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Spirituality of Bharati’s Kannan Paattu: A Study


Subramania Bharati (1882-1921) was a great nationalist Tamil poet, thinker, reformer, Bhakta and Vedantin. His much loved and acclaimed poem collection Kannan Paattu or Krishna Song is essentially a spiritual text. It assumes multiple Bhava-filled roles taking Krishna to be friend, mother, father, disciple, teacher, servant, ruler, child and lover. Kannan also becomes the adorable Kannamma, the Feminine Krishna in some of the poems, in a unique expression of Madhurya Bhakti. These modern poems are deeply influenced by the ancient Vaishnava Tamil hymns of Azhwars, especially the Thiruvaymozhi of Nammazhwar, as is evident from Bharati’s own words and the memoirs about him. The aim of this paper is to introduce Kannan Paattu and present a comprehensive study of its inspirations, literary nuances, lyricism, profoundness of Bhakti expression and its larger context in the poet’s life journey and literary corpus. It will be shown as to how each poem is delightful and sublime in its own way, and how the poems collectively present a philosophical strain that views Sri Krishna as the Absolute, beyond all relativistic relations. This is more so, given that Bharati translated Gita into Tamil and wrote profusely on its philosophy. How the poems blend the modern Indian Renaissance ideas like social emancipation and freedom in a beautiful, aesthetically pleasing manner in course of their Krishna expressions will be highlighted. The influence of Kannan Paattu on the popular culture will also be briefly touched upon.


Subramania Bharati (1882-1921) is among the greatest modern savants of India. Largely popular as a nationalistic Tamil poet of the freedom movement, he was a multifaced genius. In his short life of 41 years, Bharati evolved to be a personality with many dimensions, viz. poet, freedom fighter, reformer, philosopher, Bhakta and Vedantin. Bharati’s literary corpus spans about 4000 pages, published in 16 volumes [i].This includes poems of various genres long and short including a full-length Kavya, essays on a wide variety of topics, short stories, newspaper articles and translations. Only a very small portion of this, largely the poems has been translated into English and other Indian languages.

Bharati’s active public life starts in the year 1904 as a newspaper editor. Much of his writings in this early part of his career revolve around the political and social themes, as he became part and parcel of the national resurgence wave following the partition of Bengal in 1905. Even in such content, we can see the depth of a mind soaked in the ethos of Hindu Dharma and a heart filled with spiritual yearning. These writings, along with his fiery speeches invited the wrath of the then British government and a warrant was issued against him. On the advice of his friends and well-wishers, Bharati went into a self-exile in the French territory of Pondicherry, which was a safe refuge for many Swadeshi leaders and activists of that period.

During his sojourn at Pondicherry (1908-1918), Bharati continued his political writings and the editorship of multiple magazines, as they kept closing due to British governmental pressures. Amidst this, the blossoming of the spiritual dimension of Bharati also happened. His close association with like-minded scholarly and spiritual personalities like V.V.S. Aiyar and Sri Aurobindo grew, which also contributed to this. His three major poetic works Panchali Sapatham, Kannan Paattu and Kuyil Paattu were written during this period. He translated into Tamil the entire Bhagavad-Gita, Yoga Sutras, some Upanishads and portions of Rig Veda and penned many poems and essays on the Vedantic themes in the same period.

The aim of this paper is to present a comprehensive study of Kannan Paattu (கண்ணன் பாட்டு), especially highlighting the Vaishnava spirituality as its major inspiration. So far, no such study has been published in English or Tamil, except for the briefs or scholarly opinions from writers and researchers which will be highlighted in the next section. This study is an enlarged version of the concise Tamil essay (2020) by the author on the same topic[ii].

Unless otherwise mentioned, all the translations from Tamil given in this paper are done by the author himself.

Kannan Paattu: The Inspirations

Kannan Paattu, The Krishna Songs consists of the sequence of 23 lyrical songs. Each song contains multiple verses. Though Bharati completed it in 1912, it was first published in 1917.

