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Rabindranath Tagore
Close-up on a Bengali word handwritten with angular, jaunty letters.
Born 7 May 1861(1861-05-07)
Kolkata, India
Died 7 August 1941 (aged 80)
Kolkata, India
Occupation poet, novelist, short-story writer, essayist, playwright, thespian, educationist, spiritualist, philosopher, internationalist, cultural relativist, orator, composer,song-writer, singer, artist
Period Bengal Renaissance
Notable award(s) Nobel Prize in Literature
(1913)
Signature

Rabindranath Tagore (Bengali: রবীন্দ্রনাথ ঠাকুর)α[›]β[›] (7 May 1861 – 7 August 1941),γ[›] sobriquet Gurudev,δ[›] was a Bengali polymath. As a poet, novelist, musician, and playwright, he reshaped Bengali literature and music in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As author of Gitanjali and its "profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse",[1] in 1913 being the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature,[2] Tagore was perhaps the most important literary figure of Bengali literature. He was a mesmerising representative of the Indian culture whose influence and popularity internationally perhaps could only be compared to that of Gandhi, whom Tagore named 'Mahatma' out of his deep admiration for him.

A Pirali Brahmin[3][4][5][6] from Kolkata, Tagore was already writing poems at age eight.[7] At age sixteen, he published his first substantial poetry under the pseudonym Bhanushingho ("Sun Lion")[8][9] and wrote his first short stories and dramas in 1877. Tagore denounced the British Raj and supported independence. His efforts endure in his vast canon and in the institution he founded, Visva-Bharati University.

Tagore modernised Bengali art by spurning rigid classical forms. His novels, stories, songs, dance-dramas, and essays spoke to political and personal topics. Gitanjali (Song Offerings), Gora (Fair-Faced), and Ghare-Baire (The Home and the World) are his best-known works, and his verse, short stories, and novels were acclaimed for their lyricism, colloquialism, naturalism, and contemplation. Tagore was perhaps the only litterateur who penned anthems of two countries: Bangladesh and India: Amar Shonar Bangla and Jana Gana Mana.

Contents

Early life (1861–1901)

Old, small, low-quality black-and-white photograph-portrait of a teenager, with a subtle smile, in black suit and necktie.
In England, 1879
Black-and-white photograph of a finely dressed man and woman: the man, smiling, stands akimbo behind a settle with a shawl draped over his shoulders and in Bengali formal wear. The woman, seated on the settle, is in elaborate Indian dress and shawl; she leans against a carved table supporting a vase and flowing leaves.
Tagore and Mrinalini Devi, 1883

The youngest of thirteen surviving children, Tagore was born in the Jorasanko mansion in Kolkata of parents Debendranath Tagore (1817–1905) and Sarada Devi (1830–1875).ε[›][10] Tagore family patriarchs were the Brahmo founding fathers of the Adi Dharm faith. He was mostly raised by servants, as his mother had died in his early childhood; his father travelled extensively.[11] Tagore largely declined classroom schooling, preferring to roam the mansion or nearby idylls: Bolpur, Panihati, and others.[12][13] Upon his upanayan initiation at age eleven, Tagore left Kolkata on 14 February 1873 to tour India with his father for several months. They visited his father's Santiniketan estate and stopped in Amritsar before reaching the Himalayan hill station of Dalhousie. There, young "Rabi" read biographies and was home-educated in history, astronomy, modern science, and Sanskrit, and examined the poetry of Kālidāsa.[14][15] He completed major works in 1877, one a long poem of the Maithili style pioneered by Vidyapati. Published pseudonymously, experts accepted them as the lost works of Bhānusiṃha, a newly discoveredζ[›] 17th-century Vaiṣṇava poet.[16] He wrote "Bhikharini" (1877; "The Beggar Woman"—the Bengali language's first short story)[17][18] and Sandhya Sangit (1882)—including the famous poem "Nirjharer Swapnabhanga" ("The Rousing of the Waterfall").

A prospective barrister, Tagore enrolled at a public school in Brighton, East Sussex, England in 1878. He read law at University College London, but left school to explore Shakespeare and more: Religio Medici, Coriolanus, and Antony and Cleopatra;[19] he returned degreeless to Bengal in 1880. On 9 December 1883 he married Mrinalini Devi (born Bhabatarini, 1873–1900); they had five children, two of whom died before reaching adulthood.[20] In 1890, Tagore began managing his family's vast estates in Shilaidaha, a region now in Bangladesh; he was joined by his wife and children in 1898. In 1890, Tagore released his Manasi poems, among his best-known work.[21] As "Zamindar Babu", Tagore crisscrossed the holdings while living out of the family's luxurious barge, the Padma, to collect (mostly token) rents and bless villagers, who held feasts in his honour.[22] These years—1891–1895: Tagore's Sadhana period, after one of Tagore’s magazines—were his most fecund.[11] During this period, more than half the stories of the three-volume and eighty-four-story Galpaguchchha were written.[17] With irony and gravity, they depicted a wide range of Bengali lifestyles, particularly village life.[23]

Santiniketan (1901–1932)

Black-and-white photograph of a bearded middle-aged man dressed in dark robes. He is seated on the floor of an elegantly appointed room and is in front of a plush sofa; he gazes fixedly away to the right, away from the camera.
Shot by John Rothenstein, Hampstead, 1912
Posed group black-and-white photograph of seven Chinese men, possibly academics, in formal wear: two wear European-style suits, the five others wear Chinese traditional dress; four of the seven sit on the floor in the foreground; another sits on a chair behind them at center-left; two others stand in the background. They surround an eighth man who is robed, bearded, and sitting in a chair placed at center-left. Four elegant windows are behind them in a line.
Tsinghua University, 1924

