“SERVICE TO NATION IS SERVICE TO GOD. “MY RELIGION IS BHARATHEEYAM, MY DEITY IS BHARATH MATHA, MY DHARMA IS TO PREACH SATYA AND FIGHT FOR THE FREEDOM OF BHARATH” renderings of Subramaniya Siva in 1921, at Madurai court.
SUBRAMANIYA SIVAM, popularly known as Subramaniya Siva was a lover of mankind. He was a great writer, orator, dramatist and what not. He was brave and courageous. Mahavikavi Subramaniya Bharathi appreciated his brave nature, when he met him at Palayamkottai jail. Indeed, he was a great revolutionary leader of the early 20th century.
Early life: He was born in Batlagundu village, Dindigul District (Madurai Region) in 1884 to Rajam Iyer and Nagalakshmi. He had his early education at Madurai, Trivandrum and Coimbatore He showed great interest in spiritual enquiry even when young. He was a fiery orator, who spoke his mind openly in every context.
Inspiration: He was inspired by the lecture delivered there by Chanda Varma of Arya Samaj in 1906. He developed his love for the country and started ‘Dharma Samaj’ and motivated the youth for fighting against the British for freedom.
Friendship of Mahakavi: While he was at Tuticorin, he got the friendship of V.O.Chidambaram Pillai and Subramania Bharathi. Subramania Siva was arrested for his anti-British propaganda and was imprisoned in Salem Jail for 6 years.
The British were so harsh that Siva was made to walk barefoot; he already had sores on his feet. After his release in 1912, he came to Madras and started a journal called “Gnana Banu” and “Prapancha Mithra”. Subramania Siva attended a conference at Calcutta held under the presidentship of Lala Lajpathi. He preached his ideals to the nook and corner of Tamilnadu.
Significance of mother tongue: Subramaniya Siva, during his times, witnessed many educated fellow Bharatiyas hardly having any admiration for their mother tongue Tamil. Besides raising his voice against British supremacy, Subramaniya Siva worked hard towards infusing passion in the Tamils to love their mother tongue. He himself was well versed in Sanskrit and more Indian languages. But according to him, not learning, speaking, or writing in the home language, i.e. mother tongue, one wouldn’t do justice towards learning the other languages. To him, giving up the mother tongue was equivalent to committing suicide and a crime. He wrote in Gnanabanu in September 2019.
“The life of a country is to be found in its language. Those who give up their mother tongue can be said to be committing suicide because of foolishness or of madness. If committing suicide is a crime against the state, he who begins to kill himself and his society by neglecting his state language is a person who commits crimes a thousand fold. Though the law of the country does not include these murderers in the list of criminals, they are culprits according to the laws of creation followed by that All-Powerful Deity who rules over the whole universe as the sole Empress.”
Revolutionary in the making: The principles of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who advocated always meeting the adversary with firmness and without compromising, appealed to him very much. Some common friends introduced him to VO Chidambaram Pillai (VOC) who had the courage and management skills to compete with British ship companies by starting his own Swadeshi Steam Navigation Company. Siva became a close friend and associate of VOC and started speaking publicly in support of his shipping activities and his role as a Trade Union leader.
A nightmare for the British imperialism: It was thus that Siva and Padmanabha Iyengar a Swadeshi , got together with VOC when he organized a strike in the British owned Coral Mills at Tuticorin. Closely following it on March 9, 1908, they also held a well-attended rally in Tirunelveli to celebrate the release from prison at Calcutta of Bipin Chandra Pal, defying the orders of the district collector Wynch.
The British Government gave him a lot of trouble. Even then he was not frightened and pointed out the atrocities of the foreign rule to the people. He was in prison for a total period of 9 years at Salem prison.
However, the British were smarting from the fiery speeches of Siva and VOC and charged them again with sedition and unmoved by the support that the leaders received from around the country, sentenced them to transportation for 20 years and 10 years. On appeal, they relented and reduced the imprisonment to 6 years for VOC and 3 for Siva in the jail in Coimbatore, where they were treated harshly and inhumanely. Siva to contracted leprosy in prison. He had to curtail his travelling as a result and also his speeches, though they continued to attract people because of his patriotism. His speeches led to more jail terms for him.
