Hindu Nationalism and Bharathi’s Perspectives
on Guru Gobind Singh
Bharathi published his poem on Guru Gobind Singh while he was in Puducherry - which was then under the French colonial government - during his self-imposed political exile there. He had to leave the then Madras Presidency - which was under British colonial government - owing to his publications of nationalist contents in the weekly journal, “India.” India was raided by the police on 21st and 22nd of August, 1908. Consequently, as the British government was trying to arrest Bharathi on sedition charges, he came to Puducherry during the first week of September, 1908, on the advice of his friends, in order to continue his political and journalistic activities. The last issue of India was published from British India, with the help of his friend Neelakanda Brahmachari, on 5th September, 1908. In fact, Bharathi is said to be the first person to settle in Puducherry as political refugee; Aurobindo Ghosh and Varahaneri Venkatesa Subramania Aiyar followed suit.1
Later India started its publication from Puducherry on 10th October, 1908. Though India did not publish the name of Bharathi as the official editor of the journal, he was in charge of its publication.2 During January 1909, Bharathi introduced ‘Literary Section’ in the journal. On 16th and 23rd of January, India published ‘Kavitha Devi – Arul Vaendal’ (Prayer for the Grace of Goddess of Poetry) which was a self-critique of Bharathi. From 30th of January to 20th of February, 1909, India published Bharathi's poem on Guru Gobind Singh under the title “Guru Gobindha Simha Vijayam” (Victory of Guru Gobind Singh).Also Bharathi published an explanatory note to the same poem.3 Further, the poem was identified and published by the ‘Puducherry well-wishers of Bharathi', as an 8-paged booklet under the same title, during Bharathi Day celebration held in Puducherry on 11th September, 1937.4 Nowadays it is published under the title ‘Guru Gobindhar.’5
Context of the Poem on Guru Gobind Singh
Nationalism was at its height when Bharathi started publishing poems. Before joining India during May, 1906,6 he worked as a sub-editor of a journal ‘Swathesamithiran’ since the middle of November, 1904 and as the editor of another journal ‘Chakravarthini’ since it started publication in August, 1905. During this period, he started publication of his poems on nationalism through these journals.7 Later he published these poems in the form of book since 1908. The compilation of his poems were published under the titles, ‘Swathesa Geethangal’ (1908) and ‘Jenma Bhoomi’ (1909); his verse-poem, ‘Gnana Ratham’ (Chariot of Wisdom) and his autobiography, 'Swasarithai' were published during February, 1910 and November, 1910 respectively. All these four works were dedicated to his guru, Sister Nivedita, the disciple of Swami Vivekananda.8
In the ‘Preface’ to the book of compilation of his poems ‘Jenma Bhoomi’, Bharathi states, "In the last Subakruthu year, a new path, namely, ‘Dhesabhakthi’ (Devotion to nation), which is the basis for all the auspicious aspects of the Bharath nation, got emerged. I too began to love the new light by the grace of the goddess, though I am poor in the qualities of/as the good persons.”9 The said year falls between April, 1902 and April, 1903.10 It is during this period that he returned from Kasi to his native place, Ettayaapuram. T.M.C. Ragunathan states that during Bharathi's stay in Ettayaapuram, after his return from Kasi, there lived a mysterious person by name, Lakshman Singh Devo. He is said to be an Arya Samajist who has come from Africa during Boer Struggle and arrived at Ettayaapuram through the Colombo route. The reasons for his choice of a little town in the southern part of Tamil Nadu for his settlement are quite mysterious. Bharathi and Lakshman Singh had been good friends, it is said. Ragunathan feels that he could have been one of the probable reasons for Bharathi’s devotion to nation.11 In the absence of enough material evidences, it is difficult for us to ascertain whether Bharathi learnt anything about Guru Gobind Singh from this person.
