Chinnaswami Subramania Bharathi, also known as Bharathiyar (11 December 1882 – 11 September 1921) was an Tamil writer, poet and journalist, and Freedom
Fighter. Popularly known as “Mahakavi Bharati”, he was a pioneer of modern Tamil poetry and is considered one of the greatest Tamil literary figures of all time. His numerous works were fiery songs kindling patriotism and nationalism during the Indian Independence movement.
Born in Ettayapuram of Tirunelveli district in 1882, Bharati worked as a journalist with many newspapers, notable among them being the Swadesamitran and India. In 1908, an arrest warrant was issued against Bharati by the government of British India for his revolutionary activities, forcing him to flee to Puducherry, where he lived until 1918. Bharati’s works were on varied themes covering religious, political and social aspects. Songs penned by Bharati are widely used in Tamil films and music concerts.
Translated from Tamil by V. Geetha. V. Geetha is a feminist historian and translator who has been active in women’s movements for over 25 years. She writes in English and her concerns include caste, gender, labour and education.
New Russia – The Fall of the Czar
Cast her sideward glance on Russia
And there arose, wondrously
An epochal revolution
The tyrant Death screamed, and fell
Immortal gods thumped their well-set shoulders
Saddened, dark spirits cried – and perished
their eyes, hazy and unseeing.
People of the world!
Come, see this new thing on earth.
Like the demon-king Hiranyan
He ruled –
The despot they call the Czar
Refuge-less, the good and the gracious suffered.
That fool, the Czar
Thought Good was but a trifle
Like snakes in a forest,
Untruth, Deceit and Evil
Multiplied, grew in that nation.
No food for those that ploughed, sowed and reaped,
Only dread disease –
For those who worshipped Untruth
And served its cause, great wealth
For those who dared speak the Truth
There was the prison, great horror that belies words
And the gallows
And that land of ghosts, Siberia
Where, dispirited, men die.
For those that dared say ‘Hmmm’ it was the jail
For those who risked asking ‘why’, it was exile.
As the best went to ruin
And the worst was upheld as right
The Mother’s heart mellowed
She who protects the devout, those ecstatic truth-tellers
Then, now and forever,
Cast her eye on Russia – and Death met his end.
The Czar fell –
And it was as if the mighty Himalaya was fallen
All those who gathered around him,
Time-servers, liars, conspirators
Butchers of the good,
Ignorant men all –
They went down in a heap –
Like trees brought low by a fierce storm,
A forest of fallen logs
The People spoke and
Civic life burst forth, as did
Rights, justice for all
They proclaimed the republic –
For all the world to know
And announced that henceforth
The slave would be unbound
For none was a slave anymore –
Like a crumbling wall, Dark time* ended.
Let the new age** arise!
- * Bharathi uses the word ‘kali’ (as in Kali-purush) – which I have translated as Dark time
- ** Bharathi uses the phrase ‘Kruta Yuga’ here – and I call it the new age.