Bharathi i.e. goddess of learning was added to the name of Subbramanya when he was just eleven. Some noted poets who had gathered at the court of the rajah of Ettayapuram awarded the title to the boy who was destined to be the guiding star for millions of people of Tamil Nadu and other parts of the South to fight against the British rule.

The writer and singer of the famous song sung by the children of

Tamil Nadu even today ‘Odi Vilaiyadu pappa…’9 was born in a middle class family in Ettayapuram on December 11, 1882. His father Chiroiaswami Iyer who had a fancy for Visveswaraya wanted his son to be a great Mathematician. But the leanings of subbiah were towards literature and language. He was above the material outlook of life and never earned more than what could sustain him and his family. He would just not worship the beauty of nature but would many a time throw the last stock of grain to the enchanting birds – the grain that would have been served to him in the evening. He would satisfy his hunger for the beauty of nature at the cost of his fascination and his devotion to the Motherland.

Seven year old Chellammal became his wife when he was just fourteen. But the matrimonial tie did not extinguish his hunger for knowledge. When he was sixteen he left for Banaras (now Varanasi). His four years stay brought a great change in his personality. He was a turbaned man with moustache when he came back to Tamil Nadu – a scholar in Hindi, Sanskrit and English. The seeds of patriotism were sowed deep in his mind. His poems touched the hearts of the people. He became assistant editor of a Tamil daily Swadesamitran.

Bharathi’s visit to Surat session of the Congress made him a firebrand. Fascinated with the personalities like Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal he became an extremist. His poems and writings were just fire. Even Swadesamitran could not digest them. He had to start his own weekly ‘India’. This the British government could not digest. But his friends could not see his talents disappear. They insisted upon him to leave British territory and stay in Pondicherry, a French settlement. But his ten years stay, away from home, was full of tortuous experiences. He was not a welcome visitor because of his extremist views. The Britishers would confiscate everything sent to him. He rather starved himself. Aurobindo was the only source of inspiration and help to him.

After a decade in exile when Bharathi was back he was arrested, but was released with orders not to move out of the locality he stayed in. People in his own community disliked him for his unconservative dress and views. His call for the emancipation of lower castes and women brought him disgrace. His relatives called him a mad man.

It was only after he shifted from the extremism of Tilak to the soft views of Gandhi that he was again offered assistant editorship of Swadesamitran. But his meager income was spent more on books and generosity towards the poor and the animal world than on his family. The poor poet was again at the height of his popularity when, at 38 the elephant of the temple, whom he always offered a coconut, struck him with his trunk. The singer recovered a little but went to eternal sleep on September 11,1921, three weeks after reciting his famous (and last too) song ‘Bharatha samudayam vazhgave…….’ i.e. ‘Long live Bharat Commonwealth…… ‘

Roads named after him throughout the country after independence, his statues and portraits unveiled in the capitals of all important states would not bring him to life again. But his songs have made him eternal. Death could tear his body off not his soul.