In his preface to his first book of poems, ‘Swadhesa Geethangal’, Bharathi identifies his guru, Sister Nivedita, as the one who taught him the ‘devotion to nation’ by showing the perfect form of Bharatha Devi as Lord Krishna taught the state of soul to Arjuna by showing his all-pervasive form.12 In fact he met Sister Nivedita during the Kasi session and/or Calcutta session of Indian National Congress held in 1905 and 1906 respectively. While describing the incident of Bharathi's meeting with Nivedita at Dumdum in Calcutta, Thangamma Bharathi, a daughter of Bharathi, writes, as told by her mother, Chellamma Bharathi, that “Bharathi received wise-teaching (Jnana Upadesh) from her and he told me about it very emotionally. But I am unable to explain them.”13
What was inexplicable by Chellamma Bharathi is explained by R.A. Padmanaaban, in his book ‘Chiththira Bharathi’ (Art of Bharathi), as told by Bharathi’s close friend, Duraisamy Aiyar, as to what happened during the meeting of Bharathi with Nivedita. “Nivedita had told Bharathi that one should have emotion to such an extent to visualise Mother Bharath standing with animals before our very eyes; if one could visualise that then he/she will be able to get the feeling as to how to get rid of the animal. Saying this, she became as if possessed of emotions and she tore open her apron near her breast and said, ‘You should have courage. You should have courage to stab us here and kill us’. The underlying message of Nivedita is that one should have fearless determination even to torture and eliminate the Whites like her. She told it to insist the necessity of masculine virtues among the slaves. This teaching got embedded in the heart of Bharathi.”14 In his poem on Guru Gobind Singh, Bharathi states, as if told by the Guru to those who have gathered on the Baisakhi Day of 1699, that 'Guru wanted to insert the sword in the chest of the people and he asked them inquiringly as to whether anybody would come forward to quench the desire of the goddess by shedding blood on the floor’. We find a little resemblance, though not certain, between the incidents of Bharathi's meeting with Nivedita and his sayings about Guru Gobind Singh.
It is also important to note that Nivedita was closely associated with the radical movements of ‘Indian’ national freedom. R.C. Majumdar and P. Atma Prana stress upon the role played by Nivedita in the Anusilan Samiti,15 a revolutionary movement started in 1901, which gave training on physical exercise, sword and lathi play, military drill, boxing and wrestling. Nivedita was in possession of Mazzini’s six-volume autobiography. She presented the first volume to the Samiti and the last chapter of the book – ‘Guerrilla Warfare’ – was typed and circulated among its members to familiarise themselves in the art of warfare.16 Why we are mentioning these things here is that Bharathi too wrote a poem ‘Mazziniyin Prathikkinai’ (Resolution of Mazzini) and published the same in his book, Swadhesa Geethangal (1908). It suggests the influence of Nivedita, and other radical nationalists of that time, on Bharathi.
It is also to be noted that Nivedita’s guru, Swami Vivekakanda, had inspired people by narrating the life-story of Guru Gobind Singh. In his Lahore sermon, he identified Guru Gobind as the one who shed his blood for saving the ‘Hindu religion’ and defined Hindu as the one who follows the example of Guru Gobind Singh. In fact, during the period of radical national movement, the leaders and the revolutionary youth were very much attracted by the heroic deeds of Guru Gobind Singh and tried to have him as an exemplary model towards the national cause. Based on such aspects, there is a notion in currency that Bharathi might have been inspired by the ideals of Guru Gobind Singh through his connections with Bengali radical nationalists.17
Further, while Bharathi was in political exile in Puducherry, he was in contact with Aurobindo and Varahaneri Venkatesa Subramania Aiyar (V.V.S. Aiyar). They were all his intellectual companions. V.V.S. Aiyar wrote biographies of various revolutionary personalities and published them in Tamil journals in which Bharathi was working. V.V.S. Aiyar lived in London and he had been a close associate of V.D. Savarkar in India House. British considered him as ‘the right-hand man of Savarkar’.18 Aiyar had written a book on Guru Gobind Singh. He was considered as the brain behind the murder of Ashe, the Collector of Tinnevely (Tirunelveli). The murder was executed by a young man, Vanchinatha Aiyar, and he shot himself dead after shooting Ashe to death. A letter was recovered from his shirt-pocket, which refers to Guru Gobind among others, such as Lord Rama, Sivaji, Lord Krishna and Arjuna, as the one who ruled the nation for the bloom of Dharma. Here in this letter, Guru Gobind Singh is juxtaposed to King George V, the cow-eater, who was to get into the throne of the British Empire.19 Considering all these aspects, it seems that Bharathi's perspectives of Guru Gobind Singh were influenced much by radical nationalistic currents of his time.
Text of Bharathi’s Poem on Guru Gobind Singh
Sirpi Balasubramaniam suggests that Bharathi got introduced with the Sikhs while he was there in Kasi under the care of his paternal aunt, Kuppammal, and her husband, Krishna Sivan. Sirpi Balasubramaniam further states that Bharathi began to wear headgear (turban) just as the Sikhs, after his contact with the Sikhs in Kasi.20 Chellamma Bharathi also writes in the biography of Bharathi that Bharathi started wearing headgear while he was staying in Kasi.21 However, V.O. Chidhambaram Pillai, while mentioning about the incident of his meeting Bharathi in India office, says that he identified Bharathi after a long time only with his headgear as it resembled the type of headgear of his zilla, Ettayaapuram.22 But Bharathi’s another acquaintance, P. Sri, while remembering his first meeting with Bharathi, says, “He was standing straight with the headgear like a Sikh soldier.”23 The above said differing views on the headgear of Bharathi make it difficult for us to ascertain - whether it resembled that of the Sikhs or whether he was inspired by the Sikhs to wear it - in the absence of primary evidences; but it becomes evident, from his poem on Guru Gobind Singh, that he drew inspiration from the historical incident of the emergence of Khalsa and from the Sikhs; and he potentially used his inspiration to arouse the minds of the Tamils towards the ideal of national freedom.