The poet assumes multiple Bhava-filled roles taking Krishna to be friend, mother, father, disciple, teacher, servant, master, king, child and lover in these songs. The “lover” songs are 11 in total, remaining being the other songs.

The word Kannan (Kaṇṇan, கண்ணன், कण्णन्) denotes Krishna in Tamil literature from ancient times. It literally means the one who has eyes, an allusion to the all-pervasive and all-seeing aspect of Vishnu. Phonetically, it is like Kānhā and Kanhaiyā of Hindi and the other North Indian languages and Kannayya of Telugu. Possibly, all these words denoting Krishna are derived from the Tamil Kannan.

Kannan also becomes the adorable Kannamma, the Feminine Krishna in some of the songs. The word Kannamma is used in colloquial Tamil to address a woman lovingly and closely, usually wife or daughter or any little girl, in general.

The charm of these songs lies in their simplicity of words and language usage, yet conveying deep, subtle feelings and profound imaginations. “He who creates literature that cannot be understood by the common reader, shrouds that power by a jet-black stuff. The life of literature lies in clarity and truth. Only that writing which has this life can be described as inspired”, writes Bharati elsewhere [iii]. All of Bharati’s poems, including this one, has this quality as their bedrock.

What was Bharati’s inspiration to write Kannan Paattu? V.V.S. Aiyar explains this in his preface for the second edition (1919):

“When Bharat woke up suddenly from its long-time slumber of self-forgetfulness, the foremost light that appeared in front of it was the form of Sri Krishna delivering the Gita Shastra and driving the chariot of Partha towards victory. That form arose in the heart of our poet too and gave beatitude to his poetry. In the collection “Janma Bhumi” that he published ten years ago, there are two patriotic songs addressed as hymns to Sri Krishna. But, only later, his mind got fully attracted to the deeds and the playful joys of Krishna. One main reason for this could be his delving deep into the verses of Nalayira Divya Prabandham. On the aspect of Bhava, these songs do embrace the way of those verses”.

(Nalayira Divya Prabandham is an anthology of about four thousand verses in Tamil, the compositions of twelve Azhwars, the foremost of Vaishnava saints of Tamil Nadu. This is a canonical text of Sri Vaishnava tradition established by Sri Ramanujacharya in the 11th century CE. Nammazhwar, also called Shatakopa is the foremost of the twelve Azhwars, and his works are hailed as “Dravida Veda” on par with the Four Vedas. Dravida indicates Tamil language here).

Bharati was a prodigious poet from his early childhood, from the age of ten. His erudition in Tamil literature encompassed the study of many classical texts like Tirukkural and Kambaramayanam. Though he had heard of Nalayira Divya Prabandham, only during the Pondicherry years, he immersed himself in it fully. This is reflected in Bharati’s writings of this period, as he mentions about Azhwars in many essays.

Interestingly, Bharati wrote two English essays on Azhwars in the magazine ‘Arya’ edited by Sri Aurobindo – Andal: The Vaishnava Poetess[iv], Nammalwar: The Supreme Vaishnava Saint and Poet[v]. He also translated some verses of Nalayira Divya Prabandham into English[vi].

Bharati used to discuss Thiruvaymozhi of Nammazhwar with Sri Vaishnava scholars. He used to sing them in his sonorous voice during the early mornings in the Puducherry beach, as if in a trance. He composed the hymn “Kaṇṇaṉ Tiruvaṭi” on Krishna, upon hearing “Kaṇṇaṉ kaḻaliṇai” of Nammazhwar in a religious function. These are recorded in the memoir by Yadugiri Ammal[vii].

“The Tamil Vaishnava mystics, the Alwars, often sounded many variations on the perennial theme of Krishna as child and as lover; Bharati’s splendid improvisations are but an extension of the Alwar tradition”, writes Dr Prema Nandakumar, renowned scholar and translator of some of Bharati’s poems[viii].

