About K. B. Sundarambal

K.B. Sundarambal (1908 – 1980) was perhaps the most well-known  lady Tamil stage artist of the early part of the last century.  She had a strong, ringing voice which, even with her high pitch or sruti, could with facility traverse the tara sthayi without sounding strained.  It was her music which brought her fame on the stage. Her husband and fellow stage actor Kittappa was perhaps even more famous for his music. Apart from being a stage actor, Sundarambal was also a successful cine artist. For her early film ‘Nandanar’, KBS received a fee of one lakh rupees and is said to be the first artist to have received such a high fee. Her film ‘Avvayyar’, produced by S.S. Vasan, was a great success. 

Kodumadi Balambal Sundarambal (1908-1980) was a renowned stage artist and singer of South India. She was popularly referred to as the “Queen of the Indian stage.”. She was noted both for her resonant, vibrant voice and for the dignity of her performances. A political activist during the Indian independence movement, K.B. Sundarambal was the first film personality to enter a state legislature in India.

Early years

K.B. Sundarambal was born on October 11, 1908 in the village of Kodumudi (also spelled “Kodumadi”), on the banks of the Kaveri, about 35 km from the town of Erode in present-day Tamil Nadu. Little is known of Sundarambal’s father; her mother, Balambal, barely managed to eke out a living. Indeed, so penurious was the family that Sundarambal, as a child, is said to have made some much-needed money by singing ditties on trains and receiving tips from the passengers.

Stage debut

Such was Sundarambal’s training in music. According to some sources, it was while singing thus on a train that the 10-year-old Sundarambal attracted the attention of Natesa Iyer, an amateur stage actor, producer and talent-scout. According to other sources it was a police official named Krishnaswamy Iyer, an acquaintance of Balambal, who discovered the talent in Sundarambal and introduced the 10-year-old girl to P. S. Velu Nair, one of the reigning dramatists of that era.

In either case, Sundarambal is believed to have made her debut in 1917, on the Tamil stage, as a member of a travelling theatre troupe. This was the turning point in her life. The talented young girl honed her voice while performing small roles on stage and keeping audiences entertained between acts. Soon enough, she was essaying leading roles on stage. Her early stage plays like “Valli Thirumanam,” “Pavalakodi” and “Harishchandra” proved to be great hits. In particular, “Valli Thirumanam”, where she co-starred with S.G. Kittappa, was a phenomenal success.


While working together in the theatre, Sundarambal and S.G. Kittappa fell in love. They were married in 1927. For the next few years, Sundarambal lived a life that was both personally and professionally satisfying. The couple became cult figures with theatre aficionados. Unfortunately, the phase came to a sudden end with the untimely death of S.G. Kittappa in 1932. Sundarambal left the stage sometime after this happened, preferring to pursue a career as a concert artiste.


A celebrated theatre personality and an accomplished concert artiste, Sundarambal was to find success in films as well. Although she accepted only a few film offers, they have proved to be landmarks. Her performance as Avvaiyyar, the Tamil poet-saint, was so convincing that she has become almost synonymous with the legendary personality. “Nandanar” and “Avvaiyar,” in both of which she played Avvaiyar, were runaway hits. Her other great successes were in “Manimekhalai,” “Thiruvilayadal,” “Karaikal Ammaiyar” and “Kandan Karunai.” Singularly lacking in oomph, Sundarambal’s golden voice and the devotional fervour of her singing was what set the box offices afire.

Political activism

Sundarambal and her husband S.G. Kittappa had been much affected by the Indian independence movement and had became ardent supporters of the Indian National Congress. They had harnessed their popularity and talents to further that cause. Sundarambal continued to champion the movement, recording several gramophone discs extolling the struggle and sacrifices it entailed. She also made it a point to always wear khadi. She often actively campaigned in support of Congress part candidates at various elections. After India gained independence, K.B. Sundarambal entered the Legislative Council of Madras State in 1951 as a Congress nominee, the first film artist to enter an Indian legislature.


In 1964, the Tamil Isai Sangam conferred upon her the title of “Tamil Isai Perarignar.” In 1970, the government of India awarded her the Padmashri for her contributions to the arts. K.B. Sundarambal, artiste extraordinaire, died in October 1980.

