயிரம். He has written the (தலபுராணம்) of 22 holy places, the most famous being (திருநாகைக் காரோண புராணம்). His tremendous contribution to Thamizh literature and Saiva SiththAn^tham is perpetuation of the traditional literary styles of Saivaite scholars of the earlier generations (குமரகுருபரர், சிவப்பிரகாசர், சிவஞானமுனிவர், கச்சியப்ப சிவாசாரியார்).Though his works include various literary styles (கலம்பகம், உலா, கோவை, தூது, சிலேடை) he will ever be remembered for his ten (பிள்ளைத் தமிழ்).It is said that to write Pillait Thamizh there is no other PiLLai after him. (பிள்ளைத் தமிழுக்கு இப்பிள்ளையைப் போல் இனியொருவர் இல்லை).In his SEkkizhAr PiLLait Thamizh (சேக்கிழார் பிள்ளைத்தமிழ்) he praised SEkkizhAr as one who composed poems from which the sweetness of Bhakthi dripped profusely. (பக்திச்சுவை நனி சொட்டச் சொட்டப் பாடிய கவிவலவன்).He is rather unique in writing in praise of his own teachers and students. The other trait that he is famous for is his ability and willingness to write in folk style as well. These include (அம்மானை, லாலி, மங்களம், வாழ்த்து).
PiLLai has employed a variety of YAppu (யாப்பு) in his works. He has used Aciriya Viruttham (ஆசிரியவிருத்தம்) in PiLLait Thamiz (பிள்ளைத்தமிழ்), kattaLaik kalitthuRai (கட்டளைக்கலித்துறை) in the three KOvai (கோவை) and kaliveNpA (கலிவெண்பா) in Thiruvidai maruthUr ulA (திருவிடைமருதூர் உலா). In his expressions (வெளியீடு) PiLLai is known for his ability to exploit the words to suit the sound and the human emotions. For example, he describes the beauty of a maiden which reminds one of amarAvathi (அமராவதி)as seen by ampikApathi (அம்பிகாபதி) as follows:
KuchElar (குசேலர்), the friend of Lord KrishNa had 27 children and his poverty was proverbial. In KuchElapAkkiyAnam (குசேலபாக்கியானம்) , PiLLai described the scenes for poverty in a dramatic and simple manner. In the following poem he says "some of the children were stretching their hands one over the other for food; others were rolling down the floor crying and screaming. How much longer can the mother put up with this sort of affairs?"
In his descriptive ability and in the use of similes (உவமைகள்) PiLLai is outstanding. In the following poem on KunRatthUr (குன்றத்தூர்), he paints an almost incredible picture of how the place looks like (or should look in the poet's mind):
It would be fair to say that PiLLai represented the gradually vanishing generation of Thamizh scholars who strictly adhered to the traditional literary style. His passion for Thamizh literature and Saiva SitthAn^tham was inseparable.
11.3. KunRakkudi atikaL (குன்றக்குடி அடிகள்)(1925 - 1996 ).
He is a well known Thamizh scholar and author of KuRat Selvam (குறட்செல்வம்). Right till the time of his death he was active in the social, cultural and political circles in Thamizh n^Adu. His speeches on religious and literary topics are highly regarded.
A large number of scholars from outside the Saiva mutts have made tremendous contributions to Thamizh literature during the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth century. A review of the names of the pulavars (புலவர்கள்) of this and previous periods and their contributions has been published in five volumes 'Independent Poems', (தனிப்பாடல்கள்). These poems, even by the same authors, do not have any continuity of a specific theme but do depict the tremendous literary skills of the authors.
The following poem by rAmachan^thira KavirAyar (ராமச்சந்திரகவிராயர்) gives an illustration of the humour and manipulative skill of the poets. In the poem below, the anguish of a poor pulavar who is blaming the God who created him as follows:"Did He ever teach me to boil the rock and sand and drink them, no; or else did He ever bless me with gold, no; can I blame anyone for my grievances, no; He has created me in this world just to show all my teeth and beg everyone".