In 1901, Tagore left Shilaidaha and moved to Santiniketan to found an ashram which grew to include a marble-floored prayer hall ("The Mandir"), an experimental school, groves of trees, gardens, and a library.[24] There, Tagore's wife and two of his children died. His father died on 19 January 1905. He received monthly payments as part of his inheritance and additional income from the Maharaja of Tripura, sales of his family's jewellery, his seaside bungalow in Puri, and mediocre royalties (Rs. 2,000) from his works.[25] By now, his work was gaining him a large following among Bengali and foreign readers alike, and he published such works as Naivedya (1901) and Kheya (1906) while translating his poems into free verse. On 14 November 1913, Tagore learned that he had won the 1913 Nobel Prize in Literature, becoming the first Asian Nobel laureate. The Swedish Academy appreciated the idealistic and—for Western readers—accessible nature of a small body of his translated material, including the 1912 Gitanjali: Song Offerings.[26] In 1915, Tagore was knighted by the British Crown. He later returned his knighthood in protest of the massacre of unarmed Indians in 1919 at Jallianwala Bagh.

In 1921, Tagore and agricultural economist Leonard Elmhirst set up the Institute for Rural Reconstruction, later renamed Shriniketan—"Abode of Peace"—in Surul, a village near the ashram at Santiniketan. Through it, Tagore bypassed Gandhi's symbolic Swaraj protests, which he despised.[27] He sought aid from donors, officials, and scholars worldwide to "free village[s] from the shackles of helplessness and ignorance" by "vitalis[ing] knowledge".[28][29] In the early 1930s, he targeted India's "abnormal caste consciousness" and untouchability. Lecturing against these, he penned untouchable heroes for his poems and dramas and campaigned—successfully—to open Guruvayoor Temple to Dalits.[30][31]

Twilight years (1932–1941)

An old bearded man garbed in a dark mantle is reading from a slim book perched in his hands. He is sitting at a dark-toned desk cleared of everything but a neat stack of papers at left; in the background is a light-coloured curtain.
In Berlin, 1930

To the end, Tagore scrutinized orthodoxy. He upbraided Gandhi for declaring that a massive 15 January 1934 earthquake in Bihar—leaving thousands dead—was divine retribution brought on by the oppression of Dalits.[32] He mourned the endemic poverty of Kolkata and the accelerating socioeconomic decline of Bengal, which he detailed in an unrhymed hundred-line poem whose technique of searing double-vision would foreshadow Satyajit Ray's film Apur Sansar.[33][34] Fifteen new volumes of Tagore writings appeared, among them the prose-poems works Punashcha (1932), Shes Saptak (1935), and Patraput (1936). Experimentation continued: he developed prose-songs and dance-dramas, including Chitrangada (1914),[35] Shyama (1939), and Chandalika (1938), and wrote the novels Dui Bon (1933), Malancha (1934), and Char Adhyay (1934). Tagore took an interest in science in his last years, writing Visva-Parichay (a collection of essays) in 1937. His exploration of biology, physics, and astronomy impacted his poetry, which often contained extensive naturalism that underscored his respect for scientific laws. He also wove the process of science, including narratives of scientists, into many stories contained in such volumes as Se (1937), Tin Sangi (1940), and Galpasalpa (1941).[36]

Tagore's last four years were marked by chronic pain and two long periods of illness. These began when Tagore lost consciousness in late 1937; he remained comatose and near death for an extended period. This was followed three years later, in late 1940, by a similar spell, from which he never recovered. The poetry Tagore wrote in these years is among his finest, and is distinctive for its preoccupation with death.[37][38] After extended suffering, Tagore died on 7 August 1941 (22 Shravan 1348) in an upstairs room of the Jorasanko mansion in which he was raised;[39][40] his death anniversary is mourned across the Bengali-speaking world.[41]

Travels

Between 1878 and 1932, Tagore visited more than thirty countries on five continents;[42] many of these trips were crucial in familiarising non-Indian audiences to his works and spreading his political ideas. In 1912, he took a sheaf of his translated works to England, where they impressed missionary and Gandhi protégé Charles F. Andrews, Anglo-Irish poet William Butler Yeats, Ezra Pound, Robert Bridges, Ernest Rhys, Thomas Sturge Moore, and others.[43] Indeed, Yeats wrote the preface to the English translation of Gitanjali, while Andrews joined Tagore at Santiniketan. On 10 November 1912, Tagore began touring the United States[44] and the United Kingdom, staying in Butterton, Staffordshire with Andrews’ clergymen friends.[45] From 3 May 1916 until April 1917, Tagore went on lecturing circuits in Japan and the United States[46] and denounced nationalism.[47] His essay "Nationalism in India" was scorned and praised, this latter by pacifists, including Romain Rolland.[48]

A moustached man in a lounge suit and neck tie (left) sits next to a white-haired bearded man dressed in robes (right). Both look toward the camera.
With Einstein, 1930

Shortly after returning to India, the 63-year-old Tagore accepted the Peruvian government's invitation to visit. He then travelled to Mexico. Each government pledged US$100,000 to the school at Shantiniketan (Visva-Bharati) in commemoration of his visits.[49] A week after his 6 November 1924 arrival in Buenos Aires, Argentina,[50] an ill Tagore moved into the Villa Miralrío at the behest of Victoria Ocampo. He left for India in January 1925. On 30 May 1926, Tagore reached Naples, Italy; he met Benito Mussolini in Rome the next day.[51] A warm rapport ended when Tagore criticised Mussolini on 20 July 1926.[52]

