Why Somasundara Bharati, an icon of modern Tamil culture
Satyananda Somasundaram was born to Subramanya Nayakar and Muthammal on 27th July 1879 at Ettayapuram which is situated in today’s South Tamil Nadu.
Once, a learned man came from Yalpanam to the Ettayapuram kingdom. In the Court of Ettayapuram, he gave a poetic meter to those interested and asked them to compose a poem. Many tried on it. Finally, the scholar was impressed by the poetic compositions of Somasundaram and Subramani. In appreciation of their talent, the scholar immediately conferred upon both of them the title ‘Bharati.’ Hence we have Somasundara Bharathi and Subramani Bharathi. ‘Bharati’ stands for ‘Goddess Saraswati’ – the Goddess of Knowledge.
Somasundaram grew up to become an orator, a social reformer, a freedom fighter, and a literary researcher. He was multi-talented. As a professor, he also served as the Head of the Tamil Department of Annamalai University. Somasundara Bharati was a novelist who worked tirelessly for the Tamil language.
Somasundaram studied at Law College Chennai and obtained his Law Degree. As a Lawyer, he fought several legal battles for freedom fighters V O Chidambaranar and Subramaniya Siva.
At one stage, he left his advocate profession and joined the Swadeshi Steam Company of VOC as Manager for a salary of Rs.100/-. V.O.C. used to say that he had two commercial ships and one Tamil ship whereby he referred with pride to the Tamil ship to be the Tamil literarian Somasundara Bharati.
Somasundara Bharati was a part of the Gandhian Non-Cooperation Movement. He fought for the abolition of untouchability. He was the first on to invite Gandhiji to Tamilagam and made him speak to the people. He not only made all his family members to participate in the Indian freedom struggle but also removed the jewels from his children and gave them to Gandhiji as donations to meet the Freedom struggle expenses.
Owing to his social responsibilities, the novelist started an elementary school at Uslankulam near Madurai for children from underprivileged backgrounds.
Towards the development of the Tamil language and literature, he started an organization named “Tamil Kalagam.”
As a literarian, Somasundara Bharati authored more than 100 novels in both Tamil and English languages. “Dasrathan Kuraiyum Kaikayi Niraiyum,” Cherar Thayamurai,” “Tamilum Tamilarum” (“Tamizhum Tamizharum”), “Alagu” (“Azhagu”), “Thiruvalluvar,” were some of his famous writings.
He was deeply praised by the Eelam Poets’ Association for his literary contributions and in 1944, the Eelam Tamil Writers’ Forum conferred upon him the title “Navalar” which means “Novelist.”
It is notable that under the able leadership of novelist Somasundara Bharati, the ‘Thani Tamil Movement‘ and the Tamil scholars forced the then Tamil Nadu government in 1971 to pronounce the first day of Thiruvalluvar Year as “Thai 1” and the second day as Thiruvalluvar’s birthday. Since then, it is declared by the Tamil Nadu government every year as “Thai 1” and Thiruvalluvar’s Day.
Somasundara Bharati who worked relentlessly for Tamil language and literature, died at the age of 80 on 14 December 1959. Somasundara Bharati’s works are valuable contributions to Tamil literature.
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