Siva and His Activities: Siva had many followers in Dharmapuri district. With their support he spread the message of nationalism far and wide with devotion and dedication. Thiyagi Theerthagiri Mudaliar of Dharmapuri encouraged Siva in many ways. Siva used to call him as Emden. Chinnamuthu Mudaliar, of Papparapatti (25 Km from Dharmapuri) was a close friend of Siva and helped him liberally during his campaign against British Government in Dharmapuri District. He inspired the youth to fight for freedom and gave them training to do so. He founded a “Bhajana Sangh” and propagated the patriotic songs of “Mahakavi Subramania Bharathi” throughout Tamilnadu by going from place to place by foot. His disciple Kandasamy was a great singer in his group. Siva gave him a title “Kodaiyidi Pulavar”. He sang Bharathi songs such as “Vazhga Tilakar Namam Vazhga”, “Veezhga Kodunkonmai Veezhga” in a loud voice to the villagers. His other disciples were Sundara Bharathi, Srinivasa Varadan, Somayajulu, Chidambara Bharathi, etc. Through his dramas like Shivaji, Desingu Rajan, Bhakta Ramdas, etc, he spread the patriotic spirit throughout Tamilnadu. With the help of his friends and admirers, Siva wanted to build a “Bharat Matha Temple” at Papparapatti. He wanted to invite Mahatma Gandhi for the inauguration of the temple. As Mahatma did not come due to his active political work, the foundation stone of the temple was laid by the National Leader “Deshbandhu” C.R.Das on 23.01.1923 at Bharata Puram, 4 Km from Papparapatti.
Bharath Matha Temple: His Bharath Matha temple symbolized the national unity of India. Siva allowed all the people irrespective of caste or religion to enter temple and perform pooja. There was no poojari to perform Archana. He wanted that instead of adorning the deity with gold jewels, a factory may be built out the temple funds, thereby creating employment opportunities to all poor people. He wanted that wealth obtained through the temple should be distributed to the poor people.
According to Siva, service to Nation is service to God. In 1921, at Madurai court he said, “My religion is Bharatheeyam, My deity is Bharath Matha, My dharma is to preach Satya and fight for the freedom of Bharath”. He appealed to the people to support the extremists to achieve Poorna Swaraj and to boycott foreign goods.
Bharath Ashram at Papparapatty: It was founded by Siva during the second week of January 1921 at No.11, Hamilton Bridge Road, Triplicane (Madras). Its aim was to take serious efforts to make Bharath independent of foreign control. In order to get success in such an endeavour people should develop Desa Bhakthi or devotion to Bharath Matha for whom temples should be constructed everywhere. Siva was the president of the Bharatha Ashram. This Bharatha Ashramam is to be built at Bharathipuram at Papparapatti. He wanted people of Bharathapuram to follow his principles with dedication and devotion. They must get up early in the morning, offer prayers and do social and national service to the people. Foreign cloth and Kerosin were prohibited in the village. They must wear simple dress and must develop good character. Free housing, a hospital, and a school were provided for the villagers. The people must not only accept the rules of the Bharatha Matha Ashram but also pay one tenth of their income to the Bharatha Matha as kanikka. The assets of the temple will belong to Bharath Matha only. Annual conferences will be held in different places to honour Bharatha Matha. Anyone who violates the rules will be sent out of the village. Along with his disciple Sundara Bharathi, Siva reached Bharatha Ashramam at Papparapatti on 22.07.1925 to start the construction of the temple of Bharatha Matha. But he suddenly passed away on 23.07.1925 at the age of 41 at Papparapatti.
In memory of Siva, a (Samadhi) memorial was built at Bharathipuram. On August 1, 2021, a new library building was declared open honouring the freedom fighter Subramaniya Siva, in the memorial premises built ten years earlier at Papparapatti in Dharmapuri district, Tamil Nadu
Few Books Written/Translated by Subramaniya Siva:
- Sachithanandha Sivam, a religious book he wrote while in Central Jail, Salem
- Yoga Sadhana Rahasyam (The Secret of Yoga practice)
- Ramaniya Vijayam
- The life and teachings of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
- The life of Vivekanandha
- Sermons (Upathesangal)
- Sankarar Vijayam
- Nagareeka Thadapudal.
(Author is Educational officer of Vivekananda Educational Trust, Chennai)
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