His original name was VEthAchalam (வேதாசலம்). He was one of the earliest proponents of the pure Thamizh movement which stood against the Sanskritization of pure Thamizh words. Because the name, VEthachalam was Sanskrit, he changed his name to the pure Thamizh equivalent, MaRaimalai. In his literary works also he used pure Thamizh words. He was proficient in Sanskrit and English and was influenced by the style of English authors. He is well remembered for his excellence in writing in prose. He was one of the earliest Thamizh authors who showed interest in research especially in the field of literary policy. Like his contemporaries he was a staunch Saivaite but had a social reforming motif. His works included the following: novels (குமுதவல்லி, கோகிலாம்பாள் கடிதங்கள்); drama (அம்பிகாபதி அமராவதி); Thamizh research (தமிழர்மதம், அறிவுரைக்கொத்து, தமிழ்நாட்டவரும் மேல்நாட்டவரும், முற்காலப் பிற்காலத் தமிழ்ப்புலவர், தமிழ்த்தாய்); religion (மாணிக்கவாசகர் வரலாறும் கால ஆராய்ச்சியும், பழந்தமிழ்க் கொள்கையே சைவசமயம்).
11.5. ARumuka n^Avalar (ஆறுமுகநாவலர்)(1823-1879)
He hailed from YAzppANam (யாழ்ப்பாணம்) but moved to Cithambaram (சிதம்பரம்) and lived there. He was proficient in Sanskrit and English in addition to Thamizh. He has translated Bible into Thamizh. He is particularly famous for his editorial capacity and contributions to the prose style (உரைநடை) of Thamizh literature which was gaining popularity at this time. As a staunch Saivaite, he expressed his opposition to rAmalinga atikaL when the latter came up with his concept of Samarasa SanmArkka SitthAn^tham.
11.6. Dr. U.V.SAmin^Atha iyer (உ.வே. சாமிநாத ஐயர்) (1855-1942)
Dr. SAmin^Atha iyer was one of the illustrious students of MahA VidwAn MInAtchi sun^tharam PiLLai. He lived to the ripe age of 87 and was affectionately referred to as the 'Grand Father of Thamizh' (தமிழ்த்தாத்தா). He held senior academic positions in Thamizh at the Madras Presidency College. This was the time when the British were at the peak of their power and it was rare, if not impossible, for a native son with expertise in the vernacular language to be elevated to these high positions. He was conferred the honorary doctoral degree (D.Litt.) by the University of Madras. In recognition of his outstanding literary aaccomplishments and contributions, he was also honoured with the title, "MahAmahOpAthiyAya' (மகா மகோ பாத்தியாய), greatest of the great teachers.
He has written 91 published works including the editing of several Sangam texts, epics and grammatical works. He will be remembered for his style of prose including two biographies, one on his mentor, MInAtchi sun^tharam PiLLai and the other on the musician, GAnam KrishNa iyer and a long list of essays and reminiscences.His famous Autobiography என் சரித்திரம்) is regarded as a legacy he bequeathed to posterity providing a liaison between older schools of thought and modern Thamizh literary trends. His other works include the following: (நான் கண்டதும் கேட்டதும், பழையதும் புதியதும், நல்லுரைக்கோவை, நினைவு மஞ்சரி)
11.7. rAmalinga atikaL (இராமலிங்க அடிகள்)(1823-1874)
The nineteenth century poet-saint rAmalinga atikaL (இராமலிங்க அடிகள்) is one among the few leaders who had succeeded in making profound changes in people's religious perception with their thoughts, deeds and words. He is also respectfully referred to as VaLLalAr (வள்ளலார்). rAamalingar's life is an epitome of simplicity, compassion for all living things and selfless service. He lived most of his life in the city of Madras and had the opportunity of learning first hand the social problems of modern communities and decided to dedicate his life for the achievement of religious equanimity (சமரச சமயம்) and righteousness in all endeavours (சன்மார்க்கம்).
With these objectives in mind, he moved to a small place, VadalUr (வடலூர்) near Cithambaram (சிதம்பரம்) and established institutions (சத்திய ஞானசபை & சத்திய தருமசாலை) for the promotion of his spiritual concepts. At the time when his philosophy was introduced, he appeared to be well ahead of his time and people were not ready to comprehend his teachings (MInAtchi sun^tharan, 1974). It is extremely gratifying that the universality of his concepts has since been appreciated by many and his followers are increasing in numbers.
