Scientific Inquisitiveness and Holistic Vision in the Poems of Subramania Bharati (Part 2)

Bharathi’s Thoughts on the Nature of the Universe

Bharathi uses allegory to refer to forces which brought the universe to action in In Praise of Maha Kali (மகாகாளியின் புகழ்). [1]He talks about how the merger of the five elements would bring about the ultimate annihilation of the universe in The Dance of Doom (ஊழிக்கூத்து).[2] In all these compositions he invokes the Vedic idea that the universe will start and end in a single point only to be brought forth yet again in the next creation cycle. Bharathi talks of it as the merger of Śiva and Śakti.

Just as he does in the poem on Sirius, he suggests the idea of an ever-expanding universe in his composition Shankaranarayana (கோமதி மகிமை).[3]

In his 1914 poem Hymn to Magna Mater (மகாசக்தி வாழ்த்து), Bharathi says:
“Inexplicable and unknowable,
you abide as the vast sky expanse!
You have fashioned in space a billion planets
You have endued them with immeasurable speed
If a mandala be pulverized, how many will be
the atoms? So many are the yojanas you have
devised betwixt them; I will hail you,
Oh benign beauty, as Kali!”[4]

This is a wonderful poetic outpouring of how Bharathi visualized this universe to be.

When we look at the development of knowledge over the years, we see a greater degree of specialization – literature and philosophy are entirely different disciplines, as are law and politics; and even science, which has become a different discipline altogether, there is a distinction between the hard (mathematics) and soft (psychology) sciences. Science has come to rely on facts derived from experimental observation while philosophy rests upon theories drawn from contemplative (experiential) observation and literature is rooted in the emotions of human beings. This is not the case with ancient works, which did not have such watertight boundaries. Bharathi, in his poems, writes with a vision that is akin to ancient thinkers of India, without making too much of a distinction between different disciplines.

Bharathi as a Visionary

If there is just one song that highlights Bharathi’s vision for India it would be the song Bharatha Desam (பாரத தேசம்)[5], which he wrote in 1919. In that song alone he talks of building bridges and elevating the ‘setu’ (bridge) to make it a road and connect India with Sri Lanka. He talks about water distribution and irrigation as he says, “We will irrigate the central regions with surplus water of Bengal.” He talks about mining and unearthing minerals along with basic economics that involves buying and selling products, and trading and exchanging goods with neighbouring countries. He talks of national unity and integrity and also about the exchange of languages within India. Long before the first two Indian Broadcasting stations, viz. the Bombay Station and the Calcutta Station became operational on 23rd July 1927 and 26th August 1927 respectively, Bharathi had said, “We will invent an instrument to hear in Kanchi, what a scholar speaks from the city of Benaras.” (Incidentally, the first instrument to receive radio signal was built by yet another Indian, Jagadish Chandra Bose in December 1901). Bharathi adds, “Indians shall make vehicles for the road and those that fly in the air; also we shall build ships that will make the earth tremble; we shall make even weapons and paper!” He goes on further to say, “We shall devise scientific laws to scan the sky and harvest the fields,” akin to the present-day usage of satellites that monitor the earth and the sky. He talks about preserving the eco-system by nurturing forests. This point becomes especially relevant today as we are concerned a great deal about combating climatic changes. Bharathi emphasizes the need to keep our streets clean by modern techniques, which reminds us of the “Swaccha Bharat” campaign of today.

Bharathi’s role as a visionary is brought out nicely in this song where he talks about ethics and economics, factories and industries, rocket science and telecommunication, as well as mining, irrigation, agriculture, and water distribution. For a country to grow and prosper, it is most important that she shines in all fields equally well. This is the most important point made by Bharathi.

It is a great struggle today to satisfy the growing energy needs. In the song The Praise of Universal Shakti (வையம் முழுதும்)[6] , Bharathi praises the śakti (power) inherent in the five natural elements, viz. earth, water, sky, fire, and wind that we directly witness. He says that we shall hold to that power that is the cause of motion and the force of attraction. We derive our power requirements by making use of energy available through natural resources such as wind (wind turbines), water (hydroelectric power), fire and earth (energy derived out of burning wood and coal, as well as the energy derived out of fossil fuels) and sky (solar energy).

In his Perceptions, he talks of electric power lying dormant within so many natural resources:
“In the black granite, the white sands,
green leaf, red flower, blue cloud,
in the wind, in the hills – everywhere,
this electric power lies dormant.”[7]

Bharathi saw the interconnectedness in nature. He has spoken about this in Perceptions (see காட்சி-முதற்கிளை: இன்பம்). Here he says, “All the world is One…All that is, is One only!” This is his Advaitic attitude. It is imperative to think like Bharathi because he asks us to do good to all creatures; what affects any one invariably affects us all since we are interconnected. This is an important observation because a loss in balance of the food web is likely to affect all species.