But this opinion has not been fully accepted by some notable writers and critics. Renowned Bharati scholar Pe. Su. Mani gives the survey of these views in an essay[ix] which is a part of his Bharati research anthology. It is summarized below:

“The poetry of Azhwars is only the starting point for Bharati and not the end”, points out writer Ku. Pa. Rajagopalan, adding that Bharati’s conception of Kannamma is inspired by his immersion in Shakti worship and philosophy and is not the same as the traditional “Nayaki Bhava” of the Azhwars. Poet Thiruloga Seetharam feels that it is not mere imaginative poetry but born out of the Bharati’s experience of Parā Bhakti (transcendental devotion). Tamil scholar Ma. Po. Sivagnanam considers the aesthetics and themes of Kannan Paattu as non-conventional and progressive. He cites the “lover” poem Mukattirai kal̤aital (removing the veil) as an example of Bharati brining in his women’s empowerment ideas.

All these views are credible and focus on different aspects of Kannan Paattu in a way. We will explore this further in the upcoming sections.

Uniqueness of Bharati’s Bhāva expression

(Figure : 1 : credit – Manoj Sujanani – The different Bhava filled roles of Krishna)

In the Bhakti traditions of Hinduism, it is an established convention to express one’s love towards his Iṣṭa (chosen deity) by assuming different roles. Though these conventions are much more predominant and widespread in the Vishnu Bhakti traditions, Shiva Bhakti traditions also have some of them. The Puranas, commentaries to sacred texts and the legends related to the lives of many sages contain narrations of such role plays.

Dāsya-bhāva: Bhakta assumes the role of being an eternal servant or slave of the Lord. This is the most common and the default Bhāva, which has numerous examples from Hanuman to Shaiva saint Appar Swamigal.

Sakhya-bhāva: Bhakta loves the Lord as the friend. Examples: Pandavas, especially Arjuna; Sudama, Shaiva saint Sundarar.

Vātsalya-bhāva: Bhakta considers the Lord to be the child and himself or herself to be the parent.  Yashoda is the epitome of this mode of love, so are sages like Periyazhwar and Surdas.

Mādhurya-bhāva: Bhakta submits to the sweetness of the conjugal love, with the Lord being the lover, feeling the joys of being together and the anguish of being in separation. In general, the gender conception of this Bhāva is that the Lord is the only man (Purusha) and all other individual souls, the Jivas are feminine. This is considered as the most sublime form of Bhakti, as seen in the Gopikas, the cowherd girls of Brindavana and in Mirabai, the Rajput princess of the medieval period. Among the Azhwars, we see this Bhāva in Andal, Nammazhwar and Thirumangai Azhwar. While Andal is female, the other two are males, thus signifying that this Bhāva is not restrictive in its practice.

Apart from these mainstream conventions, there are other modes like Sishyabhāva in which the Lord is considered as the Guru imparting spiritual vision directly. In the Bhagavata Purana, it is said that even negative emotions like fear and enmity when directed towards the Lord in a one-pointed manner can become modes of Bhakti and will eventually give deliverance, as in the case of Kamsa. The negative roles are enumerated to drive home the absolutist, impartial nature of the Supreme Divine and are not to be taken as prescriptions.

Conventionally, it is assumed that the devotee pursues one single Bhāva and gets totally immersed and dissolves into it. Most of the traditional legends and stories also allude to this idea.

Given this, Bharati’s singing of Krishna putting himself in multiple relations one after the other in sequence is an uncommon and unique phenomenon in Bhakti Literature. What could be the reason for this? It could be said that he wanted to go beyond the traditional conventions, being a modern poet. But then, such superfluous characterizations do not apply in the case of a great spiritual seer-poet, a Kavi-Rishi like Bharati. There must be more profound reasons.