However, it is evident from his song on Lajapati Rai, apart from his poem on Guru Gobind Singh, that he was much inspired by the Sikhs and the land of Punjab. In that particular poem, Lajapathi Pralaabam, Bharathi states:
It (Punjab) is the motherland of the saints who won the five senses
and the innumerable soldiers who won the gory senses of the Other (enemies)…
It is the golden land of densely situated great hill where our Sikhs, the brave lions, live.24
Above all, he was particularly praising the land of Punjab, which he terms it as Paanchaalam, as the land of five rivers/the land of Paandavaas and/or Paanjaali (the wife of Paandavaas), as the holy land where the Lord destroyed Gouravas, as the great land where the sound of the arrows of the mighty-shouldered Arjuna was heard, as the fabulous land where King Dharman developed morals, as the good land from where Rama left his home for the sake of Dharma, as the brave land of Veeman and as the holy land where Swami Dayananda offered the truth of the Vedas for the non-decadence of Aryans. He expresses his desire to see that land, to live even in the dark prisons of Punjab and to die happily there. By citing the hero of Bharathi's short story, 'Aaril Oru Pangu' (One by Sixth), Dr. Muthumohan suggests that Bharathi might have had a dream to visit Punjab.25 So it is evident that Bharathi was inspired by the Sikhs and the land of Punjab and he channelled his inspiration towards the cause of spiritual and radical nationalism. But still it is to be mentioned here that Bharathi's praise of the land of Punjab is also due to his presumption that it was the place of habitation of Hindu epic heroes and the advocate of Aryanism (Swami Dayananda). With this background, we shall now enter into the analysis of the contents of his poem on Guru Gobind Singh.
The text of the poem, Guru Gobindar, is as follows: Guru Gobind Singh was there in Anandpur (Anandhapuram) during the Vikrama year 1756. On knowing his call, thousands of brave people gathered in Anandpur to hear the message of the Guru. It was like the nature also welcomed the people. The young and mighty Guru presented himself before the audience with the terrible sword. When the people were dumb-found, he spelt out the holy words, like a volcano, thus: “I want to insert the sword in the chest of the man who is willing to shed his blood to quench the desire of the goddess.” Then a man came forward to offer himself for his sword. Guru led that person into his temple and the people found the gushing of blood out of it. After completing his first sacrifice, Guru appeared before the gathering and said, “The goddess asks for another sacrifice. Is there anybody who is brave enough to shed his blood for Kali?” Another brave person offered himself and he was also brought into the temple and the Guru offered the second sacrifice. Likewise, the Guru completed five sacrifices. The Guru further told the gathering that the Mukthas and the saints are the ones who get stabbed in the chest and die for the cause of Dharma;26 one can not be glorified just because one keeps Dharma through the wisdom. Guru expressed his real intention to test the people and brought all the five men before the audience. They sang the praise, “Jai Jai great Guru, Jai Jai Singh.” Then Guru hugged the five men and said to the gathered people, “Look! Kali and our golden goddess-nation are the same. Will I take life from you? I conducted the test five times, hiding them. I realised that you are true people of the mother nation. I could know your brevity through this test; my heart feels happy; my worries are gone.” The Dharma of Guru Gobind Singh is the marga of disciples and they are called as Khalsa. The meaning of Khalsa is 'the sangha (association) of Mukthas (liberated). Then the Aryan, Guru Gobind Singh, made the five as the founders of the association of Mukthas and the Khalsa society was formed. Guru explained the incarnation of Mukunda (Lord Krishna) to awaken the Bharath nation by his instructions (Bhagavat Gita). Then the Guru formed the non-tainted Bharathiya jaati through these five persons; the enemies got frightened; the Swanthanthrai (goddess of liberty) smiled. Seated on the throne, Guru Gobind Singh told the crowd, “Look! This is the first Khalsa.” He then brought water in the iron vessel from the nearby river, stirred it with the sword and recited certain mantras. He not only stirred the water, he set the Bharathiya jaati in motion. Then the Guru sprinkled the holy water on the five and made them holy. He touched the eyes of the five and at that moment, the good path opened before the nation. The disciples got diksha from Guru. Then Guru Gobind Singh told, “The name of the Diksha is Amrit. All the humans are brothers; they are equal; they love freedom. You are all one as a community and in your deeds. Avoid divisions, for they lead to death. Let them die who make thousand castes with the Arya jaati. But you belong to the jaati of the brave; the jaati of the brave unshaven; the jaati which holds the Kara (irumbu muththirai - iron seal), Kachcha (Kachchai) and Kirpan (Vaal - sword); the jaati which founded the principles of republic. Let live with glory; let live with glory." The disciples worshipped the feet of the Guru. The rule of Aurangzeb collapsed without any trace.27
The text is intertwined with romantic poetic imaginations. Though it does not leave the main historical details, Bharathi used the medium of poetry to include the cherished ideals and ideas of nationalism of his period which he imbibed from different radical nationalist forces operating in his time.
