Important Personalities in Tamil Literature

Important facts and figures about Tamil Literature Personalities are as follows.

Alvar Saints

The twelve Alvars were Tamil poet-saints, who lived between 6th and 9th centuries AD and espoused ‘emotional devotion’ or bhakti to Visnu-Krishna in their songs. The devotional songs of the Alvars were created during the Early medieval period of Tamil history and they helped can be called the pioneers of the Bhakti Movement in India.

The collection of their hymns is known as Divya Prabandha. All the saints were male except one named Andal.

Nayanar Saints

The 63 Nayanar saints were the Shiva devotional poets, who lived between 5th and 10th centuries. These 63 Nayanar saints, along with the 12 Alvars are known as South India’s 75 Apostles of Bhakti movement.


Kambar or Kamban was a 12th century Tamil poet, who wrote Ramavatharam, popularly known as Kambaramayanam, the Tamil version of Ramayana. Kamba Ramayanam of Kamban is an epic of about 11,000 stanzas as opposed to Valmiki’s 24000 couplets and is the original retelling of the epic story rather than a translation of the later.

Subramanya Bharathi

Subramanya Bharathi (1882-1921) was a Tamil writer, poet, journalist, Indian independence activist and social reformer, popularly known as Mahakavi Bharathiyar.

He is a pioneer of modern Tamil poetry. On December 11, 2012 his 130th birth anniversary was celebrated.

Subramanya Bharati ‘s songs are a part of contemporary popular culture and have featured in Tamil cinema in last many decades and also been set to music by famous composers like Illayaraja and sung by celebrated artistes like M.S. Subbulakshmi.

He published his first two collections of poems Swadesa Gitangal and Janmabhoomi in 1908. His entire Tamil Literature can be divided into several parts of which the most prominent are the patriotic poems and the devotional poems viz. the Kannan Pattu (collection of songs devoted to Krishna) and Kuyil Pattu (Songs of Kuyil). It was only after his death in 1921, that his literary greatness came to be more and more appreciated and the value of his works Kannan-pattu and Kuyil- pattu was fully recognized.  Today, Bharathiar is a household name in Tamil Nadu and a revered poet in rest of India.

Brief Biography: Subramanya Bharathi

Subramanya Bharati was born at Ettayapuram, a small princely state in the Tirunelveli district in Madras state. He was an intellectually precocious child and at eleven years was given the title ‘Bharati’, when he gave an impressive exhibition of poetic gifts at a court function. He spent four years in Banaras from 1898 to 1902, where he learnt Sanskrit, Hindi and English, and attended lectures by Annie Besant.

After returning to Etlayapuram in 1902, he worked as a sub-editor of the Tamil daily Sweadesmitram and as the editor of India for some years. He was actively involved in politics. His meeting with Sister Nivedita in Calcutta was a landmark event. He pledged himself for the freedom of India and eradication of the casteism and emancipation of the women.

The second milestone in Bharati’s life was his meeting with Sri Aurobindo in Pondicherry in 1910. From him Bharati imbibed the teaching of the Vedas and the ideas of vedantic humanism. Bharati was in political exile in Pondicherry for ten years because of his provocative writing against British rule and returned to British India in 1918. He spent the rest of his life in Madras until a tragic accident in 1921, when he was cast to the ground by the Triplicane temple elephant, claimed his life.


Bharathidasan (1891-1964) was a disciple of Bharathiar. He was a poet and rationalist whose literary works handled mostly socio-political issues. His writings served as a catalyst for the growth of the Dravidian movement in Tamil Nadu.

Gopalakrishna Bharathi

Gopalakrishna Bharathi lived during the early 19th century. He wrote numerous poems and lyrics set to tune in Carnatic music. His most famous work is the Nandan Charitam on the life of Nandanar who having been born in a sociologically lower caste, faces and overcomes the social obstacles in achieving his dream of visiting the Chidambaram temple.

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