One, Bharati simply goes by the teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita. Says Gita 18.62 – Tameva śaraṇaṃ gaccha sarvabhāvena bhārata, “Take refuge in Him, with all your thought, with your whole being”. The key word sarvabhāvena here does mean all kinds of feelings, emotions, and relations. Such devotion is very much in line with Gita 9.34 – Manmanā bhava madbhakto madyājī māṃ namaskuru. “Having your mind fixed on Me, be devoted to Me, sacrifice to Me, and bow down to Me”. It is to be noted that Arjuna’s fervent prayer in Gita 11.44 mentions three forms of intimate relationships found in all creatures – Piteva putrasya sakheva sakhyuḥ priyaḥ priyāyārhasi deva soḍhum, “O Lord, You should forgive (my faults) as would a father (the faults) of a son, as a friend, of a friend, and as a lover of a beloved”.

Two, through all the songs of Kannan Paattu, Bharati collectively presents a philosophical strain that views Sri Krishna as the Absolute, beyond all relativistic relations. This will be explained in the end.

Now let us have a glance of a few verses from some of the songs, to appreciate their beauty and spiritual elegance.

Krishna, My Friend[x]

“When asked, what is the way to take away Subhadra,

the one with golden glowing skin,

he would offer a solution in two moments;

When said, I don’t see a possible way

to kill Karna, the archer’s leader,

l’ve come in surrender to you,

he would offer solution, in one moment”.

Thus starts this song[xi], in which the poet totally assumes the role of Arjuna, as he boasts of his dear friend, Krishna, the epitome of perfect friendship.

“While I am angry, he would say just the word

to make me roll with laughter.

While I am forlorn, he would do something

that cheers and cherishes happiness.

In times of big danger

he would come stand beside and remove the danger.

Like the moths that fall into flame (and die),

he would kill away the evil that comes forth”

Throughout the Mahabharata, we can see incidents that bear testimony to the above lines. The echo of the Gita 11.29, “As moths enter with increased haste into a glowing fire for destruction” can be seen in the last line.

“By professing the good Gita,

he made me attain happiness”.

Thus ends this delightful song.

Krishna, My Mother[xii]

Bharati goes to a completely different plane, while singing Kannan, the mother. We are fortunate to quote his own words here, as he himself translated[xiii] this song into English.

“The Realms of Life are Her bounteous breasts; and consciousness, Her milk of endless delight, which she yieldeth into my lips unsaked; such grace is my Mother’s. They call her Krishna. Ah, she has clasped me in fond embrace with her arms of ethereal space!”

Like every other mother, she also tells tales. What kind of tales?

“And, placing me on her lap of Earth, she loves to tell me endless stories, strange and mysterious. And some of the tales I call by the name of pleasures, evolutions, victories. Yet others come to me as pains, sad defeats and falls; stories, all these, that my Mother recounts to suit my various moods and stages, lovingly told, ever entrancing”.

Again, it is the teaching of Gita 2.38, “Treating happiness and sorrow, gain and loss, and conquest and defeat with equanimity, then engage in battle”, that is being poetically expressed here.

Krishna, My Father[xiv]

The traditional Indian society majorly followed the patriarchal system, as many other societies of the world. In such a system, it is the Father who gives lineage (Kula), name, identity and values to the child.

“I cannot fathom to spell his name explicitly, in the open.

To all, he is well known as Our Lord and Kannan.

Fabricating three-four kinds of names for him, they fight,

Those who don’t even know his face.

Some uninformed folks say,

He belongs to celestials, Deva Kula”.

Endless are the names and forms of the Divine, says Vedanta, and cautions against getting stuck in specific name-form (Nāma-rūpa) conundrum. The poet brings out that wisdom in his own style here.

Then, what is his Kula, really? He is the mighty ocean where all Kulas converge and merge.

“Born in the Kula of warriors,

He grew up in the Kula of cowherds.

Excelled among the Brahmanas,

he is thickly in friendship with some Chetti folks”.