[The text of this article from Wikepedia is published here under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.]


Mahakavi Bharathiar

Mahakavi Bharathiar- Poet,Writer,Revolutionist etc…
( 11th Dec 1882 – 11th Sep 1921 )

Mahakavi Subramania Bharathiar was one of the greatest Tamil poets, a prolific writer, philosopher and a great visionary of immense genius.  He was also one of the most prominent leaders of the Indian independence movement.  His national integration songs earned him the title “Desiya Kavi” (National Poet). His patriotic songs emphasize nationalism, unity of India, equality of men and the greatness of Tamil language. 

Bharathiar was born on December 11, 1882 in Ettayapuram, which is now part of Thoothukudi District.  Bharathiar was educated at a local high school where his talents as a poet were recognized even at the age of 11.   He had voracious appetite for learning ancient and contemporary Tamil literature and had gifted intellect to derive astonishing truths from ancient poems.

At the age of 22, he became a Tamil teacher at Setupati High School in Madurai and the same year he was appointed as Assistant Editor of a daily newspaper called “Swadesamitran”.   In 1906, he was editor of a weekly magazine called “India”.

By 1912, Bharathiar was already a legend in South India and his political meetings were attracting multitudes of young patriots, ready to join the non-violent movement for attaining freedom from the British rule.

Bharathiar died on September 11, 1921, at the young age of 39.

The legacy of the poet however endures forever.

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A short biography of Ramakrishna

Ramakrishna Paramahamsa
India’s Most Well-known Devotee of the Goddess Kali

Ramakrishna in meditation
Ramakrishna Paramahamsa

Ramakrishna Parmahamsa is perhaps the best known saint of nineteenth century India. He was born in a poor Brahmin family in 1836, in a small town near Calcutta, West Bengal. As a young man, he was artistic and a popular storyteller and actor. His parents were religious, and prone to visions and spiritual dreams. Ramakrishna’s father had a vision of the god Gadadhara (Vishnu) while on a religious pilgrimage. In the vision, the god told him that he would be born into the family as a son. Young Ramakrishna was prone to experiences of spiritual reverie and temporary loss of consciousness. His early spiritual experiences included going into a state of rapture while watching the flight of a cranes, and loosing consciousness of the outer world while playing the role of the god Shiva in a school play.

Ramakrishna had little interest in school or practical things of the world. In 1866, he became a priest at a recently dedicated temple to the Goddess Kali located near Calcutta on the Ganges River. It was built by a pious widow, Rani Rasmani. Ramakrishna became a full-time devotee to the goddess spending increasing amounts of time giving offerings and meditating on her. He meditated in a sacred grove of five trees on the edge of the temple grounds seeking a vision of the goddess Kali.

At one point he became frustrated, feeling he could not live any longer without seeing Kali. He demanded that the goddess appear to him. He threatened to take his own life with a ritual dagger (normally held in the hand of the Kali statue). At this point, he explained how the goddess appeared to him as an ocean of light:

When I jumped up like a madman and seized [a sword], suddenly the blessed Mother revealed herself. The buildings with their different parts, the temple, and everything vanished from my sight, leaving no trace whatsoever, and in their stead I saw a limitless, infinite, effulgent Ocean of Consciousness. As far as the eye could see, the shining billows were madly rushing at me from all sides with a terrific noise, to swallow me up. I was caught in the rush and collapsed, unconscious … within me there was a steady flow of undiluted bliss, altogether new, and I felt the presence of the Divine Mother.
Mahendranath Gupta, Ramakrsna Kathamrta translated by Swami Nikhilananda as The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna (Mylapore: Sri Ramakrsna Math, 1952), Book 1, p. 15

Ramakrishna’s behavior became more erratic as time passed and began to worry his family and employer. He would take on ritual and mythical roles identifying with figures from the Puranas (medieval Indian holy books describing the adventures of gods). His parents found him a wife hoping his mental instability was a result of his celibacy.

