Bharathi's mother died in 1887 and two years later, his father also died. At the age of 11, in 1893 his prowess as a poet was recognized and he was accorded the title of 'Bharathi' at Ettiyapuram. He was a student at Nellai Hindu School and in 1897 he married Sellamal. Thereafter, from 1898 to 1902, he lived in Kasi.
Bharathi worked as a schoolteacher and as a journal editor at various times in his life. As a Tamil poet he ranked with Ilanko, Thiruvalluvar and Kamban. His writings gave new life to the Tamil language - and to Tamil national consciousness. He involved himself actively in the Indian freedom struggle. It is sometimes said of Bharathi that he was first an Indian and then a Tamil. Perhaps, it would be more correct to say that he was a Tamil and because he was a Tamil he was also an Indian. For him it was not either or but both - it was not possible for him to be one without also being the other.
Bharathi often referred to Tamil as his 'mother'. At the same time, he was fluent in many languages including Bengali, Hindi, Sanskrit, Kuuch, and English and frequently translated works from other languages into Tamil. His said “among all the languages I have known, I do not see any of them”, any as sweet as Tamil, was his moving tribute to his mother tongue. That many a Tamil web site carries the words of that song on its home page in cyber space today is a reflection of the hold that those words continue to have on Tamil minds and Tamil hearts.
Bharathi was a Hindu. But his spirituality was not limited. He sang to the Hindu deities, and at the same time he wrote songs of devotion to Jesus Christ and Allah. Bharathi was a vigorous campaigner against casteism. He wrote in 'Vande Matharam'