11.7.1. Literary Features of rAmalingar's literary works
a) His Thiru arutpA (திருவருட்பா) , made up of 5818 poems is regarded to be an excellent blend of literary beauty and divine grace. He had adopted the Aciriya Viruttham style (ஆசிரிய விருத்தம்) for most of his poems which are arranged in six, seven or eight meters (ஆறுசீர், எழுசீர், எண்சீர் வரிசைகள்).
Thiru arutpA is a collection of several works (தொகைநூல்) written by VaLLalAr on a variety of topics. VaLLalAr made it clear to his followers that his literary efforts represent his personal experiences of spiritual ecstasy and requested them not to publish them and make it commercial. With great persuasion his followers did manage to obtain his permission and got Thiru arutpA published in six volumes (ஆறுதிருமுறைகள்)..
His repentance for the predicament he faced subsequently and the humility he suffered in this regard can be appreciated from the following poem:
His followers regard VaLLalAr's collected work as the twelfth Thiru MuRai (பன்னிரண்டாம்திருமுறை)and claim that it should be added to the eleven Saiva canons (Thiru MuRai) already in existence.
b) His literary policy is that only divine literature is true literature (இறைஇலக்கியம் தான் நிறைஇலக்கியம்). He has used the word, ilakkiyam (இலக்கியம்) specifically in his poems:
c) VaLLalAr believed in a simple literary style which will deliver the message (எளிமையிற் பொருண்மை). Yet his verses carried deep spiritual concepts with clarity. Instead of trying to please his followers, he described his own personal experiences with conviction and sweetness. However his prose contains very long sentences which are difficult to understand. An example of his simplicity follows:
d) In order to convince people that the Absolute Being they are seeking is right within us, he creates a pleasant atmosphere to ease our anguish as in the following poem popularized by famous musicians (eg. S.G.KittappA, T.R.MahAlingam).
e) To emphasize that devotional poems should be soft and sweet, VaLLalAr made use of the soft consonants (மெல்லின இடையினங்கள்) in the words and phrases as in the following stanza :
This format follows the tradition stipulated by TholkAppiar, (இழுமென்மொழியால் விழுமியது நுவலினும்).
f) In employing similes VaLLalAr chose analogies whcih are most appropriate to the situation. The following poem compares the mind which wanders all over the place to a variety of things with a high sense of humour:
g) Apart from decrying the importance of rituals and superstitions, his greatest contributions to spiritual philosophy are his concept of the combined VEdhAn^tham and SitthAn^tham (வேதாந்த சித்தாந்தம்), the equanimity of all religions (cmrcmf) and righteousness (சன்மார்க்கம்.) Indeed he carries the value of equinamity among all human beings to the extreme limit as described in the following poem. He begs Lord Sivan who dances equally well before one and all to accept his offerings of music; requests Him to bless the literate and illiterate with happiness; bless those who can see and who don't see with real vision; bless the mighty and the meek; bless those who care as well those who don't with wisdom; bless both the good and the bad equally:
h) The catholocity of his teachings is best illustrated in the following prayer song which is very popular. "Oh Kan^thA, guide me to get the friendship of good people who meditate on you with serenity, help me avoid the friendship of hypocrites, help me speak of your glory, help me avoid speaking lies, help me to be virtuous, remove my arrogance, help me to lead a chaste life, help me think of you always, bless me with wisdom, good health and Your grace":
It appears that ThirumUlar (திருமுலர்) planted the seeds for the personification of the indivisible Sivan (Supreme Being) as love (அன்பும் சிவனும் இரண்டென்பர் அறிவிலார்) ; ThAyumAnavar (தாயுமானவர்) nurtured these ideas to evolve the concept of equanimity of all religions with his theory of SitthAn^tha Samarasam (சித்தாந்தசமரசம்) ; rAmalingar (இராமலிங்கர்) made them bear fruits with his philosophy of VEdhAn^tha SitthAn^tha Samarasa SanmArkkam (வேதாந்த சித்தாந்த சமரச சன்மார்க்கம்).
