Thursday, August 12, 2004

The Fiery Fledgeling - A poem by Subrahmanya Bharathi

Bharathiyar was born Subrahmanian in December 11, 1882. He proved a child prodigy and
was given the title Bharathi (another name for Saraswati, the Goddess of learning). He fulfilled his early promise. He was a prolific poet and a firebrand. He quite naturally joined the freedom movement and was the editor of many nationalist magazines. He wrote many poems that exude a strong nationalist sense. Quite unfortunately for India and Tamilnadu, he died young after an accident with a temple elephant.Here is a link with the details of his life.

He was a firebrand with strong opinions on freedom from the British, social equality and women's equality. He was also a keen observer of the human condition and many of his poems mocked the mores of the day. One of his poems states 'People swoon over romantic love in stories but stamp out the same kind of love in their own homes.'.

He covered a wide range in his poems. The themes covered include nationalism, Tamil, religion, history, love, social conditions, women's rights and nature. He was a very proud man, proud of his country and proud of his language. This feeling comes through in his poems. In one of his poems, he says 'Bharatha naadu paarkellam thilakam/ neer athan puthalvar, in-ninaivagatraatheer' (India is the jewel of the world/ You are its children, never forget!'). In another he says 'Senthamizh naadenum pothinile/inba then vanthu paayuthu kaathinile' ('When someone mentions TamilNadu, it is as honey to my ears').

He wanted to inspire Indians to stand up for themselves and realise their potential. In this respect, he reminds me greatly of Swami Vivekananda. I think it is a great loss that he died when he did.

I find his poetry to be beautiful and inspirational. Many of his songs have been adopted for movies. Manathiluruthi vendum from Sindhu Bhairavi and Kaakkai Siraginile from Ezhaavathu Manithan are two examples of beautiful songs nicely adapted for movies.

The poem that I have translated here is a little offbeat poem.


Akkini kunjondru kanden
Athai angoru kaattilor ponthidai vaithen
Venthu thaninthathu kaadu!
Thazhal veerathil kunjendrum moopendrum undo?
Thatharikita Thatharikita Thithom

The Fiery Fledgeling

I found a fiery fledgeling
I placed it in a forest hollow
The forest burned to ashes!
Is age a factor in fieriness?
Thatharikita Thatharikita Thithom

It is simple poem. The phrase akkini-kunju brings to mind a fledgeling that is made of fire. The poet found a fiery fledgeling, tried to protect it by placing it in a tree hollow. However, the fledgeling burnt the forest down :-)

I wonder what was the inspiration for the poem. Is he referring to unintended consequences? He tried to protect something that needed no protection and ended up burning an entire forest down. Is it an admonition not to underestimate anyone? Is he telling us not to nurture things that might destroy us? Had he just heard about the myth of the Phoenix which is born from its own ashes? I suppose we will never know.

To me, it is a slightly enigmatic and humorous poem.


Nainamarbus said...

This poem "agginikunju" can be termed as predecessor to the poem-form called Hi-ku. First two lines give an out line and the third short one is the punch line " Vendu thaninthathu Kadu"

sambar42 said...

The Haiku is a Japanese poetry style of great antiquity (starting from the 15th Century or so). It is certainly possible that Bharathiyar was inspired by the concept.

Anonymous said...

In my view, the poem is an inspiration for ALL with ideas - big or small. A spark can destroy the whole forest. A good idea can conquor the entire world (and there are numerous examples of that!)

- Thamilventhan

sandeep v said...

Thanks for such info .... I come to your post while I was referring Uriyadi movie songs , it contains this poet as song

Unknown said...

Thank you for the explanation.