(Chetti – trader, merchants).

Ye people of the world, my father would laugh at all the apartheid, and all the falsehoods that you have built up to perpetuate wrong notions, says the poet.

“Black is his colour,

And he delights with golden hued damsels.

Free are his ways,

And he laughs at your empty and false Shastras”.

Well, then didn’t he proclaim in the Gita that he is the one who created the Four Varnas?

“Four Varnas he structured,

The foolish men led it to the destructive path.

He would say:

Virtue, knowledge, deeds,

Those who excel in these are of high lineage.

Good to burn those fake scriptures

That define high and low by appearance and birth”.

It has been well recorded that Bharati did not have even an iota of caste prejudices or caste supremacy attitudes in his personal life. He moved around with people from all castes and used to dine with them without difference. He called for ending all caste-based hatred and discrimination, developing empathy towards the depressed castes and for working towards their social emancipation. He derives such values and ideals of Svatantrata (freedom) and Samatva (equality) not from any foreign ideologies, but directly from his father Krishna, the poet declares through these verses.

Krishna, My Servant[xv]

“He came from somewhere; I belong to the caste of cowherds, said he” (எங்கிருந்தோ வந்தான், இடைச்சாதி நான் என்றான்). These stirring opening lines from Bharti’s song attained mass popularity in the 1960s through the hugely successful film Padikkatha Methai. While the conventional religious mindset wants eternal servitude to the Lord, Bharati turns it upside down in this song.

There are a few legends in which the Lord comes in the disguise of a servant to help some exemplary saint devotees, like in the life story of saint Eknath. But Bharati’s portrayal is not of this kind. Here, the poet sits lamenting thus: “Oh, so many troubles because of these servants, but without them, no work moves”, and then Kannan comes seeking job as a servant at his doorstep. “Well built body, good conduct seen in the eyes, affectionate words”, thinks the poet and decides to offer him a job. “What are your wages”, he asks.

Kannan replies, “Sir, I have no wife, no progeny. I am a loner. No grey hairs, but I am so much aged that I lost count. Revered Sir, it is just enough if you provide for my subsistence. It is the love in the heart that matters to me, not money”. The poet concludes that this fellow is one of those old-time innocent village ignoramuses and takes him.

“He obeys the orders, takes care of the laundry and chores. For the little one, he sings sweet songs. Like the lashes protecting the eye, he protects my family”, goes on the poet. “Day by day, I see my affection growing. The goodness I receive from Kannan could be spoken without an end. As a friend, minister and good teacher, he is “Daiva” (தெய்வம்) in qualities, yet as a servant in appearance. What penance did I do to get him? Now all my plans, worries everything has become his responsibility. From the day he stepped in, every virtue, prosperity, wealth is growing in abundance”, he concludes.

Even if an ordinary, accidental devotee undertakes total surrender (Śaraṇāgati), the Lord himself comes down from his exalted state to take care of all the affairs of the devotee. This is the import that is brought out in this song.

Krishna, My Boy[xvi]

“Inexhaustibly playful boy, this Kannan.

Endless trouble to the girls in the street”.

This song Tīrāta vil̤aiyāṭṭup pil̤l̤ai (தீராத விளையாட்டுப் பிள்ளை) describing the childhood mischiefs and playfulness of Krishna is extremely popular, due to its adaptation in Carnatic music, Bharatanatyam concerts and films. The musicality and lyricism of all the songs in Kannan Paattu have been mentioned. These songs are not just poems but are meant for singing with rhythm and accompaniments. The scintillating effect made by these songs on the hearers has been very well brought out by V.V.S. Aiyar in his preface to the 1919 edition:

“Those who had, in the peaceful evenings on the beach, bathed in the entrancing moonlight that transformed the blue sea into a milky ocean, and heard the poet singing in his rich voice his new songs with the pride of imagination and creative enthusiasm,—those would hold each song in the book as a priceless jewel”.

