Revisiting Ode to Subramani Bharatiar (In Celebration of Poet’s Birth Anniversary on Dec. 11) – Living portrait and voice of Tamil

Mahakavi Bharathi is beyond the comprehension of an ordinary poetry enthusiast like myself. I cannot claim to love all his works, for in all honesty, most of his poems are way too profound for someone who has little background in Tamil literature; or is not too well-versed in written Tamil. I once made an attempt to translate one of his poems into English; but quickly realized that it was no mean feat. In fact, even the thought of attempting to translate his poem seemed a little too presumptuous for someone like me. Hence, the need to ‘seek’ his permission with the poem below:-

My dear Bharathi,

You probably would have exclaimed in aghast,

Had you been alive today,

In the lingo that we use these days…

The nerve of this woman!

I too wondered –

what gave me the nerve

to even try and read your thoughts –

and translate them into a language,

that would never do justice…

to the beauty of Thamizh that you lived and breathed.

But Bharathi –

as unreservedly as I call you by that name,

(without the appropriateness that you are often accorded with)…

that’s how candidly I felt your thoughts in me!

It was as if during that moment when I pondered over your poem,

we both spoke one and the same language…

Only yours sounded Thamizh, and mine English.

So you see Bharathi –

I was merely recording your thoughts

Into a language you did not care to “speak” in then.

Not that it is any greater than the one you loved – it is not.

But I needed to read and feel you, Bharathi,

And I saw no other way of doing so,

Except to re-read and re-feel you in the only way that I know.

Do forgive me if I have flawed in doing so…

And I beg you to bless me –

Like how a mother would her child despite her (the child’s) flaws.

For I believe I stand before you today…

As the child who had probably crossed set boundaries.

But a loving and doting mother, are you not…

And surely, accept me you will,

…won’t you Bharathi?

The actual translation was not as difficult as I thought it would be. I suppose, at the end of the day, what’s important is that you understand the essence of what he had written, instead of attempting to rationalize what he had intended to say. I chose to let him translate through me – and I suppose that is exactly what happened!


I surrender unto you, dear Kannamma

I surrender unto you..

Yearning for riches, prestige and fame – that

I be spared from the jaws of misery,

(I surrender unto you, dear Kannamma)

Fear and cowardice that reside within my heart – that

they are destroyed and rooted out of me,

(I surrender unto you, dear Kannamma)

That my worries and self-preoccupation be ended, and instead – that

I become contained through selfless acts

(I surrender unto you, dear Kannamma)

There is no more sorrow in me – no weariness, no drawbacks…

I know not the good from the bad – and, with the hope that

virtues flourish in the name of love,

Do make the goodness in me prevail, and the evil driven away!

(I surrender unto you, dear Kannamma)

நின்னை சரணடைந்தேன் – கண்ணம்மா!
நின்னை சரணடைந்தேன்

பொண்ணை உயர்வைப் புகழை விரும்பிடும்
என்னை கவலைகள் தின்ன தகாதென்று (நின்னை)

மிடிமையும் அச்சமும் மேவியென் நெஞ்சில்
குடிமை புகுந்தனே, கொன்றவை பொக்கென்று (நின்னை)

தன்செய லெண்ணித் தவிப்பது தீர்திங்கு
நின்செயல் செய்து, நிறைவு பெரும்வனம் (நின்னை)

துன்பம் மிநிஇல்லை, சோர்வில்லை, தோற்பில்லை
அன்பு நெறியில் அரண்கள் வளர்ந்திட (நின்னை)

நல்லது தீயது நாமறி வோம்,
நல்லது நாட்டுக! தீமையை ஓட்டுக! (நின்னை)

Article and translation by Indrani Ramachandran

Sittam Param

Writer, poet, dramatist and former journalist. I have passion for art in all its forms hence my involvement in this portal.

3 thoughts on “Revisiting Ode to Subramani Bharatiar (In Celebration of Poet’s Birth Anniversary on Dec. 11) – Living portrait and voice of Tamil

  • February 28, 2016 at 11:43 am

    sometimes it’s funny that a man is revered more after his death. He will always be in my mind a man ahead of his times.

  • June 1, 2016 at 11:22 am

    Indeed Bharati and his works have the potential to coax Tamilians in India and all over the world to instrospect their true spiritual and cultural identity. It is sad that till today Tamilians all over the world have not uplifted themselves to the level of understanding Bharati’s works and life.

  • August 30, 2016 at 2:26 am

    Thanks for finally writing about >Subramani
    Bharatiar – Living portrait and voice of Tamil | THEINDIANRAAS <Loved it!


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