11.8. SubramaNiya BhArathiyAr (சுப்பிரமணிய பாரதியர்) (1882-1921)
11.8.1. Thamizh in the cause of Freedom
For over 2,000 years Thamizh has been growing steadily amidst several social and political changes in the Thamizh region as well as in the other parts of the country. Literary scholars have adorned the language with their garlands of epics, purANas, praban^thams and poems; followers of different religions and subsects have exploited the richnesss and beauty of Thamizh to propagate their own spiritual and philosophical ideas and describe their devotional ecstasy; artists, dancers and musicians have made use of Thamizh for their own pleasure and for the enjoyment of the elite and folks alike.
Though the pulavars were, in general, a poor lot, there was no dearth of patrons or Kings to provide them with support; and the language continued to flourish with their ingenuity and love. Scholars did not hesitate to borrow words and phrases from other languages. While adhering to their own traditions in literary policy, format and expressions, the scholars were willing to introduce changes as time marched on. They were even willing to experiment with new styles to cater to the tastes of all segments of the society.
But two hundred years of foreign rule had taken its toll on the people and their language which, they believed, was initiated by God himself. Native scholars were not free to publish their works. The situation became worse if the material to be published had any political implication. Indeed in such cases the authors had to face dire consequences including arrests. Notwithstanding the contributions of scholars and missionaries (Beschi, Pope and Caldwell), whose services to the cause of Thamizh will ever be remembered, the plight of Thamizh scholars was, in general, a deplorable one. What proved to be more damaging was the preeminence given to English.
Nowhere in the history of mankind there is evidence that any nation subjected by a super power continued to be one for ever; in fact, the more a society or a nation is suppressed, the quicker the feelings of people are aroused and at some point and time, the volcano of human emotion explodes and the lava of their feelings begins to flow in all directions. The first half of the twentieth century witnessed such changes in the Indian subcontinent and the thirst for political freedom began to take different forms and shapes. All that it needed was the conviction of a few leaders with vision and willingness to sacrifice all they have got to achieve the impossible dream of freedom.
It is at this juncture that several Thamizh scholars decided to join the struggle for freedom. They accomplished this by exploiting the Thamizh language and flaming the fire of freedom in the minds of the common man with their passionate poems that roused their national spirits. Chief among them was the MahA Kavi SubramaNiya BhArathiyAr (மகாகவி சுப்பிரமணிய பாரதி ) who, in a short span of 39 years, has contributed tremendously to the political emancipation of India, social reformation of the community and literary rejuvenation of Thamizh.
Born in a middle class Brahmin family in ettayapuram . (எட்டையபுரம்) in Thirun^elvEli district, SubramaNia BhArathiyAr worked for some time as a court poet of the local elite (ஜமீந்தார்). His given name was ChinnasAmi SubramaNiya iyer (சின்னசாமி சுப்பிரமணிய ஐயர்f) and the nickname was ettayapuram SubbiAh. The title of BhArathi (பாரதி) , Goddess of Learning, was conferred upon him in 1893 in recognition of his poetic talents. Following his father's death, he moved to Kasi to stay with his aunt. He returned to Madras in 1904 and joined the staff of the Thamizh magazine, SwedEsa Mitthiran (சுதேசமித்திரன்). His contacts with V.O.Chithambaram PiLLai (வ.உ.சி), a famous nationalist, kindled his natural patriotic fervour. From this point on, he got involved in active politics and had the opportunity to meet great political and social leaders of the time (Tilak, Aurobindo GhOsh, Lajpat ROy).
When there was a curb for the publication of some of his nationalistic and patriotic songs, he was placed under surveillance by the government. To avoid arrest by the British, he moved to Pondicherry (புதுச்சேரி) which was under the French colonial rule. His exile in Pondicherry proved to be the period of his prolific writings. Ultimately he got arrested and put in jail. Despite his literary genius, he lived in extreme poverty and met with a tragic death in 1922.
Like many other geniuses and martyrs of the world he was lonely in his death with only a handful of people at his funeral. At present, he is regarded as one of the most outstanding Thamizh poets, (மகாகவி), a person worthy of emulation not only by people within India but also by others for his courage and convictions, religious equanimity, social consciousness and, more relevantly, literary skills.
