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Bharathiyar Illam - Subramanya Bharathi’s House & Legacy in Chennai

Subramanya Bharathi was a renowned Tamil poet, reformer and freedom fighter during the pre-independence era. He is called Mahakavi, meaning, ‘Great Poet’ in Tamil. His name is counted amongst the most celebrated bards of the country. He was an expert in both prose and poetry and enticed the masses to join the great Indian struggle for Independence with his powerful speeches. His contemporaries included the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Sri Aurobindo and V.V.S. Aiyar.  

Mahakavi Subramanya Bharathiyar was fluent in many languages including Tamil, Bengali, Hindi, Sanskrit, and English. He often referred to Tamil as 'Tamil Thai ' (Mother Tamil). He started his career in journalism by joining as assistant editor of a Tamil daily 'Swadeshamitran' in 1904. Soon thereafter, he became the editor of a Tamil weekly 'India' and another newspaper 'Bala Bharatham' in 1907.

He was born to Chinnasami Subramanya Iyer and Lakshmi Ammaal as "Subbayya" on December 11, 1882 in Ettayapuram. He was skilled enough to write verse even at the early age of seven. Bharathi lost his mother at the age of 5 and his father at the age of 16. He was brought up by his strict disciplinarian father who wanted him to learn English, excel in arithmetic, become an engineer and lead a comfortable life. However, Bharathi was given to day dreaming and could not concentrate on his studies. In 1897, 14 year old Bharathi, married his seven year younger cousin, Chellamal.

The last years of Bharathi’s life were spent in a house in Triplicane, Chennai. This house was bought and renovated by the Government of Tamil Nadu in 1993 and named 'Bharathiyar Illam’. It was opened to public as a museum on October 2, 1993. The museum is open from 09:00-12:30 hrs and 14:00-17:45 hrs on all days except Mondays.  It is a must see tourist spot when visiting Chennai.

The house takes us back to the life and times of Mahakavi Bharathi. Photographs of Bharathiyar and his family and friends are displayed here. Also his hand written verses are framed and displayed. They give us a wonderful glimpse of his powerful writing. In a letter to his brother, we can see his affection where he advices his brother to take oil bath and to use scarfs in cold climate. A letter to his friend Nellaiappar and a letter from Mahatma Gandhi to mark the occasion of the opening of Bharathiyar Mani Mandapam in Ettayapuram in 1947 are also displayed. Bharathi was struck by an elephant at the Parthasarathy temple, Triplicane, Chennai. He used to feed this elephant regularly. Although he survived this accident, a few months later his health deteriorated and he died on September 11, 1921.

Bharathiyar Illam - Subramanya Bharathi’s House & Legacy in Chennai

Babur – Founder of the Mughal Empire

The Mughal (Moghul) Empire was established in the Indian subcontinent around 1526 AD. It was founded by Emperor Babur, who was a descendant of the Timurids (from father’s side) and also Genghis Khan (from mother’s side). His full name was Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur and he was originally the ruler of the Ferghana valley in Central Asia (modern day Uzbekistan). Although Babur hailed from the Barlas tribe which was of Mongol (Moghul in Persian) origin, his tribe had embraced the Persian culture and language, and converted to Islam.

Babur encountered a series of setbacks during is reign of Ferghana and after losing his principality there, he wandered towards the Indian subcontinent in hopes of acquiring territories in Hindustan. He raided Kabul in 1504 and started to move southwards with the establishment of a base camp in Peshawar in 1524. In 1526, after his fifth attempt, Babur defeated Ibrahim Shah Lodi, the last of the Delhi Sultans and annexed Delhi and Agra. This fight is called the First Battle of Panipat.

Upon conquering Delhi and Agra, Babur summoned his son Humayun to secure the treasures and resources looted during the battle. Humayun found that the family of the Raja of Gwalior was seeking shelter in Agra after the Raja himself had died at Panipat. He guaranteed their safety in return for the family's most valuable jewel, a very large diamond, called the Koh-i-Noor or "Mountain of Light'. The conquests of Delhi and Agra were followed by a fight with the formidable Rajputs Rana Sanga of Chittor and Raja Hasan Khan Mewatpati. This fight is popularly known as the Battle of Khanwa in which the Rajputs were defeated and the foundation for the Mughal empire was laid by Babur.