A Critique of Bharathi’s Poem on Guru Gobind Singh
Bharathi identifies Guru Gobind Singh as ‘the ocean of wisdom and a brave leader who uses his sword to contain even if the sky falls shattered’. The religion of Guru Gobind Singh is understood by Bharathi as the marga of disciples. The Khalsa is portrayed as the society or association of liberated mukthas and the muktha is the person in whom the saint and the soldier get merged. These portrayals suggest the essence of Sikhism which lies in the principles of Miri-Piri and Sant-Sipahi.28 Bharathi got inspired in these essential aspects of Sikhism and these ideals coincided with his own beliefs on swadhesa bhakthi which was advocated by the spiritual/religious nationalists of his time.
Further Bharathi had a good understanding of Sikhism as a religion of monotheistic belief. This is evident when he asserts through the mouth of Guru Gobind Singh that ‘God is one and all the humans are brothers.’ He even stressed the idea of equality of all the humans and criticized vehemently the caste divisions. For him, there is one caste (Jaati) - that is, the caste of Bharath or India. He even translated the Tagore's essay, Nation, and published it in the journal ‘Modern Review’ under the title “Jaati”.29 The details of the speech on 'Nationalism' by a Cambridge graduate, C. Ramalinga Reddy, were published in India under the title “Jaathiya Jnanam” (literal meaning is wisdom of caste).30 So, for Bharathi, caste and nation have almost a singular meaning. Still, going one step further, he wrote in an article, “Kaala Kannaadi” (Mirror of Time), which was published during 1921 - the year of his death, that “I follow Darwin who opined that the human caste and the animals of all the five sensory categories form a single family”.31 Here, he mentions about all the humans as belonging to the same category of caste. However, in his poem, “Murasu” (Drum), he says,
All the four classes are one,
If one gets reduced out of the four,
The human caste will die and fall down,
Shattering the (order of) profession.32
For him, caste is different from varna and here he seems to be the advocate of the continuance of varna, though he intends to abolish the caste distinctions. Following Balagangadhar Tilak’s speech at Kanpur’s Ramlila Grounds, he even asserts that the ‘Purathan dharma is to be followed’ in his essay on “Chathur Varna”.33 In another essay, titled “Hindhukkalin Kootam” (Group of Hindus), he says, “Even if there is increase in caste distinctions among Hindus, it is not such a big thing… But if we are lethargic and uncared for towards Hindhu Dharma, our group will surely perish.”34 So this sort of Bharathi’s differentiation of caste and varna has to be noted carefully. The equality, which Bharathi believed in, can be termed as ‘Professionally-unequal-human-equality’, but the ideal of equality that was prescribed by Guru Gobind Singh does not see any inequality on the basis of caste, profession, varna (colour), race, language, region, etc. Actually this gets reflected in the composition of Khalsa, which Guru Gobind Singh instituted, that comprised of Daya Ram, a Sobti Khatri, of Lahore… Dharam Das, a Jat, from Hastinapur; Mukham Chand, a washerman, from Dwarka; Himmat, a water-carrier, from Jagannath Puri; and Sahib Chand, a barber, from Bidar in Karnataka.35 We find that the Khatris and Brahmins were opposed to the Khalsa as they could not hope to maintain their status in social order if they abandoned their age-old customs.36 But Bharathi does not give these historical details to us in his poem. He is silent on this issue of desertion of upper class people from the institution of Khalsa owing to their caste considerations. Commenting upon this, Dr. Muthumohan says that though Bharathi unconditionally accepted the casteless Khalsa, he may have differed from it as it had the aspect of Brahmanic resistance within it.37
Bharathi was much inspired by the idea of martyrdom which was prevalent in the Sikh tradition. He says, in his poem on Guru Gobind Singh, that ‘one will not be glorified if he keeps Dharma through jnana; rather if one dies due to the stab of the sword in his chest for the cause of Dharma is the saint and he is the liberated person.’ In fact, Bharathi’s inspiration for Guru Gobind Singh and the Sikhs comes mainly from the call of Guru and the response of the Panj Piyare towards that call. In his song on Sivaji also, he maintains this position by saying thus: ‘we shall do the great yajna by shedding blood on the land to destroy evil. There is no other yajna like this; there is no great meditation/penance/realization like this.’38 As dicussed earlier, Bharathi’s idea of karma marga – and his denial of jnana marga as a way of liberation– is to traced back to the interpretation of Bhagavad Gita by the radical/spiritual/religious nationalists during the freedom struggle.