He brings some fruit to eat,

And mercilessly snatches it away half bitten.

On my dear, oh my lord, we plead,

And then he gives it back, with spittle and more biting.

This is one of the typical mischiefs of Kannan. But then, what is this fruit, really? The joys and pleasures of life. Kannan snatches it from us momentarily, but then gives back.  Bitten by him, it becomes a Prasada, and offers more wholesome and lasting joy to us.

Krishna, My Love[xvii]

The songs in this group express Viraha, the pangs of separation of the lover from her Lord. This is a staple theme for Indian love poems, more so in the context of Krishna Bhakti. Bharati’s poetry sparkles here, with its nuances and intensity of feeling. Some samples:

“Like the worm in the fishing-rod,

like a flame in the wind,

my heart in anguish throbbed

for an endless term.

Like a caged parrot

I sorrowed alone.

Even the sweetest things

turned bitter to taste”.

Tūṇṭiṟ puḻuviṉaip pol (தூண்டிற் புழுவினைப் போல்)[xviii]

In her deep anguish, the lover suddenly doubts whether she has forgotten the face of Kannan, and then consoles herself.

Forgotten is the face beloved

ah! my friend! dare I say this?

The heart has not forgotten the love,

yet how could the mind forget the face?

The bee forgetting honey,

the flower forgetting light,

the field forgetting the sky –

can such things be on the earth?

Āsai mukam maṟantu pocce (ஆசை முகம் மறந்து போச்சே)[xix]

Kannamma, My Child[xx]

Bharati had two daughters, and no sons. So, it is natural that he saw Krishna as the little girl Kannamma, not just the boy Kannan. This much loved, immortal song is so popular in its spread, and so intimate and close in its feeling. Some verses:

My fledgling Kannamma!

Riches infinite

You came to redeem me

and greaten my fame.

As you come running,

my heart exults

When you play around

my soul enclasps you.

When your face reddens,

I am worried;

when you knit your brows,

my heart futters.

Your baby prattlings

end my sorrows.

With flower-like laughter

you melt my hardness.

– Ciṉṉañciṟu kil̤iye (சின்னஞ்சிறு கிளியே)[xxi]

Kannamma, My Love[xxii]

The songs in this group touch the pinnacle of Rasa and Bhava in the whole collection. The Shringara (conjugal love) is expressed in multiple dimensions here – sensual, spiritual and philosophical.

Bharati, the lover adores the face of Kannamma in cosmic terms.

“Are those fame-bright eyes, Kannamma

the Sun and the Moon?

Does the dark eye-ball, Kannamma!

Reflect the inky skies?”[xxiii]

So, no wonder he sees that face everywhere. And sings his experience of Divine Omnipresence in rapture, like this:

“In the heaving sea I saw your face, ’

and in the azure sky;

in that thick foam I saw your face,

and in these tiny bubbles;

searching every inch of cloud,

I found your face alone,

Hearing running laughter at my back,

pushed aside your hands

and turned behind and saw your face”.[xxiv]

But in the next song, the feeling of longing overtakes. It is very earthly, and real.

“Silent this whole word is,

engulfed in sleep.

Should this one person, me,

suffer the hell of separation, alone?”

When the longing culminates in the union, the poet sings it majestically, in a language that attempts to soar to be like that of the Upanishads. This song “Yogam” starting Pāyumŏl̤inīyĕṉakku (பாயுமொளி நீயெனக்கு) has been translated by Bharati himself with the title “In Each Other’s Arms”[xxv]. Interestingly, he has rendered the word Kannamma as Krishna in this translation. It is preceded by this small note.

“(Note: In the following verses, the Supreme Divinity, styled here “Krishna” is imagined as the beloved women, and the human soul as the lover – C.S.B)”

The song is full of metaphors, coming as a torrential downpour one after the other.

