The poet, social reformer and freedom fighter of South India is renowned for his beautiful verses celebrating the freedom struggle, the theme of patriotism and his motherland.
Subramania Bharati (1882-1921) was born on December 11,1882 in the district of Tinnevelly in Tamil Nadu. Such was his poetic genius that at the young age of 11 he was awarded the title of 'Bharati'. He was educated at the Hindu College School in his district and he gained proficiency in Sanskrit and Hindi. He began teaching in Ettayapuram in 1902 to earn his living. During this period, he studied poetical works in English and wrote for newspapers under the pseudonym, 'Shelly Dasan'. He became the assistant editor of the Swadesamitran in 1902 and later, the editor of Chakravarthini.
It was in 1905 that Bharati flung himself into the freedom struggle heart and soul. His meetings with a number of nationalist and spiritual leaders proved a great source of inspiration. He went on to write many poems on leaders including Lokmanya Tilak. He met Sister Nivedita in 1906, and later the Mandayam brothers, S. Tirumalachari and S. Srinivasachari, and the moderate leader, V. Krishnaswami Aiyar. His revolutionary writings as the editor of India and in the English weekly, Bala Bharati infuriated the Government. In 1908, he released his first book of poems, Songs of Freedom, which was not only a literary achievement but also a strong call for freedom from foreign rule. Thus, Bharati led the freedom movement in Madras.
Evading arrest, in 1908 Bharati escaped to Pondicherry which was soon to emerge as the refuge for many political leaders. His 10 years spent in Pondicherry are considered the best period of his growth as a poet. Here, while continuing his strife with the British rulers, he had the occasion to meet V. V. S. Aiyar and Sri Aurobindo. The meeting with Aurobindo greatly heartened Bharati; he learned to view the glories of his motherland and began admiring them in his poems. In 1912, he wrote some of his best poems.
Bharati was arrested in 1918 near Cuddalore. The next year in Madras, he met Gandhi to whom he dedicated a poem, 'To Mahatma Gandhi'. Bharati died on September 12, 1921, about two months after he was attacked by an elephant at the Triplicane temple in Madras.