Soon thereafter, Babur fell seriously ill. Humayun, his son, was told of a plot by the senior nobles of Babur's court to bypass him and appoint Mahdi Khwaja, Babur's sister's husband, as his successor. He rushed to Agra and arrived there to see that his father was well again. But Mahdi Khwaja had lost all hope of succession to Babur after arrogantly exceeding his authority during Babur's illness. Upon his arrival in Agra it was Humayun himself who fell ill, and was close to dying. Legend says that Babur is said to have circled the sick-bed, crying to God to take his life and not his son's. Babur soon fell ill with a fever and Humayun began to recover. Babur’s last words were apparently said to his son, Humayun, "Do nothing against your brothers, even though they may deserve it."

Babur died at the age of 47 in 1531 and was succeeded by his eldest son, Humayun. Though he wished to be buried in his favorite garden in Kabul, a city he had always loved, he was first buried in a Mausoleum in the capital city of Agra. Roughly nine years later his wishes were fulfilled and Babur was buried in Bagh-e-Babur (Babur Gardens) in Kabul, Afghanistan. The inscription on his tomb reads – If there is a paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this.

Babur wrote his memoirs in a book called Baburnama and this work is considered the first true autobiography in Islamic literature. Babur travelled the country, taking in much of the land and its scenery, and began building a series of structures which mixed the pre-existing Hindu intricacies of carved detail with the traditional Muslim designs used by Persians and Turks. To remind himself of the lands he had left behind, Babur began building exquisite gardens in every palace and province, where he would often sit shaded from the fierce Indian sun. He tried to recreate the gardens of Kabul, which he believed were the most beautiful in the world. Babur is popularly believed to have built the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. However, from the three inscriptions which once adorned the surface of the mosque it becomes apparent that the mosque was constructed during his reign on the orders of Mir Baqi, who was one of the generals of Babur's forces sent towards this region.

Babur – Founder of the Mughal Empire

Historical Places

Historical Places

Anna Hazare - His incredible story

Anna HazareAnna Hazare is a prominent leader of the 2011 Indian anti-corruption movement. He was born Kisan Baburao Hazare on June 15, 1937 in Bhingar near Ahmednagar. He hailed from a very poor family and moved from his ancestral village of Ralegaon Siddhi to Mumbai. Poverty ended his education after grade 7 and he was selling flowers at Dadar railway station in Mumbai.  Eventually he owned 2 flower shops in Mumbai. In these early years, he became involved in vigilante groups that prevented the poor from being bullied out of their shelters by thugs employed by landlords.

The emergency recruitment measures by the Indian Army during the Indo-China war of 1962, Anna was recruited into the Army and was posted at the border in the Khem Karan sector. He was the sole survivor of an enemy attack and this incident became a turning point in his life. He had considered suicide during one point in his life, but now focused on the meaning of life and death. The war experience convinced him that the reason he was alive was because God wanted him to serve people. He spent his spare time reading Swami Vivekananda, Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave.
Anna survived another road accident while driving the army truck and after that incident, he took honorable discharge after serving the Army for 12 years.

Anna returned to Ralegaon Siddhi to begin its transformation. The village was typical Indian village plagued by acute poverty, deprivation, and fragile ecosystem. He started by using his gratuity from the Army to rebuild the vandalized temple as a focal point for the community.  Some responded with financial donations and others volunteered their labor (shramadaan). Using Vivekananda’s works, he organized the youths into Tarun Mandal.
Liquor and cigarettes were banned and a grain bank was instituted at the village temple. The grain bank provided food security to the needy farmers during times of drought or crop failure. Borrowed grain had to be returned in grain plus additional grain as interest. This ensured nobody in the village had to go hungry or borrow money to buy grain and also prevented distress sale at lower prices during harvest time.
Ralegaon is located at foothills, hence Anna persuaded the villagers to construct watershed embankments to increase ground water level and improve irrigation. Water intensive crops like sugar cane were traded for low water crops like pulses and oil seeds. When Anna Hazare first came to Ralegaon Siddhi only 70 acres of land was irrigated and he converted into about 2,500 acres. He also started dairy cattle breeding as a secondary occupation.