Group shot of dozens of people assembled at the entrance of an imposing building; two columns in view. All subjects face the camera. All but two are dressed in lounge suits: a woman at front-center wears light-coloured Persian garb; the man to her left, first row, wears a white beard and dark-coloured oriental cap and robes.
At the Majlis, Tehran, 1932[53]

On 14 July 1927, Tagore and two companions began a four-month tour of Southeast Asia, visiting Bali, Java, Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Penang, Siam, and Singapore. Tagore's travelogues from the tour were collected into the work "Jatri".[54] In early 1930 he left Bengal for a nearly year-long tour of Europe and the United States. Once he returned to the UK, while his paintings were being exhibited in Paris and London, he stayed at a Friends settlement in Birmingham. There he wrote his Oxford Hibbert Lecturesι[›] and spoke at London's annual Quaker gathering.[55] There (addressing relations between the British and Indians, a topic he would grapple with over the next two years), Tagore spoke of a "dark chasm of aloofness".[56] He visited Aga Khan III, stayed at Dartington Hall, and toured Denmark, Switzerland, and Germany from June to mid-September 1930, then the Soviet Union.[57] Lastly, in April 1932, Tagore—who was acquainted with the legends and works of the Persian mystic Hafez—was hosted by Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran.[58][59] Such extensive travels allowed Tagore to interact with many notable contemporaries, including Henri Bergson, Albert Einstein, Robert Frost, Thomas Mann, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells and Romain Rolland.[60][61] Tagore's last travels abroad, including visits to Persia and Iraq (in 1932) and Ceylon in 1933, only sharpened his opinions regarding human divisions and nationalism.[62]

Works

Black-and-white close-up photograph of a piece of wood boldly painted in unmixed solid strokes of black and white in a stylized semblance to "ra" and "tha" from the Bengali syllabary.
Tagore's Bengali-language initials are worked into this "Ra-Tha" wooden seal, which bears close stylistic similarity to designs used in traditional Haida carvings. Tagore often embellished his manuscripts with such art.[63]

Though known mostly for his poetry, Tagore also wrote novels, essays, short stories, travelogues, dramas, and thousands of songs. Of Tagore's prose, his short stories are perhaps most highly regarded; indeed, he is credited with originating the Bengali-language version of the genre. His works are frequently noted for their rhythmic, optimistic, and lyrical nature. Such stories mostly borrow from deceptively simple subject matter: common people.

Novels and non-fiction

Tagore wrote eight novels and four novellas, among them Chaturanga, Shesher Kobita, Char Odhay, and Noukadubi. Ghare Baire (The Home and the World)—through the lens of the idealistic zamindar protagonist Nikhil—excoriates rising Indian nationalism, terrorism, and religious zeal in the Swadeshi movement; a frank expression of Tagore's conflicted sentiments, it emerged out of a 1914 bout of depression. The novel ends in Hindu-Muslim violence and Nikhil's (likely mortal) wounding.[64] Gora raises controversial questions regarding the Indian identity. As with Ghore Baire, matters of self-identity (jāti), personal freedom, and religion are developed in the context of a family story and love triangle.[65]

In Jogajog (Relationships), the heroine Kumudini—bound by the ideals of Śiva-Sati, exemplified by Dākshāyani—is torn between her pity for the sinking fortunes of her progressive and compassionate elder brother and his foil: her exploitative, rakish, and patriarchical husband. In it, Tagore demonstrates his feminist leanings, using pathos to depict the plight and ultimate demise of Bengali women trapped by pregnancy, duty, and family honour; simultaneously, he treats the decline of Bengal's landed oligarchy.[66]

Others were uplifting: Shesher Kobita (translated twice as Last Poem and Farewell Song) is his most lyrical novel, with poems and rhythmic passages written by the main character, a poet. It also contains elements of satire and postmodernism; stock characters gleefully attack the reputation of an old, outmoded, oppressively renowned poet who, incidentally, goes by the name of Rabindranath Tagore. Though his novels remain among the least-appreciated of his works, they have been given renewed attention via film adaptations by Satyajit Ray and others: Chokher Bali and Ghare Baire are exemplary. Their soundtracks often feature rabindrasŋgit. Tagore wrote many non-fiction books, writing on topics ranging from Indian history to linguistics. Aside from autobiographical works, his travelogues, essays, and lectures were compiled into several volumes, including Europe Jatrir Patro (Letters from Europe) and Manusher Dhormo (The Religion of Man).