We find in the history of Sikhism that this was not the first time when Guru called upon his disciples to lay down one’s life. Guru Nanak had called in the same awful tone, and it was Bhai Lahina (later Guru Angad) who came forward while others retreated being afraid.39 Bhai Jodh Singh looks upon Sikh martyrdom as grounded firmly in Sikh ideology, says Grewal. He further adds that Bhai Jodh Singh links the martyrdom of Guru Arjan and the institution of the Khalsa with Guru Nanak’s conception of sacrifice in love, equating martyrdom with dying for the cause of faith. Martyrdom is thus an in-built feature of the institution of the Khalsa. The meaning attached to the tales of martyrdom was martial bravery but underneath their bloody surface lay ‘a corpus of multivocal signata’. The sanctity of the place of martyrdom (Shahidganj) also gets venerated along with the martyr. Grewal suggests that Bhai Tara Singh believed that martyrdom led to patshahi. The idea is closely linked with the sovereignty of the Panth also.40 Commenting upon the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, Terry Eagleton says, only if the death is cul-de-sac, could it become horizon.41
The essential difference, though it is subtle, between the sacrifice advocated by Guru Nanak and that of the idea of martyrdom advocated by the radical nationalists of the early 20th century, is that the former is to be considered as a ‘feminine’ (the cultural embodiment of female gender) virtue whereas the latter is to be identified as a masculine virtue. The sacrifice, as the feminine virtue, is mostly the advocate of inclusiveness/forgiveness whereas the martyrdom, as the masculine virtue, is mostly exclusionary/discriminative/vengeful; the call for sacrifice prescribes a meek surrender, being conscious of the uncertainty/ambivalence of the course of history whereas the call of martyrdom is pre-determined about the ‘end of history’; sacrifice, as a non-institutionalized principle of the primitive communities, is meant for keeping the cherished human values of inclusiveness whereas martyrdom, as a more or less institutionalized feudal principle, proposes death to save the properties, which are considered as ‘private’, of a community. The Khalsa, as a social-inclusive principle, falls under the category of the former whereas Bharathi’s interpretation of Khalsa essentially hinges upon the latter, though the historical events after the emergence of Khalsa give scope for such interpretations.
Also Bharathi invokes the principle of Kali during the celebration of the call of Guru Gobind Singh for martyrdom. Though he also believed in the monotheistic principle, as he himself was a Paramaadvaitin (the belief in Ekanthavada with in-built pantheism),42 he invoked the principle of goddess, the sakthi-principle, to arouse the national sentiments. Especially he invokes the name of Kali and equates it with Bharatha Devi (Mother Bharath), influenced by the radical nationalists. He operates the principal of Kali as the god of Dharma, as the vanguard of righteousness. Indubhushan Banerjee has argued at length against the invoking of Kali during the actual feat of institution of Khalsa.43 A tendency to discover a Hindu background for Guru Gobind Singh’s ideas and activities developed in the eighteenth century and reached its culmination in the story known as the Debi Puja episode, opines Banerjee. He further states that the story of Debi Puja was challenged for the first time in the Panth Prakas, written in 1880. However, in the Chandi di Var, for instance, it is stated that,
God having first fashioned the Sword created the whole world.
He created Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva and made them the sport of His Omnipotence;
Having created Durga, O God, Thou didst destroy the demons.
From Thee alone Ram received his power, and slew Rawan with his arrows.
From Thee alone Krishan received his power, seized
Kans by the hair, and dashed him on ground.44
Even in such passages, Sword is identified with God. And this could be one of the reasons how Bharathi operated the principle of Kali, as the vanguard of righteousness, just as the Sword is also the vanguard of righteousness. Dr. Muthumohan makes an assessment of Bharathi, thus: Bharathi got liberated from the Vedantic ideas of Hindu nationalism to the extent which he uses the principle of Kali.