He started pre school, and high school in the village to increase the literacy rate. His moral leadership motivated the village community to shun untouchability and caste discrimination. Marriage expenses were the major cause of debt trap for the villagers. Collective marriages were instituted reducing the marriage expenses.
Hazare campaigned between 1998 and 2006 for amending the Gram Sabha Act, so that the villagers have a say in the development works in their village. The state government initially refused, but eventually gave in due to public pressure. As per the amendments, it is mandatory to seek the sanction of the Gram Sabha (an assembly of all village adults, and not just the few elected representatives in the gram panchayat) for expenditures on development works in the village.

In 1991 Hazare launched the Bhrashtachar Virodhi Jan Aandolan (BVJA) (People's Movement against Corruption), a popular movement to fight against corruption and was responsible for exposing several government officials as well as cabinet ministers in the Maharashtra Govt. his skirmishes with the powerful led to his imprisonment in Yerawada Jail for 3 months. However, all the political parties came in support of Hazare.
In the early 2000s Hazare led a movement in Maharashtra state which forced the state Government to enact a revised Maharashtra Right to Information Act. This Act was later considered as the base document for the Right to Information Act 2005 (RTI), enacted by the Union Government
His leadership during the Lokpal Bill captured the nations and world's attention. He was awarded the Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan by Govt of India.
The unbelievable story of his life is summed up well by the great man himself...."I am still bemused as to how this all came about. A pauper living in a temple, who has no money, no power, no wealth; for him the entire country united and spoke in one voice."

The Lokpal bill was first proposed in 1968 by Shanti Bhushan but was not passed in the last 40 years. The bill targets to reign in the corruption by the very people with powers to pass the bill and hence the stalemate for the last four decades. Social activist Anna Hazare .....read more about the Lokpal Bill



Anna Hazare - His incredible story

Swami Vivekananda – Touring the World and Foundation of Ramakrishna Mission

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After the Parliament of Religions in 1893, in Chicago, Vivekananda spent nearly two whole years lecturing in various parts of eastern and central United States. By the spring of 1895, he was weary and in poor health, because of his continuous exertion. After suspending his lecture tour, the Swami started giving free and private classes on Vedanta and Yoga. In June 1895, for two months he conducted private lectures to a dozen of his disciples at the Thousand Island Park. Vivekananda considered this to be the happiest part of his first visit to America. He later founded the "Vedanta Society of New York”.

During his first visit to America, he traveled to England twice. His lectures were successful there. Here he met Ms. Margaret Noble, an Irish lady, who later became Sister Nivedita. During his second visit in May 1896, while living at a house in Pimlico, the Swami met Max Müller a renowned Indologist at Oxford University who wrote Ramakrishna's first biography in the West. From England, he also visited other European countries. In Germany he met Paul Deussen, another famous Indologist. He also received two academic offers, the chair of Eastern Philosophy at Harvard University and a similar position at Columbia University. He declined both, saying that, as a wandering monk, he could not settle down to work of this kind.

Swami Vivekananda's ideas were admired by several scholars and famous thinkers—William James, Josiah Royce, C. C. Everett, Dean of the Harvard School of Divinity, Robert G. Ingersoll, Nikola Tesla, Lord Kelvin, and Professor Hermann Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz. From the West, he also set his Indian work in motion. Vivekananda wrote a stream of letters to India, giving advice and sending money to his followers and brother monks. His letters from the West in these days laid down the motive of his campaign for social service. He constantly tried to inspire his close disciples in India to do something big. In one such letter, he wrote to Swami Akhandananda, "Go from door to door amongst the poor and lower classes of the town of Khetri and teach them religion. Also, let them have oral lessons on geography and such other subjects. No good will come of sitting idle and having princely dishes, and saying "Ramakrishna, O Lord!"—unless you can do some good to the poor." Eventually in 1895, the periodical called Brahmavadin was started in Madras, with the money supplied by Vivekananda, for the purpose of teaching the Vedanta. Subsequenly, Vivekananda's translation of first six chapters of The Imitation of Christ was published in Brahmavadin.