Music and art

A painting, dominated by angry or fiery strokes of red and orange, of a stylised depiction of (from bottom) feet and legs, a woman's dress, a bust, and a head partly obscured by wavy tapering lines—arms—reaching upward. The figure is alive with motion; a mostly brown background behind.
"Dancing Girl", undated ink-on-paper

Tagore composed roughly 2,230 songs and was a prolific painter. His songs comprise rabindrasŋgit (রবীন্দ্র সংগীত—"Tagore Song"), an integral part of Bengali culture. Tagore's music is inseparable from his literature, most of which—poems or parts of novels, stories, or plays alike—became lyrics for his songs. Influenced by the thumri style of Hindustani music, they ran the entire gamut of human emotion, ranging from his early dirge-like Brahmo devotional hymns to quasi-erotic compositions.[67] They emulated the tonal color of classical ragas to varying extents. Though at times his songs mimicked a given raga's melody and rhythm faithfully, he also blended elements of different ragas to create innovative works.[68]

For Bengalis, their appeal, stemming from the combination of emotive strength and beauty described as surpassing even Tagore's poetry, was such that the Modern Review observed that "[t]here is in Bengal no cultured home where Rabindranath's songs are not sung or at least attempted to be sung ... Even illiterate villagers sing his songs". Arthur Strangways of The Observer introduced non-Bengalis to rabindrasangeet in The Music of Hindostan, calling it a "vehicle of a personality ... [that] go behind this or that system of music to that beauty of sound which all systems put out their hands to seize."[69] Among them are Bangladesh's national anthem Amar Shonar Bangla (আমার সোনার বাঙলা) and India's national anthem Jana Gana Mana (জন গণ মন), making Tagore unique in having scored two national anthems. He influenced the styles of such musicians as sitar maestro Vilayat Khan, and the sarodiyas Buddhadev Dasgupta and Amjad Ali Khan.[68]

Black-and-white photograph of a stylized sketch depicting a tribal funerary mask.
Tagore dabbled in primitivism: a pastel-coloured rendition of a Malagan mask from northern New Ireland

At age sixty, Tagore took up drawing and painting; successful exhibitions of his many works—which made a debut appearance in Paris upon encouragement by artists he met in the south of France[70]—were held throughout Europe. Tagore—who likely exhibited protanopia ("color blindness"), or partial lack of (red-green, in Tagore's case) colour discernment—painted in a style characterised by peculiarities in aesthetics and colouring schemes. Tagore emulated numerous styles, including craftwork from northern New Ireland, Haida carvings from the west coast of Canada (British Columbia), and woodcuts by Max Pechstein.[63] Tagore also had an artist's eye for his own handwriting, embellishing the scribbles, cross-outs, and word layouts in his manuscripts with simple artistic leitmotifs, including simple rhythmic designs.

Theatre

At age sixteen, Tagore led his brother Jyotirindranath's adaptation of Molière's Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme.[71] At age twenty, he wrote his first drama-opera—Valmiki Pratibha (The Genius of Valmiki)—which describes how the bandit Valmiki reforms his ethos, is blessed by Saraswati, and composes the Rāmāyana.[72] Through it, Tagore vigorously explores a wide range of dramatic styles and emotions, including usage of revamped kirtans and adaptation of traditional English and Irish folk melodies as drinking songs.[73] Another notable play, Dak Ghar (The Post Office), describes how a child—striving to escape his stuffy confines—ultimately "fall[s] asleep" (which suggests his physical death). A story with worldwide appeal (it received rave reviews in Europe), Dak Ghar dealt with death as, in Tagore's words, "spiritual freedom" from "the world of hoarded wealth and certified creeds".[74][75] During World War II, Polish doctor and educator Janusz Korczak selected "The Post Office" as the play the orphans in his care in the Warsaw Ghetto would perform. This occurred on 18 July 1942, less than three weeks before they were to be deported to the Treblinka extermination camp. According to his main English-language biographer, Betty Jean Lifton, in her book The King of Children, Dr. Korszak thought a great deal about whether one should be able to determine when and how to die. He may have been trying to find a way for the children in his orphanage to accept death.

His other works—emphasizing fusion of lyrical flow and emotional rhythm tightly focused on a core idea—were unlike previous Bengali dramas. His works sought to articulate, in Tagore's words, "the play of feeling and not of action". In 1890 he wrote Visarjan (Sacrifice), regarded as his finest drama.[72] The Bengali-language originals included intricate subplots and extended monologues. Later, his dramas probed more philosophical and allegorical themes; these included Dak Ghar. Another is Tagore's Chandalika (Untouchable Girl), which was modeled on an ancient Buddhist legend describing how Ananda—the Gautama Buddha's disciple—asks water of an Adivasi ("untouchable") girl.[76] Lastly, among his most famous dramas is Raktakaravi (Red Oleanders), which tells of a kleptocratic king who enriches himself by forcing his subjects to mine. The heroine, Nandini, eventually rallies the common people to destroy these symbols of subjugation. Tagore's other plays include Chitrangada, Raja, and Mayar Khela. Dance dramas based on Tagore's plays are commonly referred to as rabindra nritya natyas.

Stories

Ink illustration of a tousled-haired boy seated outside and holding a lance-stick and playing with a wheeled red toy horse; in the background, a large blue palanquin and tackle with a carrying pole projecting out of it.
A Nandalal Bose illustration for "The Hero", part of the 1913 Macmillan release of The Crescent Moon

The "Sadhana" period, 1891–1895, was among Tagore's most fecund, yielding more than half the stories contained in the three-volume Galpaguchchha, itself a group of eighty-four stories.[17] They reflect upon Tagore's surroundings, on modern and fashionable ideas, and on mind puzzles. Tagore associated his earliest stories, such as those of the "Sadhana" period, with an exuberance of vitality and spontaneity; these traits were cultivated by zamindar Tagore’s life in villages such as Patisar, Shajadpur, and Shilaida.[17] Seeing the common and the poor, he examined their lives with a depth and feeling singular in Indian literature up to that point.[77]