About this time, an elderly holy woman named Bhairavi Brahmani appeared and determined that Ramakrishna’s madness was “spiritual madness” rather than ordinary madness. He was literally mad for the vision of God. She convened a group of respected religious leaders who examined Ramakrishna’s symptoms. They concluded that this was a case of divine madness similar in nature to that of other famous saints such as Caitanya (a fifteenth century Bengali saint). From this point on, people began to treat Ramakrishna with more respect though his unusual behavior in worship and meditation continued. The holy women stayed with Ramakrishna for some time teaching him yogic and tantric meditation techniques.

A yogin named Totapuri then became Ramakrishna’s mentor. Ramakrishna adopted the role of renunciant and learned a nondualist form of Vedanta philosophy from him. In this system, God is understood to be the formless unmanifest energy that supports the cosmos. Ramakrishna experienced a deep form of trance (nirvilkalpa samadhi) under the guidance of this teacher. This state can be described as complete absorption of the soul into the divine ocean of consciousness.

Disciples began to appear at this point in Ramakrishna’s life. He embarked on a long period of teaching where he gathered a group of disciples around him. This period of his life is well documented by two sets of books written by his disciples. These references are listed below.

Ramakrishna explained on different occasions that god is both formed and formless and can appear to the devotee either way. He often asked visitors whether they conceived of god as having qualities or as being beyond qualities. He then proceeded to teach the devotee according to the way he or she viewed the divine. His acceptance of different approaches to the worship of God and the validity of different religious paths, such as Christianity and Islam, is in the best tradition of the universalist approach to religion common throughout India today.

One extraordinary quality of Ramakrishna’s message was its universal appeal to a broad cross section of Indian society. In the West, religions like Christianity and Judaism tend to be exclusive, and find the contradictions that arise from a religion that is too broad to be objectionable. If one religious approach is right, the others must be wrong. But the Indian mind tends to more readily accept someone like Ramakrishna who preaches universality of religion and accepts and even promotes individuality in the seeker’s approach to God. For instance, Ramakrishna appealed to the upper classes who are likely to follow a Vedantist or philosophical approach to religion by sometimes describing God as a nondual formless essence.

His description of Kali as an ocean of light had much in common with the ocean of Brahman that the Brahmins (the traditional priestly caste) seek to encounter when they are initiated into the Gayatri mantra, or the mantra of the sun. One divine ocean of consciousness may be difficult to distinguish from another.

Ramakrishna also appealed to those with an interest in yoga and esoteric practices by practicing a nondual form of meditation prescribed by Totapuri which seeks samadhi.

The most popular religious practice by far in India is bhakti, or devotion to a deity. Ramakrishna’s message was welcomed by both the rural and urban religious people who did puja to the divine mother Kali as a protective and benevolent deity (Kali also has a fierce and destructive side which she generally does not show to those who worship her). These devotees saw him as a great teacher and bhakta who sang the names of God and talked incessantly about God. They too did puja and sang Kali’s name in hopes of having healthy children, getting good jobs or marriages, or producing a plentiful harvest. The sincere devotee could even hope for a vision or dream of the divine mother.

Those who followed the Vedic prescription of religious universalism summed up in the phrase “There is but one Truth, but sages call it by different names” noted that Ramakrishna practiced the rituals of many religions, and found that they all brought him to the same divine reality in the end. For those who worshiped many different saints and deities throughout India, this universal approach echoed their own multi-faceted religious practices.

Finally, for those with a strong sense of Hindu nationalism, Ramakrishna’s chief disciple, Swami Vivekananda, entered onto the world stage by doing a keynote address at the World Parliament of Religions meeting in Chicago in 1893, and he electrified his audience. Hindus for generations could point to their indigenous traditions with pride after his exemplary speech.

Vivekananda also promoted a more activist form of Hinduism, which focused on education, feeding the poor, and developing libraries and other institutions. His works were a way of showing Hindus that it was not only the Christian missionaries that could benefit society, but that Hindu religion was also valuable with respect to improving society and combating social ills.

Ramakrishna died of cancer of the throat in 1886, leaving his wife Sarada Devi who was considered a saint in her own right to take charge of his disciples and carry on his message.


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