Thou to me the flowing Light

And I to thee discerning sight;

Honied blossom thou to me,

Bee enchanted I to thee;

O Heavenly Lamp with shining ray,

O Krishna, Love, O nectar-spray

With falt’ring tongue and words that pant

Thy glories here I strive to chant.

Rain that singeth thou to me;

Peacock dancing I to thee;

Thou to me the juice of grape

And I to thee the cup agape;

O spotless Beauty, Krishna bright,

Perennial fount of deep delight,

O Love, thy face hath grace divine

For there the deathless Truth doth shine.

And then it ends in a crescendo, like this:

And all the joys of Heaven and Earth

In thee, O Krishna, have their birth

Ethereal glory, endless Might

O Heart of Mine, O Light, O Light!

Krishna, The Absolute

The sublimity that is evident in that last song is the ultimate spirituality of Kannan Paattu. All the worldly relationships like friend, father, mother and lover directed towards Krishna get sublimated into transcendence through Bhakti. All these relativistic relationships converge into the Absolute called Kannan. Krishna is the ocean in which all these waves raise, live and submerge.

Everything in the world becomes dear to us, because of the love of Atman (“Ātmanastu kāmāya”), says Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 2.4. Every other love is nothing but the reflection of the love of the Atman. Krishna, as conceived here is non-different from Atman, the Self. Bharati alludes to this in the opening lines of the song Krishna, My Disciple[xxvi]:

“Becoming I, and things other than I,

Being different from both me and them,

This elusive entity, the magician Kannan…”

The key to unlock this philosophical strain can be derived from the following verse of Thiruvaymozhi (5.6.7) of Nammazhwar – Uṟṟārkal̤ ĕṉakkillai yārum ĕṉṉum(உற்றார்கள் எனக்கில்லையாரும் என்னும்).

My little girl says,

“I’ve no relations here

and everyone here is my relative.”

“I’m the one who makes relatives relate,” she says.

“I also end relations,

and to those related to me

I become all relations,” she says.

Can it be the lord of illusions

beyond all relations

has come and taken her over?

How can I tell you,

my kinsmen,

what she means?

– Translation by A.K.Ramanujan[xxvii]

This verse is identified as the lamentations of a mother (Naṟṟāy pulampal, நற்றாய் புலம்பல்) seeing the intense, mad love of her daughter for Krishna. Such state of divine communion and oneness is what is spoken in the Gita 18.66 –Sarvadharmānparityajya māmekaṃ śaraṇaṃ vraja, “Abandoning all attributes, come to Me as your sole refuge”. This is hailed as the Ultimate Teaching (Carama-śloka) in the Sri Vaishnava tradition. In Advaita Vedanta terms, the same may be described as Anubhuti, the ultimate experiential superconscious state of a Self-realized Jnani.


Scholar and philosopher Srirangam V Mohanarangan says:[xxviii]

“கண்ணன் பாட்டு என்பது பாரதியின் வாழ்க்கை தரிசனம். வாழ்க்கை தான் கண்ணன் என்றால், அதில் ஒன்றிப் பயின்று ஓரும் உயிருணர்வு பாரதி. பாரதி தன்னை விஞ்சிப் படைத்த படைப்பு என்று அதைச் சொல்லவேண்டும்”.

“Kaṇṇaṉ pāṭṭu ĕṉpatu Bhāratiyiṉ vāḻkkai taricaṉam. Vāḻkkai tāṉ kaṇṇaṉ ĕṉṟāl, atil ŏṉṟip payiṉṟu orum uyiruṇarvu Bhārati. Bhārati taṉṉai viñcip paṭaitta paṭaippu ĕṉṟu ataic cŏllaveṇṭum”.

“Kannan Paattu can be called the Life philosophy of Bharati. If Life is Kannan, the living consciousness that unites with it is Bharati. This is a literary creation where Bharati transcends himself”.