In "The Fruitseller from Kabul", Tagore speaks in first person as a town-dweller and novelist who chances upon the Afghani seller. He channels the longing of those trapped in mundane, hardscrabble Indian urban life, giving play to dreams of a different existence in the distant and wild mountains: "There were autumn mornings, the time of year when kings of old went forth to conquest; and I, never stirring from my little corner in Kolkata, would let my mind wander over the whole world. At the very name of another country, my heart would go out to it ... I would fall to weaving a network of dreams: the mountains, the glens, the forest .... ".[78] Many of the other Galpaguchchha stories were written in Tagore’s Sabuj Patra period (1914–1917; also named for one of Tagore's magazines).[17]

A warm-toned ink work, dominated by orange-red (foreground) and olive green (background wall) showing a shawl- and sari-clad woman with a young child, who holds a book, in her lap.
A 1913 illustration by Asit Kumar Haldar for "The Beginning", a prose-poem in The Crescent Moon

Tagore's Golpoguchchho (Bunch of Stories) remains among Bengali literature's most popular fictional works, providing subject matter for many successful films and theatrical plays. Satyajit Ray's film Charulata was based upon Tagore's controversial novella, Nastanirh (The Broken Nest). In Atithi (also made into a film), the young Brahmin boy Tarapada shares a boat ride with a village zamindar. The boy reveals that he has run away from home, only to wander around ever since. Taking pity, the zamindar adopts him and ultimately arranges his marriage to the zamindar's own daughter. However, the night before the wedding, Tarapada runs off—again. Strir Patra (The Letter from the Wife) is among Bengali literature's earliest depictions of the bold emancipation of women. The heroine Mrinal, the wife of a typical patriarchical Bengali middle class man, writes a letter while she is travelling (which constitutes the whole story). It details the pettiness of her life and struggles; she finally declares that she will not return to her husband's home with the statement Amio bachbo. Ei bachlum: "And I shall live. Here, I live".

Haimanti assails Hindu marriage and the dismal lifelessness of married Bengali women, hypocrisies plaguing the Indian middle classes, and how Haimanti, a sensitive young woman, must—due to her sensitiveness and free spirit—sacrifice her life. In the last passage, Tagore directly attacks the Hindu custom of glorifying Sita's attempted self-immolation as a means of appeasing her husband Rama's doubts. Musalmani Didi examines Hindu-Muslim tensions and, in many ways, embodies the essence of Tagore's humanism. Darpaharan exhibits Tagore's self-consciousness, describing a fey young man harboring literary ambitions. Though he loves his wife, he wishes to stifle her own literary career, deeming it unfeminine. Tagore himself, in his youth, seems to have harbored similar ideas about women. Darpaharan depicts the final humbling of the man as he acknowledges his wife's talents. As do many other Tagore stories, Jibito o Mrito equips Bengalis with a ubiquitous epigram: Kadombini moriya proman korilo she more nai—"Kadombini died, thereby proving that she hadn't".

Poetry

Four middle-aged men, seated outdoors and on shaded ground, face each other and play folk instruments: a drum, a flute, a lute, and another instrument, possibly for percussion; around them, a half-dozen spectators sit or stand.
Bāuls in Santiniketan during Holi

Tagore's poetry—which varied in style from classical formalism to the comic, visionary, and ecstatic—proceeds from a lineage established by 15th- and 16th-century Vaishnava poets. Tagore was awed by the mysticism of the rishi-authors who—including Vyasa—wrote the Upanishads, the Bhakti-Sufi mystic Kabir, and Ramprasad Sen.[79] Yet Tagore's poetry became most innovative and mature after his exposure to rural Bengal's folk music, which included Baul ballads—especially those of bard Lalon.[80][81] These—rediscovered and popularised by Tagore—resemble 19th-century Kartābhajā hymns that emphasize inward divinity and rebellion against religious and social orthodoxy.[82][83] During his Shilaidaha years, his poems took on a lyrical quality, speaking via the maner manus (the Bāuls' "man within the heart") or meditating upon the jivan devata ("living God within"). This figure thus sought connection with divinity through appeal to nature and the emotional interplay of human drama. Tagore used such techniques in his Bhānusiṃha poems (which chronicle the romance between Radha and Krishna), which he repeatedly revised over the course of seventy years.[84][85]

Tagore responded to the mostly crude emergence of modernism and realism in Bengali literature by writing experimental works in the 1930s.[86] Examples works include Africa and Camalia, which are among the better known of his latter poems. He occasionally wrote poems using Shadhu Bhasha (a Sanskritised dialect of Bengali); later, he began using Cholti Bhasha (a more popular dialect). Other notable works include Manasi, Sonar Tori (Golden Boat), Balaka (Wild Geese—the title being a metaphor for migrating souls),[87] and Purobi. Sonar Tori's most famous poem—dealing with the ephemeral nature of life and achievement—goes by the same name; hauntingly it ends: "শূন্য নদীর তীরে রহিনু পড়ি / যাহা ছিল লয়ে গেল সোনার তরী" ("Shunno nodir tire rohinu poŗi / Jaha chhilo loe gêlo shonar tori"—"all I had achieved was carried off on the golden boat—only I was left behind."). Internationally, Gitanjali (গীতাঞ্জলি) is Tagore's best-known collection, winning him his Nobel Prize.[88] Song VII (গীতাঞ্জলি 127) of Gitanjali:

Close-up of yellowed title page in an old book: "Gitanjali (Song Offerings) by Rabindranath Tagore. A collection of prose translations made by the author from the original Bengali with an introduction by W. B. Yeats. Macmillan and Co., Limited, St. Martin's Street, London, 1913."
Title page of Gitanjali
আমার এ গান ছেড়েছে তার সকল অলংকার,
তোমার কাছে রাখে নি আর সাজের অহংকার।
অলংকার যে মাঝে পড়ে মিলনেতে আড়াল করে,
তোমার কথা ঢাকে যে তার মুখর ঝংকার।
তোমার কাছে খাটে না মোর কবির গর্ব করা,
মহাকবি তোমার পায়ে দিতে যে চাই ধরা।
জীবন লয়ে যতন করি যদি সরল বাঁশি গড়ি,
আপন সুরে দিবে ভরি সকল ছিদ্র তার।
Amar e gan chheŗechhe tar shôkol ôlongkar
Tomar kachhe rakhe ni ar shajer ôhongkar
Ôlongkar je majhe pôŗe milônete aŗal kôre,
Tomar kôtha đhake je tar mukhôro jhôngkar.
Tomar kachhe khaţe na mor kobir gôrbo kôra,
Môhakobi, tomar paee dite chai je dhôra.
Jibon loe jôton kori jodi shôrol bãshi goŗi,
Apon shure dibe bhori sôkol chhidro tar.
Three-verse handwritten composition; each verse has original Bengali with English-language translation below: "My fancies are fireflies: specks of living light twinkling in the dark. The same voice murmurs in these desultory lines, which is born in wayside pansies letting hasty glances pass by. The butterfly does not count years but moments, and therefore has enough time."
From Tagore's hand, committed in Hungary, 1926: Bengali and English

Free-verse translation by Tagore (Gitanjali, verse VII):[89]

"My song has put off her adornments. She has no pride of dress and decoration. Ornaments would mar our union; they would come between thee and me; their jingling would drown thy whispers."
"My poet's vanity dies in shame before thy sight. O master poet, I have sat down at thy feet. Only let me make my life simple and straight, like a flute of reed for thee to fill with music."

"Klanti" (Bengali: ক্লান্তি; "Fatigue"), the sixth poem in Gitanjali:

ক্লান্তি আমার ক্ষমা করো,প্রভু,
পথে যদি পিছিয়ে পড়ি কভু।
এই যে হিয়া থর থর কাঁপে আজি এমনতরো,
এই বেদনা ক্ষমা করো,ক্ষমা করো প্রভু।।
এই দীনতা ক্ষমা করো,প্রভু,
পিছন-পানে তাকাই যদি কভু।
দিনের তাপে রৌদ্রজ্বালায় শুকায় মালা পূজার থালায়,
সেই ম্লানতা ক্ষমা করো, ক্ষমা করো প্রভু।।
Klanti amar khôma kôro, probhu
Pôthe jodi pichhie poŗi kobhu
Ei je hia thôro thôro kãpe aji êmontôro,
Ei bedona khôma kôro, khôma kôro probhu.
Ei dinota khôma kôro, probhu,
Pichhon-pane takai jodi kobhu.
Diner tape roudrojalae shukae mala pujar thalae,
Shei mlanota khôma kôro, khôma kôro, probhu.

Tagore's poetry has been set to music by various composers, among them classical composer Arthur Shepherd's triptych for soprano and string quartet, as well as composer Garry Schyman's "Praan", an adaptation of Tagore's poem "Stream of Life" from Gitanjali. The latter was composed and recorded with vocals by Palbasha Siddique to accompany Internet celebrity Matt Harding's 2008 viral video.[90] In 1917 his words were translated adeptly and set to music by Richard Hageman (an Anglo- Dutch composer) to produce what is regarded as one of the finest art songs in the English language: Do not go my love (Ed.Schirmer NY 1917).

Political views

At a formal function, an aged bald man and an old women are humbly dressed and seated side-by-side with legs folded on a rug-strewn dais at right; the man looks at a bearded, robed, and garlanded old man seated on another dais at left, who is reading from a sheet of paper held in his left hand. In the foreground, various dishes and ceremonial objects are arrayed; in the background, a half-dozen dignitaries and dozens of ordinary people observe.
Tagore hosts Gandhi and wife Kasturba at Santiniketan in 1940

Tagore's political thought was complex. He opposed imperialism and supported Indian nationalists.[91][92][93] His views have their first poetic release in Manast, mostly composed in his twenties.[21] Evidence produced during the Hindu-German Conspiracy trial and later accounts affirm his awareness of the Ghadarite conspiracy, and stated that he sought the support of Japanese Prime Minister Terauchi Masatake and former Premier Ōkuma Shigenobu.[94] Yet he lampooned the Swadeshi movement, denouncing it in "The Cult of the Charka", an acrid 1925 essay.[95] He emphasized self-help and intellectual uplift of the masses as an alternative, stating that British imperialism was a "political symptom of our social disease", urging Indians to accept that "there can be no question of blind revolution, but of steady and purposeful education".[96][97]

Such views enraged many. He narrowly escaped assassination by Indian expatriates during his stay in a San Francisco hotel in late 1916. The plot failed only because the would-be assassins fell into argument.[98] Yet Tagore wrote songs lionizing the Indian independence movement and renounced his knighthood in protest against the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh Massacre.[99] Two of Tagore's more politically charged compositions, "Chitto Jetha Bhayshunyo" ("Where the Mind is Without Fear") and "Ekla Chalo Re" ("If They Answer Not to Thy Call, Walk Alone"), gained mass appeal, with the latter favoured by Gandhi.[100] Despite his tumultuous relations with Gandhi, Tagore was key in resolving a Gandhi-Ambedkar dispute involving separate electorates for untouchables, ending Gandhi's fast "unto death".[101][102]

