Subramanya Bharathi born on December 11, 1882. He was a well known Tamil poet from Tamil Nadu, India, an independence fighter and iconoclastic reformer. Known as Mahakavi Bharathi (the laudatory epithet Maha Kavi meaning Great Poet in many Indian languages), he is celebrated as one of India’s greatest poets. Bharathi was prolific and adept in both the prose and poetry forms. His compositions helped rally the masses to support the Indian independence movement in South India. Bharathi lived during an eventful period of Indian history, his contemporaries including prominent leaders of the Indian independence movement such as Mahatma Gandhi, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Sri Aurobindo and V.V.S.Aiyar. Bharathi was born to Chinnasami Subramania Iyer and Elakkumi (Lakshmi) Ammaal. He was fluent in many languages including Telugu, Bengali, Hindi, Sanskrit, Kutchi, French and English and frequently translated works from other languages into Tamil. He had a voracious appetite for learning ancient and contemporary Tamil literature especially ancient poems. Bharathi composed Carnatic music kritis in Tamil on love, devotion, etc. He set his songs to music and could sang them in a variety of ragas. In Bharata Deviyin Thiru Dasangam he used ten different ragas. His patriotic songs emphasized nationalism, unity of India, equality of man and the greatness of the Tamil language, set to folk tunes. He sang these himself at various political meetings. As a journalist, Bharathi was the first in India to introduce caricatures and political cartoons to his newspapers. They were satirical and angry hand-drawn illustrations that relied heavily on the works of his inspiration Thomas Nast. He published and edited various journals such as Swadeshamitran, India, Vijaya and Bala Bharatham. Bharathi’s health was badly affected by the imprisonments and by 1920, when a General Amnesty Order finally removed restrictions on his movements, Bharathi was already struggling. He was struck by an elephant at Parthasarathy temple, Thiruvallikeni, Chennai, whom he used to feed regularly. Although he survived the incident, a few months later his health deteriorated and he died on September 11, 1921. Though Bharathi was a people’s poet there were only fourteen people to attend his funeral.
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