Bharati’s Kannan Paattu is a modern spiritual text. Essentially, it is a poetic exploration of the spiritual realms spoken by the Gita and Nammazhwar. It nicely blends the modern Indian renaissance ideas like social emancipation, women’s empowerment and freedom in a harmonious, aesthetically pleasing manner in its narrative. It is best interpreted and appreciated taking all this into consideration.


[i]Kālavarisaiyil Bhārati paṭaippukal̤ (கால வரிசையில் பாரதி படைப்புகள்)- 16 volumes, ed. Seeni Viswanathan, Alliance Publishers 2015.

[ii] Bhāratiyiṉ kaṇṇaṉ pāṭṭu: ŏru muḻumaip pārvai (பாரதியாரின் கண்ணன் பாட்டு: ஒரு முழுமைப் பார்வை), Jataayu, Valam magazine Oct 2020 issue, pp. 21-40

[iii]Poems of Subramania Bharati (1997), Prema Nandakumar, Sahitya Akademi, pp. 31

[iv]Kālavarisaiyil Bhārati paṭaippukal̤, Vol 9, pp. 163.

[v]Kālavarisaiyil Bhārati paṭaippukal̤, Vol 9, pp. 210.

[vi]Kālavarisaiyil Bhārati paṭaippukal̤, Vol 9, pp. 224, 233.

[vii]Bhārati Ninaivugal, Yadugiri Ammal, 1958.

[viii] Poems of Subramania Bharati (1997), Prema Nandakumar, Sahitya Akademi, pp. 31

[ix]Bhāratiyiyal āyvuk kaṭṭuraikal̤, (பாரதியியல் ஆய்வுக் கட்டுரைகள்)Vol 2, Pe.Su.Mani, Poongodi Pathippagam 2001, pp. 139-148

[x]Kaṇṇaṉ ĕṉ toḻaṉ (கண்ணன் என் தோழன்)

[xi] Translation by Aadhirai –

[xii]Kaṇṇaṉ ĕṉ tāy (கண்ணன் என் தாய்)

[xiii]Krishna – My Mother, Kālavarisaiyil Bhārati paṭaippukal̤, Vol 9, pp. 182-184

[xiv]Kaṇṇaṉ ĕṉ tantai (கண்ணன் என் தந்தை)

[xv]Kaṇṇaṉ ĕṉ sevakaṉ (கண்ணன் என் சேவகன்)

[xvi]Kaṇṇaṉ ĕṉ vil̤aiyāṭṭuppil̤l̤ai (கண்ணன் என் விளையாட்டுப்பிள்ளை)

[xvii] Kaṇṇaṉ ĕṉ kātalaṉ (கண்ணன் என் காதலன்)

[xviii] Translation by Prema Nandakumar, from Poems of Subramania Bharati, pp. 98

[xix] Translation by Prema Nandakumar, from Poems of Subramania Bharati, pp. 32

[xx]Kaṇṇammā ĕṉ kuḻantai (கண்ணம்மா என் குழந்தை)

[xxi] Translation by Prema Nandakumar, from Poems of Subramania Bharati, pp. 97

[xxii]Kaṇṇammā ĕṉ kātali (கண்ணம்மா என் காதலி)

[xxiii]Translation by Prema Nandakumar, from Poems of Subramania Bharati, pp. 100

[xxiv]Translation by Prema Nandakumar, from Poems of Subramania Bharati, pp. 32

[xxv]Kālavarisaiyil Bhārati paṭaippukal̤, Vol 10, pp. 358-360.

[xxvi]Kaṇṇaṉ ĕṉ sīṭaṉ (கண்ணன் என் சீடன்)

[xxvii]Hymns for the Drowning: Poems for Vishnu: Nammalvar; A.K. Ramanujan, (tr.), Penguin 1993, pp. 33

[xxviii] Bhāratik kalvi (பாரதிக் கல்வி), Srirangam V Mohanarangan, Sandhya Pathippagam, pp. 27

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