Tagore lampooned rote schooling: in "The Parrot's Training", a bird is caged and force-fed pages torn from books until it dies.[103][104] These views led Tagore, while visiting Santa Barbara on 11 October 1917, to conceive of a new type of university, desiring to "make Santiniketan the connecting thread between India and the world [and] a world center for the study of humanity somewhere beyond the limits of nation and geography."[98] The school, which he named Visva-Bharatiη[›] had its foundation stone laid on 22 December 1918; it was later inaugurated on 22 December 1921.[105] Here, Tagore implemented a brahmacharya pedagogical structure employing gurus to provide individualised guidance for pupils. Tagore worked hard to fundraise for and staff the school, even contributing all of his Nobel Prize monies.[106] Tagore’s duties as steward and mentor at Santiniketan kept him busy; he taught classes in mornings and wrote the students' textbooks in afternoons and evenings.[107] Tagore also fundraised extensively for the school in Europe and the U.S. between 1919 and 1921.[108]

Impact

A bronze bust of a middle-aged and forward-gazing bearded man supported on a tall rectangular wooden pedestal above a larger plinth set amidst an small ornate octagonal museum room with pink walls and wooden paneling; flanking the bust on the wall behind are two paintings of Tagore: to the left, a costumed youth acting a drama scene; to the right, a portrait showing an aged man with a large white beard clad in black and red robes.
Tagore Room, Sardar Patel Memorial, Ahmedabad

Tagore's relevance can be gauged by festivals honouring him: Kabipranam, Tagore's birth anniversary; the annual Tagore Festival held in Urbana, Illinois, in the United States; Rabindra Path Parikrama walking pilgrimages from Kolkata to Shantiniketan; ceremonial recitals of Tagore's poetry held on important anniversaries; and others.[44][109][110] This legacy is most palpable in Bengali culture, ranging from language and arts to history and politics. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen saw Tagore as a "towering figure", being a "deeply relevant and many-sided contemporary thinker".[110] Tagore's Bengali-language writings—the 1939 Rabīndra Rachanāvalī—is also canonised as one of Bengal's greatest cultural treasures. Tagore himself was proclaimed "the greatest poet India has produced".[111]

A cylindrical wood-trimmed plinth supports a bust of a bearded man in his sixties. On the plinth, a plate reads "Rabindranath Thakur".
Bust in Prague

Tagore was famed throughout much of Europe, North America, and East Asia. He co-founded Dartington Hall School, a progressive coeducational institution;[112] in Japan, he influenced such figures as Nobel laureate Yasunari Kawabata.[113] Tagore's works were widely translated into English, Dutch, German, Spanish, and other European languages by Czech indologist Vincenc Lesný,[114] French Nobel laureate André Gide, Russian poet Anna Akhmatova,[115] former Turkish Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit,[116] and others. In the United States, Tagore's lecturing circuits, particularly those in 1916–1917, were widely attended and acclaimed. Yet, several controversiesθ[›] involving Tagore resulted in a decline in his popularity in Japan and North America after the late 1920s, concluding with his "near total eclipse" outside of Bengal.[117]

Via translations, Tagore influenced Spanish literature: Chileans Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral, Mexican writer Octavio Paz, and Spaniards José Ortega y Gasset, Zenobia Camprubí, and Juan Ramón Jiménez. Between 1914 and 1922, the Jiménez-Camprubí spouses translated twenty-two of Tagore's books from English into Spanish and extensively revised and adapted such works as Tagore's The Crescent Moon. In this time, Jiménez developed "naked poetry" (Spanish: «poesia desnuda»), a landmark innovation.[118] Ortega y Gasset wrote that "Tagore's wide appeal [may stem from the fact that] he speaks of longings for perfection that we all have ... Tagore awakens a dormant sense of childish wonder, and he saturates the air with all kinds of enchanting promises for the reader, who ... pays little attention to the deeper import of Oriental mysticism". Tagore's works circulated in free editions around 1920 alongside those of Dante Alighieri, Miguel de Cervantes, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Plato, and Leo Tolstoy.

Tagore was deemed overrated by some Westerners. Graham Greene doubted that "anyone but Mr. Yeats can still take his poems very seriously."[117] Modern remnants of a past Latin American reverence of Tagore were discovered, for example, by an astonished Salman Rushdie during a trip to Nicaragua.[119]