In The Glory of Patience (பொறுமையின் பெருமை in ‘பாரதி அறுபத்தாறு’) Bharathi says:
“Anger causes shock in the artery
Anger great and small, causes shock great and small
and shock is dangerous; by fear are all
arteries made ashes; by fierce yearning
are all arteries quartered; by worry
are all arteries baked hot; listen to
what I declare: Conquest of anger
alone is the way to quell hostility.”[8]

In his 1914 poem, The Parasiva Flood (பரசிவ வெள்ளம், literally ‘Primordial Ocean’)[9] Bharathi talks about the force that fuses all atoms and disjoins them. In the same poem, Bharathi also talks about the nature and subtlety of atoms. He says:
“As atoms gross and the subtle
and the subtlest of the subtle,
as Essence true of all that is.”

Here, Bharathi is actually echoing thoughts from some of our ancient thinkers. The philosopher Kaṇāḍa (the founder of the Vaiśeṣika school of Indian philosophy) in his sutras talks about the idea of an atom – i.e., matter being made up of a finite number of smaller particles.

To be concluded.

The author would like to express her thanks to ‘Padma Shri’ Dr. Y S Rajan for his constant encouragement, valuable inputs, and insightful feedback in putting together this essay in spite of his busy schedules. She would like to express her thanks to Śatāvadhani Dr. R Ganesh and Dr. Prasad Bapat for their detailed review and astute feedback. Edited by Hari Ravikumar.

  1. Bharati Patalkal. Ed. T N Ramachandran (Sekkizhar Adi-p-podi). Thanjavur: Tamil University, 1989.
  2. மகாகவி பாரதியார் கவிதைகள், நியூ செஞ்சிரி புக் ஹவுஸ் (பி) லிட்.
  3. Kalam, A P J Abdul; Rajan, Y S. The Scientific Indian: A Twenty-First Century Guide to the World Around Us. New Delhi: Penguin India, 2011.
  4. Hawking, Stephen. The Theory of Everything. New Delhi: Jaico Publishing House, 2007.

[1] …ஆதியாஞ் சிவனுமவன் சோதியான சக்தியுந்தான்
அங்குமிங்கு மெங்குமுள வாகும் – ஒன்றே
யாகினா லுலகனைத்தும் சாகும் – அவை
யன்றியோர் பொருளுமில்லை, அன்றியொன்று மில்லையிதை
ஆய்ந்திடில் துயரமெல்லாம் போகும் – இந்த
அறிவுதான் பரமஞான மாகும்…

[2] …ஐந்துறு பூதம் சிந்திப் போயொன் றாகப்-பின்னர்
அதுவும் சக்திக் கதியில் மூழ்கிப் போக-அங்கே
முந்துறும் ஒளியிற் சிந்தை நழுவும் வேகத்-தோடே
முடியா நடனம் புரிவாய்,அடு தீ சொரிவாய்!
அன்னை!அன்னை!ஆடுங் கூத்தை
நாடச் செய்தாய் என்னை…

…காலத் தொடுநிர் மூலம் படுமூ வுலகும்-அங்கே
கடவுள் மோனத் தொளியே தனியா யிலகும்-சிவன்
கோலங் கண்டுன் கனல்செய் சினமும் விலகும்-கையைக்
கொஞ்சித் தொடுவாய் ஆனந்தக்கூத் திடுவாய்!
அன்னை!அன்னை!ஆடுங் கூத்தை
நாடச் செய்தாய் என்னை…

[3] …நக்க பிரான றிவான்;-மற்று
நானறி யேன்பிற நரரறியார்;
தொக்க பேரண்டங்கள்-கொண்ட
தொகைக்கெல்லை யில்லையென்று சொல்லுகின்ற
தக்கபல் சாத்திரங்கள்; ஒளி
தருகின்ற வானமொர் கடல்போலாம்;
அக்கரை யிக்கரை யொன்றில்லையாம்.

இக்கட லதனகத்தே-அங்கங்
கிடையிடைத் தோன்றும்புன் குமிழிகள்போல்
தொக்கன உலகங்கள்-திசைத்
தூவெளி யதனிடை விரைந்தோடும்;
மிக்கதொர் வியப்புடைத்தாம்-இந்த
வியன்பெரு வையத்தின் காட்சி, கண்டீர்
மெய்க்கலை முனிவர்களே!-இதன்
மெய்ப்பொருள் பரசிவன்சக்தி, கண்டீர்!

