Subramania Bharati’s renovated house and museum is open again for literary enthusiasts
MANY a heritage home on Easwaran Koil Street has crumbled with time, but not No 20. Sporting a fresh coat of mustard paint, this is no ordinary house. The reopening of the restored Mahakavi Bharatiar Memorial Museum and Research Centre has gladdened the hearts of many literature lovers.
In the details
A shaded verandah (thalavaram) with sheltered seats (thinnai) welcomes the visitor into Subramania Bharati’s last residence in Pondicherry. The passage across the threshold leads to a sunlit courtyard. A melodious rendering of the poet’s Suttum Vizhi by Unnikrishnan, fills the rooms that open out on all sides. The colonial-era house, though built in typical Tamil style, sports French style windows and colonnades, says A Arul, architect with Intach — the organisation which restored the building which was closed to the public for seven years. While traditional materials like lime plaster and Madras terrace roofing were used, original features including the red oxide flooring, pillars and rafters were retained.
The decade Bharati spent in Pondicherry evading arrest from the British (1908 to 1918) is recognised as his most creative period — Kannan Pattu and Panchali Sabadham were penned here. The museum houses a few original manuscripts, some first editions and all published works including magazines he edited like Vijaya and India. “Most people who come here have read his poetry, but few his prose,” says Sengamala Thayar, caretaker of the centre, pointing to the display of Bharati’s essays. “Visitors are also curious if he wrote in English.” Bharathiar’s progressive pieces like Crime of Caste published in the Commonveal Magazine (1915), is proof of his relevance even after a century.
The walls are eloquent with black and white photographs of family and friends, anecdotes of his trysts with famous contemporaries Sri Aurobindo, Bharatidasan and VVS Iyer, and snapshots of places that inspired him, including a mango grove in Muthialpet where he penned Kuyil Pattu. A few letters, including a warm epistle to wife Chellamma, where he manages to quell her fears and exhort her to read more, also find a place.
A well in the courtyard and a grainy bench are the only artefacts, however. A flight of stairs leads to the research centre which houses around 19,000 books. There is a provision for a screening of documentaries and a gallery of paintings inspired by his verses. “We are planning guided audio tours to help visitors understand the significance of every document displayed,” says S Ganessin, director, Department of Art and Culture, that funded the restoration. Open from 9.40 am – 1 pm / 2 – 5.20 pm, except Mondays. Details: 0413 2336203
— Olympia Shilpa Gerald