BhArathiyAr's literary works include nationalistic poems, prayer songs, philosophical poems, didactic songs and minor poems related to social issues. His didactic poems are Murasu (முரசு), Puthiya AtthichUdi (புதிய ஆத்திசூடி) and PAppA PAttu (பாப்பாப்பாடல்கள்). He was the originator of the short and crisp style of poems (புதுக்கவிதை) which has now become very popular.
He studied Bhagavad GIta and rewrote the essentials in simple Thamizh using a prose-poetry format (வசனக்கவிதை). In addition he has written several novels in the prose style (ஐடவல்லவன், ஜெயலட்சுமி, நவநீதம், விஜயபாஸகரன் அல்லது ஒரு குற்றத்துக்கு ஒன்பது குற்றம் & ஷண்பகவிஜயம்). Instead of following the traditional literary style blindly, BhArathiyAr recognized that the folk type of poems written by ThAyumAnavar, rAmalinga atikaL and GOpAlaKrishNa BhArathiyAr were appropriate to convey the messages he desired. His experience as the editor and critic in SwedEsa mitthiran (சுதேசமித்திரன்) gave him the communicative skills to appeal to people.
11.8.2. Literary Policy of BhArathiyAr
Looking at his literary works in retrospect BhArathiyAr did appear to have had the vision of a prophet, the religious equanimity of a saint, the dreams of a patriot and the noble aspirations of a social reformer. Most of his predictions regarding his country and community and all his warnings regarding the malaise afflicting his society have materialized already. Others are gradually manifesting themselves overtly in recent years. He loved Thamizh and India with a passion and was proud of his cultural heritage. At the same time he was fully cognizant of the social repercussions of caste differences and how superstitions and blind faith in the old traditions have lead to stagnation.
More important is the fact that he had the courage and tenacity to stand up before a ruthless imperial power and was prepared to face all the personal consequences. The only weapon he had at his disposal to achieve his cherished goal was not wealth or physical ability but only his literary skill. Experience in other parts of the world has shown that the pen is mightier than the sword. Recognizing this, BhArathiyAr did exploit his literary capacity and communication skills to exhort people to become masters of their own destiny and expel the foreign rulers out of their soil. However he did not hesitate to point out the social evils which were gradually corroding the fabrics of the society.
Upto this point in the history of Thamizh literature, the language was used for moral, religious, philosophical or spiritual purposes, for praising the patrons for their gifts, and for sheer literary pleasure. All references to social problems were either secondary or indirect. Now for the first time, a Thamizh poet has taken it upon himself to use the language to free his people from the clutches of a foreign power and open the eyes of the people to the bad elements which were weakening their society. Thus he set in motion not only a new and diffferent literary style which is aptly described as the Thamizh renaissance but also used the medium of the language to crusade against the suppression and oppression of the weaker sections of the society, the poor, the untouchables and women.
The short, crisp but simple style of his poems, his easy flowing prose-poetry formats with a specific social theme and his ability to set up folk type music understandable by everyone made a tremendous impact on people. One can therefore appreciate the differences in the literary policy of SubramNiya BhArathi and that of other Thamizh scholars of the distant past.
11.8.3. Salient Features of SubramaNiya BhArathiyAr's Works
The name SubramaNiya BhArathi is almost synonymous with nationalism and partriotism in the Indian context. In the following poem he says "we are proud of 'our' HimAlayAs, 'our' river Ganges and 'our' upanishads; there is no equal for our country."
BhArathiyAr is not merely content to be proud of his country. He continues to outline his visions of a free India, not some wild dream of a poet living in his own imaginary world but the aspirations and hopes of a true patriot who has specific ideas of how different regions of the country can live happily, share the resources for their mutual benefits. His dreams are outlined in the following poem:
It is to be noted that he was a true patriot devoid of parochial tendencies. The last stanza represents the focus of his social reformation efforts. BhArathiyAr sincerely believed, as did ouvaiyAr (ஒளவையார்) a few centuries earlier, that the root cause of all our social problems was the caste difference. He reiterated that there were only two castes; people who are righteous and helpful to others are superior while the rest are inferior.