Still, we find in the poem of Bharathi, the prevalence of terminologies which were used by the radical nationalists. In fact he uses the idea of Aryan and Arya Jaati to denote Guru Gobind Singh and the Sikhs gathered on the Baisakhi day of 1699. This concept of ‘Aryan’ was used by Bharathi to denote a Hindu hegemonic identity. In his essay, “Hindhu Muhammadhiya Samarasam” (Hindu Muslim Harmony), he states that those whoever born in India are Hindus or Hindu Jaati and goes further to state that India, Hindhu and Indhu are all versions of the same word.45 In another essay, he says, Arya Sambaththu (Aryan Property) is the basis for all the Hindu Jaati. He goes further to say that Arya Sambaththu is the Civilization of Hindustan,46 identifying the people with the culture of Aryans. His radical nationalist tendencies often end up with the religious and cultural nationalism. In his writings, says Dr. N. Muthumohan, “he does not identify quite clearly about the opposites to the Aryan categories; by doing this, the opposite categories lose strength and this helps for the construction of metanarrative. When the opposite and binary aspects are included as one to denote every thing with a single name, this forms the technique of the construction of metanarrative.”47 Jean Baudrillard says that the paradox of universal values is that it constitutes a kind of singularity. In it is contained the refusal to dominate. And in the refusal to dominate, we lose the essence of struggle. That makes the hegemony. The hegemonic form tends quite simply to liquidate its opponents. Bharathi’s concept of Aryan operates in the similar dubitable way to dissolve everything into a singular, monolithic structure of ‘Aryanism’.
Another interesting aspect that could be witnessed in Bharathi’s poem on Guru Gobind Singh is about the conspicuous absence of kangha as one of the identities of the Sikhs. Bharathi mentions about the other four identities of the Sikhs – namely, kesh, kara, kachcha and kirpan – in his poem but not the kangha.Not only in his poem, but also in his explanatory note which was written in prose form, Bharathi did not mention about kangha as one of the 5 Ks of the Sikhs. The question before us is whether this absence or the non-mentioning of kangha should be treated as oversight or deliberate. The conspicuous silence of Bharathi, not to mention the kangha as one of the Sikh identity, seems to be deliberate considering the cultural importance of matted hair in Vedic-Hindu tradition. As the kangha presupposes/prescribes the tidy and clean hair, the inclusion of kangha as one of the identities of the Sikhs may go against Bharathi’s own presuppositions of ‘Aryanism’ and his description of Guru Gobind Singh as Aryan, it seems. Since, in the law book of Manu (6.6), the matted hair, among other things, is prescribed as the symbol of a twice-born Vedic graduate who enters into the vanaprastha stage of life.49 Bharathi too preferred to identify the Hindu god, Siva, as having the matted hair, in his poems.50 Hence, against this background, the conspicuous absence of kangha in his poem on Guru Gobind Singh seems to be deliberate rather than oversight, at first sight, which needs to be substantiated through further researches on this aspect. Also, this may even be re-read/reinterpreted that Bharathi’s conspicuous silence is also something to do with his understanding of Sikhs and Sikhism as one of the sects of Hinduism – which had/has been resisted thoroughly by the Sikhs all through their history.
Quite interestingly, Bharathi also equates the emergence of Khalsa with the decline of the rule of Aurangzeb. In his poem on Chathrapathi Sivaji also, this dichotomic positioning, Hindu vs Muslim, is operated by Bharathi, owing to his allegiance to Tilak.However, relating the creation of the Khalsa to the idea of revenge and the episode of the Goddess has been rejected essentially by the Sikh scholars and historians.51 Also, his attitude to equate the idea of ‘Bharath’ nation with the Hindu deities such as Kali, Durga and Bhavani owes its origin to the radical nationalist tendencies of the leaders like Aurobindo, Vivekananda, Nivedita and others.52 This radical nationalism of the late 19th and early 20th century had often been exclusionary on religious lines in its usage of symbols and signs of nationalism. Bharathi too succumbed to this tendency, though in his later writings, – when he was not active in nationalistic struggle – he tries to address this issue of exclusion based on religion, by writing on different faiths. However, his poem on Guru Gobind Singh does not belong to the period of his later writings, but belongs to the period of his life when he was very much active in nationalist struggles, that too when he toed the line of radical nationalists. So his poem on Guru Gobind Singh too has the reverberations of the radical nationalist tendencies and attitudes of those times.