Vivekananda left for India on December 16, 1896 from England with his disciples, Captain and Mrs. Sevier, and J.J. Goodwin. On the way they visited France, Italy, seeing Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper, and set sail for India from the Port of Naples. Later, he was followed to India by Max Müller and Sister Nivedita. Sister Nivedita devoted the rest of her life to the education of Indian women and the cause of India's independence.

Once back in India, traveled the country again, making inspirational lectures to uplift the masses, eradicate the caste system, promote the study of science, industrialization of the country, removal of poverty, and the end of the colonial rule. These lectures have been published as Lectures from Colombo to Almora and are of nationalistic fervor and spiritual ideology.His speeches had tremendous influence on the Indian leaders, including Mahatma Gandhi, Bipin Chandra Pal and Balgangadhar Tilak.

In May 1897 at Calcutta, Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Mission—the organization for social service. The ideals of the Ramakrishna Mission are based on Karma Yoga. Its governing body consists of the trustees of the Ramakrishna Math - the arm that carries out religious works. This was the beginning of an organized social and religious movement to help the masses through educational, cultural, medical and relief work.

Vivekananda also inspired Sir Jamshedji Tata to set up a research and educational institution when they had travelled together from Yokohama to Chicago on the Swami's first visit to the West in 1893. About this time the Swami received a letter from Tata, requesting him to head the Research Institute of Science that Tata had set up. But Vivekananda declined the offer saying that it conflicted with his spiritual interests.

Vivekananda once again left for the West in June 1899, amid his declining health. He was accompanied by Sister Nivedita and Swami Turiyananda. He spent a short time in England, and went on to America. During this visit, he founded the Vedanta societies at San Francisco and New York. He also founded "Shanti Ashrama" (peace retreat) at California, with the aid of a generous 160-acre gift from an American devotee.Later he attended the Congress of Religions, in Paris in 1900. The Paris addresses are memorable for the scholarly penetration evinced by Vivekananda related to worship of Linga and authenticity of the Gita. From Paris he paid short visits to Brittany, Vienna, Istanbul, Athens and Egypt. For the greater part of this period, he was the guest of Jules Bois, the famous thinker. He left Paris on October 24, 1900, and arrived at the Belur Math on December 9, 1900.

By this time, Swamiji’s tours, hectic lecturing engagements, private discussions and correspondence had taken their toll on his health. He was suffering from asthma, diabetes and other physical ailments. A few days prior to his demise, he was seen intently studying the almanac. Three days before his death he pointed out the spot for this cremation—the one at which a temple in his memory stands today. He had remarked to several persons that he would not live to be forty.

On the day of his death, he taught Shukla-Yajur-Veda to some pupils in the morning at Belur Math. He had a walk with Swami Premananda, a brother-disciple, and gave him instructions concerning the future of the Ramakrishna Math. Vivekananda died at ten minutes past 9 P.M. on July 4, 1902 while he was meditating. According to his disciples, this was Mahasamadhi. Afterward, his disciples recorded that they had noticed "a little blood" in the Swami's nostrils, about his mouth and in his eyes. The doctors remarked that it was due to the rupture of a blood-vessel in the brain, but they could not find the real cause of the death. According to his disciples, Brahmarandhra — the aperture in the crown of the head — must have been pierced when he attained Mahasamadhi. Vivekananda had fulfilled his own prophecy of not living to be forty years old.

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Swami Vivekananda – Touring the World and Foundation of Ramakrishna Mission

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