BhArarhiyAr is unparalled in proclaiming loud and clear the uniqueness and richness of the Thamizh language to the whole world. The following poem describes his tremendous linguistic pride:
The last few lines carry an important messsage to his and future generations emphasizing their responsibility to the growth of Thamizh. First he believed that there was no use of circulating our old ideas among us for ever and new concepts had to emerge. Secondly all the important works in foreign languages should be translated into Thamizh. Finally he has laid down his own criterion for the assessment of our linguistic efforts. He will be happy only if others studied our works and expressed their appreciation.
BhArathiyAr's love and pride also extended to the Thamizh country. After all if one is not proud of one's own heritage, who will?
In devotional songs it is customary that poets pray that they be blessed with health, wealth and prosperity. The spiritually more oriented may pray that they want to be one with the Supreme Being with an eternal bliss. Even here BhAathiyAr deviates from the standard and invites all his country men to do their humble mite to improve their lot. The following poem is addressed to Saraswathi, the Goddess of Learning:
The importance of education cannot be emphasized any better than in the above lines. BharathiyAr goes to the extent of saying that, in the new India, all villages without school should be destroyed by fire ! The second poem is a humble appeal to all who can help, in whatever way they can help, with big donations or small pennies or at least with just a few encouraging words, to finish the job we have undertaken for the sake of education.
BhArathiyAr's religious equanimity is well illustrated by the following two poems, one pertaining to Christianity and the other to islAm. More than telling something about the poet, it is deeply touching and indeed reassuring that it is possible to live in peaceful coexistence if one sets the mind to the concept.
It is surprising and indeed shameful that in a country where women were worshipped as the all powerful Sakthi (சக்தி), they were relegated to a lower status in social life. BhArathiyAr was one of the earliest champions of women's cause in the Thamizh region. Thanks to his outbursts, there had been a social awakening on this issue, though much is yet to be done. In the following poem, BhArathiyAr employs the folk dance, kummi (கும்மிi) and speaks out clearly the problems as he saw them:
Recognizing that the best way to introduce social changes was to plant the seeds of reforms in the minds of children who have not yet been corrupted by traditions and superstitions, Following the footsteps of ouvaiyAr, (ஓளவையார்) BhArathiyAr reiterated moral and ethical principles in a simple format appealing to young minds.
In Puthiya AtthichUdi (புதிய ஆத்திசூடி), for example, the invocation song stresses the equanimity of all religions. He specifically refers to various religious groups without any connotation of theological correctness or relative superiority of one religion over the other and most of all without any proselytizing motive. If this becomes the basis of different religious faiths, it would help minimize the religious tension prevailing in the world today.
A poem aimed directly at children telling them what to do and what not to do is called (பாப்பாப் பாட்டு). A few stanzas of this poem are given below to highlight the kind of messages given:
One of the attributes of social reformers in all parts of the world is their comprehension of the weaknesses in their society and their courage in pointing out the problems.. In the following poem, BhArathiyAr expresses his frustrations at some of the deploring qualities of his country men which are responsible for their remaining as slaves despite all their resources and glorious past. These lamentations have been set to a very popular style of folk music, n^oNdic cinthu.(நொண்டிச்சிந்து)
In addition to the new style of poems (புதுக்கவிதைகள்)BhArathiyAr also introduced a new format of prose narrative, the novel (நாவல்) in which he used fictional characters to portray the real life trials and tribulations of ordinary families and specific minority groups in the society who have been tormented by a variety of prejudices and exploitations based on tradition, superstition and above all greed. The novel as well as the short story concept which ensued later, have since become very powerful tools for exposing the difficulties of people without being victimized. Authors like JeyaKAn^than (ஜெயகாந்தன்), rAmAmirtham (ராமாமிர்தம்) Pudumaip pitthan (புதுமைப்பித்தன்), Sivasankari (சிவசங்கரி) have exploited this technique successfully in recent years.
We have learnt that mere rules, laws and regulations are not adequate by themselves to overcome the social turmoils caused by religious intolerance and by exploitation under the name of caste, sex, greed, and political expediency. Under the guidance of BhArathiyAr and others, Thamizh literature has served as a tool to mobilize our energy to achieve political freedom; whether the same medium will be used for achieving social equity is yet to be seen.