Bharathi’s perspectives on Guru Gobind Singh suggest, as discussed above, that he constructed the Sikh identity based on his radical nationalist leanings of his times. The radical nationalism which was prevalent in the early 20th century built its credentials on the basis of the strands of Hinduism, ranging from Veda to Upanisads, from Puranas/epics to mother-goddesses of popular beliefs. Hence, this radical nationalism often yielded to the position of Hindu nationalism, as it did not try to accept the differences/multiplicities within the colonial India. Having lived during these times and also having been influenced by these ideas and notions, Bharathi too constructed his perspectives on Guru Gobind Singh on these lines of thought.53 Though the main intention of Bharathi was to arouse the Tamil minds towards nationalism with his poem of Guru Gobind Singh, there are commissions and omissions in his construction of the perspectives on the tenth Guru. In that process, he essentially portrayed him as an Aryan who stood for the cause of his nation against his ‘enemy’ Aurangzeb. Also, as and when the distinctiveness of the Sikhs was felt by him – which does not cohabit with his Vedic-Hindu identity markers – he seemed to observe silence, or bending the leeways/historical-drifts further to suit his notions and intentions. By constructing such an image of Guru Gobind Singh, Bharathi’s poem on Guru Gobind Singh lapses unredeemably into the pitfall of ‘Hindu Nationalism’ which constructed the medieval history of the Moguls as the ‘irreconcilable other’. Standing at post-colonial times, it is becoming evident, from the above analyses, that Bharathi’s perspectives on Guru Gobind Singh formed the basis of Hindu nationalistic ideals which excluded/homologised the ‘Other’, constructing a Hindu/Aryan hegemonic identity. In the light of post-colonial issues/deliberations of conflicting identities, Bharathi’s works need to be re-read and the earlier works on Bharathi, as well as the works of Bharathi, need to be put under the scanner of de(re)constructive re-search.
1 Seeni. Visvanathan, Mahakavi Bharathi Varalaaru (A History of Mahakavi Bharathi), Chennai, 1996, pp. 366 – 73. See also, T.M.C. Ragunathan, Bharathi – Kaalamum Karuththum, New Century Book House Pvt. Ltd., Chennai, 2008, p. 244.
2. Seeni Visvanathan, Op. Cit., p.385.
3. Seeni Visvanathan, Bharathi Aaivugal – Sikkalgalum Theervugalum, (Researches on Bharathi – Problems and Solutions), Chennai, 2009, pp. 608, 610. See also Bharathi Paadalgal – Aayvup Pathippu (Songs of Bharathi – Research Edition), Thanjaavoor Tamil University, Thanjaavoor, 1987, p.120. However, Seeni Visvanathan maintained in his earlier book, Mahakavi Bharathi Varalaaru, that the poem was published during 30th January to 13th February, 1909 (Pp. 403 – 10).
4. T.M.C. Ragunathan, Op. Cit., pp. 396 -7.
5. Bharathiyaar Kavithaigal (Poems of Bharathi), Poompuhaar Pathippagam, Chennai, 2010, pp. 77 – 83.
6. T.M.C. Ragunathan, Op. Cit., p. 92.
7. Ibid., pp.52 -60.
8. Ibid, pp. 9 – 13.
9. It is quite interesting to note that the parambhakthi (the devotion to god) gets localized as deshbhakthi, geographically, socio-politically and culturally, as also the transformation of the secular affairs into the symbolic and god-inspired ‘transcendental identity of nation’. It is one of the starting-points of spiritual/religious nationalism.
10. Ibid., p. 46.
11. Ibid., p. 50.
12. Ibid., p. 9.
13 Chellamma Bharathi, Bharathiyaar Sariththiram (History of Bharathi), Paari Nilayam, Chennai, 1977, p. 43.
14. T.M.C. Ragunathan, Op. Cit., pp. 147 – 8.
15. The word was used by Bankin Chandra Chattopadhyaya, in his book on Bhagavat Gita, to denote a person who refines his body and heart (not only soul) and who does his duty according to his own swadharma. Ibid., pp.158 – 9.
16. Prof. K. Kailasapathy, On Bharathi, New Century Book House Private Limited, Madras, 1987, pp. 5 – 6. See also, T.M.C.Ragunathan, Op. Cit., p. 151.
17. S. Kausalya, Subramaniya Bharathiyaarin Guru Gobindhar (Subramaniya Bharathi’s Guru Gobind), in N. Muthumohan (Ed.), Seekiyamum Tamilum (Sikhism and Tamil), Guru Nanak Study Circle Publication, Madurai, 1997, p. 59.
18. Prof. K. Kailasapathy, Op. Cit., pp. 26 – 27.
19. T.M.C. Ragunathan, Op. Cit., pp. 365, 398.
20. N. Muthumohan, Marxiya Katturaikal (Marxian Essays), Kaavya, Chennai, 2007, p. 402.
21. Chellamma Bharathi, Op. Cit., p. 30.
22. R.A. Padmanaban (Ed.), Bharathiyaip Patri Nanbargal (Friends’ Saying about Bharathi), Vaanathi Pathippagam, Chennai, 1982, p. 20.