எல்லை யுண்டோ இலையோ?-இங்கு
யாவர் கண்டார்திசை வெளியினுக்கே?
சொல்லுமொர் வரம்பிட்டால்-அதை
(இது முற்றுப் பெறவில்லை)

It is an interesting coincidence that Bharathi wrote this poem around the time (c. 1915) Einstein had formulated the general theory of relativity. Einstein published a paper on general relativity in 1916 with his theory of gravitation. In 1917, Einstein had introduced a cosmological constant—the ‘antigravity’ force—in his equations, which unlike other forces, did not come from any particular source, but was built into the very fabric of space-time. This was because many people at that time had believed in a static universe. Einstein also shared this belief and did not like the idea of an expanding universe. This ‘antigravity’ force gave space-time an inbuilt tendency to expand; this could be made to exactly balance the attraction of all the matter in the universe so that a static universe would result. When it became clear that the universe was not actually static but was expanding instead, Einstein abandoned the antigravity constant, calling it the “biggest blunder” of his life.

[4] விண்டு ரைக்க அறிய அரியதாய்
விரிந்த வான் வெளியென – நின்றனை,
அண்ட கோடிகள்வானில் அமைத்தனை,
அவற்றில் எண்ணற்ற வேகஞ் சமைத்தனை,
மண்ட லத்தை அணுவணு வாக்கினால்,
வருவ தெத்தனை அத்தனை யோசனை,
கொண்ட தூரம் அவற்றிடை வைத்தனை,
கோலமே! நினைக் காளியென் றேத்துவேன்…

[5] See http://www.lakshmansruthi.com/tamilbooks/bharathiar/bharathi05.asp to get the lyrics of the entire song. One can also refer to மகாகவி பாரதியார் கவிதைகள்.

[6] …பூதங்கள் ஐந்தில் இருந்தெங்கும் கண்ணில்
புலப்படும் சக்தியைப் போற்றுகின்றோம்;
வேதங்கள் சொன்ன படிக்கு மனிதரை
மேன்மையுறச் செய்தல் வேண்டு மென்றே!

வேகம் கவர்ச்சி முதலிய பல்வினை
மேவிடும் சக்தியை மேவு கின்றோம்;
ஏக நிலையில் இருக்கும் அமிர்தத்தை
யாங்கள் அறிந்திட வேண்டு மென்றே!…

[7] இரண்டாங் கிளை: புகழ்
…மின்சக்தி இல்லாத இடமில்லை. எல்லாத் தெய்வங்களும் அங்ஙனமே. கருங்கல்லிலே, வெண்மணலிலே பச்சை இலையிலே செம்மலரிலே நீல மேகத்திலே, காற்றிலே, வரையிலே-எங்கும் மின்சக்தி உறங்கிக் கிடக்கின்றது அதனைப் போற்றுகின்றோம்.

[8] கோபத்தால் நாடியிலே அதிர்ச்சி யுண்டாம்;
கொடுங்கோபம் பேரதிர்ச்சி: சிறிய கோபம்
ஆபத்தாம், அதிர்ச்சியிலே சிறிய தாகும்;
அச்சத்தால் நாடியெலாம் அவிந்து போகும்;
தாபத்தால் நாடியெலாம் சிதைந்து போகும்.
கவலையினால் நாடியெலாம் தழலாய் வேகும்;
கோபத்தை வென்றிடலே பிறவற் றைத்தான்
கொல்வதற்கு வழியெனநான் குறித்திட் டேனே.

[9] …எல்லைபிரி வற்றதுவாய்
யாதெனுமோர் பற்றிலதாய்
இல்லையுள தென்றறிஞர்
என்றுமய லெய்துவதாய்.

வெட்டவெளி யாயறிவாய்
வேறுபல சக்திகளைக்
கொட்டுமுகி லாயணுக்கள்
கூட்டிப் பிரிப்பதுவாய்.

தூல வணுக்களாய்ச்
சூக்கு மமாய்ச் சூக்குமத்தில்
சாலவுமே நுண்ணியதாய்த்
தன்மையெலாம் தானாகி…

Sripriya Srinivasan poems of subramania bharati Scientific Inquisitiveness and Holistic Vision in the Poems of Subramania Bharati (Part 2) sripriya

Sripriya Srinivasan

Sripriya Srinivasan is a Computer Science Engineer with a deep interest in literature, philosophy, science, and translation. She has translated two books into Tamil: Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam and Dr. Y. S. Rajan’s'Scientific Indian' (as கலாமின் இந்தியக் கனவுகள்) as well as 'The New Bhagavad-Gita' by Koti Sreekrishna and Hari Ravikumar (as பகவத்கீதை தற்காலத் தமிழில்). Tamil being her mother tongue, she hopes to contribute to its literature.
Sripriya Srinivasan poems of subramania bharati Scientific Inquisitiveness and Holistic Vision in the Poems of Subramania Bharati (Part 2) sripriya