23. P. Sri., Bharathi – Naan Kandathum Kettathum (What I have Seen and Heard of Bharathi), Star Pirasuram, Chennai, 1972, p. 4.
24. Bharathiyaar Kavithaigal, Op. Cit., pp. 88.
25. N. Muthumohan, Op. Cit., pp. 402 – 3.
26. On this point, apart from the influence of Sister Nivedita, Bharathi might have been inspired by the Guru of Nivedita, Swami Vivekananda, who once said, “The saffron coloured dress of the saint is the death-dress that is worn in the battlefield.” (Pravrajika Atmaprana, Sister Nivedita, 1967, pp. 89, 109, as quoted in T.M.C.Ragunathan, Op. Cit., p. 115) Also, his idea of Muktha, as the one who die for the cause of Dharma, can be correlated with the interpretation of Bhagavad Gita, which was widely used during the nationalist period by the radical nationalists, as advocating Karma Marga.
27. Bharathiyaar Kavithaigal, Op. Cit., pp. 77 – 83. Almost a literal meaning of the poem is given here. The same aspects could be witnessed in the explanatory notes, given by Bharathi to this poem, available in Bharathi Paadalgal – Aayvup Pathippu (Songs of Bharathi – Research Edition), Thanjaavoor Tamil University, Thanjaavoor, 1987, pp. 963 – 69.
28. For further discussion on these aspects, one may refer to the works of Dr. N. Muthumohan, Op. Cit., pp. 401 - 14 and S. Kausalya, Op. Cit., pp. 57 – 74.
29. Kalanithi K. Kailasapathy, Iru Maga Kavigal (Two Great Poets), Kumaran Publishers, Chennai, 2006, p. 21.
30. T.M.C. Ragunathan, Op. Cit., p. 308.
31. M.P. Periyasami Thooran, Bharathiyum Samoogamum (Bharathi and Society), Vaanathy Pathippagam, Chennai, 1982, p.97.
32. Ibid., p. 22.
33. Bharathiyaar Katturaigal, Poompuhaar Pathippagam, Chennai, 2010, p. 409.
34. Ibid., p. 398.
35. Dharam Singh, Dynamics of the Social Thought of Guru Gobind Singh, Publication Bureau, Punjabi University, Patiala, 1998, p.17.
36. J.S. Grewal, Sikh Ideology, Polity and Social Order, Manohar Publishers, New Delhi, 2007, p. 108. See also, Anil Chandra Banerjee, The Sikh Gurus and the Sikh Religion, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 1983, p.312.
37. Dr N. Muthumohan, Op. Cit., pp. 410 – 1.
38. Bharathiyaar Kavidhaigal, Op. Cit., p. 66.
39. Dharam Singh, Op. Cit., p.17.
40. J.S. Grewal, Op. Cit., pp. 127 – 35.
41. Terry Eagleton presents The Gospels, Verso, London, 2007, p. xxvii.
42. K. Muppaalmani, Thamizhaga Thaththuva Chinthanai Marapugal (Philosophical Traditions of Tamil Nadu), New Century Book House Pvt. Ltd., Chennai, 2008, pp. 287 -96.
43. Indubhusan Banerjee, Evolution of the Khalsa, Vol. II, A. Mukherjee & Co., Calcutta, 1947, pp. 97 – 108.
44. As quoted in J.S. Grewal and S.S. Bal, Guru Gobind Singh – A Biographical Study, Publication Bureau, Panjab University, Chandigarh, 1987, pp. 108 – 9.
45. Bharathiyaar Katturaigal, p. 391.
46. Ibid., pp. 67 – 8.
47. Dr N. Muthumohan, Op. Cit., p. 1125.
48. Jean Baudrillard, (Tr.) Chris Turner, Carnival and Cannibal, Seagull, London, 2010, pp. 11 – 39.
49. (Trs.) Wendy Doniger and Brian K. Smith, The Laws of Manu, Penguin Books, New Delhi, 1991, p. 117.
50. Bharathiyaar Kavithaigal, Op.Cit., pp. 102, 186.
51. J.S. Grewal and S.S. Bal, Guru Gobind Singh – A Biographical Study, Publication Bureau, Panjab University, Chandigarh, 1987, p. 186. For further discussions on this point, see also, Indubhusan Banerjee, Op. Cit., pp. 95 – 125.
52. T.M.C. Ragunathan, Op. Cit., p. 456.
53. For further discussions about Bharathi’s slipping into Hindu Nationalism and his double standards in social reforms, pl refer to T.M.C. Ragunathan, Op. Cit., pp. 454 – 72.
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