Corpus

— Bengali —
Poetry
* মানসী Manasi (The Ideal One) 1890
* সোনার তরী Sonar Tari (The Golden Boat) 1894
* গীতাঞ্জলি Gitanjali (Song Offerings) 1910
* গীতিমাল্য Gitimalya (Wreath of Songs) 1914
* বলাকা Balaka (The Flight of Cranes) 1916
Dramas
* বাল্মিকী প্রতিভা Valmiki Pratibha (The Genius of Valmiki) 1881
* বিসর্জন Visarjan (The Sacrifice) 1890
* রাজা Raja (The King of the Dark Chamber) 1910
* ডাকঘর Dak Ghar (The Post Office) 1912
* অচলায়তন Achalayatan (The Immovable) 1912
* মুক্তধারা Muktadhara (The Waterfall) 1922
* রক্তকরবী Raktakaravi (Red Oleanders) 1926
Fiction
* নষ্টনীড় Nastanirh (The Broken Nest) 1901
* গোরা Gora (Fair-Faced) 1910
* ঘরে বাইরে Ghare Baire (The Home and the World) 1916
* যোগাযোগ Yogayog (Crosscurrents) 1929
Memoirs
* জীবনস্মৃতি Jivansmriti (My Reminiscences) 1912
* ছেলেবেলা Chhelebela (My Boyhood Days) 1940
— English —
* Thought Relics 1921[120]
— Translations —
* Chitra 1914[35]
* Creative Unity 1922[121]
* The Crescent Moon 1913[122]
* Fireflies 1928
* Fruit-Gathering 1916[123]
* The Fugitive 1921[124]
* The Gardener 1913[125]
* Gitanjali: Song Offerings 1912[126]
* Glimpses of Bengal 1991[127]
* The Home and the World 1985[128]
* The Hungry Stones and other stories 1916[129]
* I Won't Let you Go: Selected Poems 1991
* The Lover of God 2003
* My Boyhood Days 1943
* My Reminiscences 1991[130]
* Nationalism 1991
* The Post Office 1996[131]
* Sadhana: The Realisation of Life 1913[132]
* Selected Letters 1997
* Selected Poems 1994
* Selected Short Stories 1991
* Songs of Kabir 1915[133]
* Stray Birds 1916[134]

Quotations


  • The danger inherent in all force grows stronger when it is likely to gain success, for then it becomes temptation.
  • Our fight is a spiritual fight, it is for Man.
  • I say again and again that I am a poet, that I am not a fighter by nature. I would give everything to be one with my surroundings. I love my fellow beings and I prize their love.
  • Creation is an endless activity of God's freedom; it is an end in itself.
  • Freedom is true when it is a revelation of truth.
  • India has ever declared that Unity is Truth, and separateness is maya.
  • I believe in the true meeting of the East and the West.
  • It hurts me deeply when the cry of rejection rings loud against the West in my country with the clamour that the Western education can only injure us.
  • That which fails to illuminate the intellect, and only keeps it in the obsession of some delusion, is its greatest obstacle.
  • After sixty years of self-experience, I have found that out and out hypocrisy is an almost impossible achievement.
  • Our country is the land of rites and ceremonials, so that we have more faith in worshiping the feet of the priest than the Divinity whom he serves.
  • the religion of economics is where we should above all try to bring about this union of ours...If this field ceases to be one of warfare, if there we can prove, that not competition but cooperation is the real truth, then indeed we can reclaim from the hands of the Evil One an immense territory for the reign of peace and goodwill.
  • I have no zeal for life.You know the only thing that concerns me?That I have laboured so hard to build Viswabharati,wouldn't it have no value after my exit?...I think i have one reservation regarding death,and that is Viswabharati,nothing else.
  • It's difficult to know a person until he turns twenty-five---difficult to say what would happen to him...but it's easy to recognise a twenty seven years old--- it can be said he's become what he's supposed to be,and from now on this is how his life would be guided,there's in left anything in his life to get astonished.
  • To enjoy something,it's essential to guard it with the fence of leisure

Notes

A brick-red mansion in the background, shaded by a row of large trees; in the foreground, a manicured lawn with a perimeter of trimmed round bushes.
Jorosanko Thakurbari
  • ^ α: Bengali:
    pronounced [ɾobind̪ɾonat̪ʰ ʈʰakuɾ]( listen); Hindi: pronounced [ɾəʋiːn̪d̪ɾənaːt̪ʰ ʈʰaːkuɾ]( listen).
  • ^ β: Romanized from Bengali script:
    Robindronath Ţhakur.
  • ^ γ: Bengali calendar: 25 Baishakh, 1268 – 22 Srabon, 1348 (২৫শে বৈশাখ, ১২৬৮ – ২২শে শ্রাবণ, ১৩৪৮ বঙ্গাব্দ).
  • ^ δ: Gurudev translates as "divine mentor".[135]
  • ^ ε: Tagore was born at No. 6 Dwarkanath Tagore Lane, Jorasanko—the address of the main mansion (the Jorasanko Thakurbari) inhabited by the Jorasanko branch of the Tagore clan, which had earlier suffered an acrimonious split. Jorasanko was located in the Bengali section of Kolkata, near Chitpur Road.[136]
  • ^ ζ: ... and wholly fictive ...
  • ^ η: Etymology of "Visva-Bharati": from the Sanskrit for "world" or "universe" and the name of a Rigvedic goddess ("Bharati") associated with Saraswati, the Hindu patron of learning.[105] "Visva-Bharati" also translates as "India in the World".
  • ^ θ: Tagore saw no shortage of rows: his dealings with Indian nationalists Subhas Chandra Bose[117] and Rash Behari Bose,[137] his yen for Soviet Communism,[138][139] and papers confiscated from Indian nationalists in New York allegedly implicating Tagore in a plot to use German funds to overthrow the Raj.[140] The latter destroyed Tagore's image and book sales in the U.S.[137] His relations with and ambivalent opinion of Mussolini revolted many;[141] close friend Romain Rolland despaired that "[h]e is abdicating his role as moral guide of the independent spirits of Europe and India".[142]
  • ^ ι: On the "idea of the humanity of our God, or the divinity of Man the Eternal".

Citations

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  139. ^ Dutta & Robinson 1995, pp. 214–215
  140. ^ Dutta & Robinson 1995, p. 212
  141. ^ Kundu, K (2009-05-07), "Mussolini and Tagore", Parabaas, http://www.parabaas.com/rabindranath/articles/pKalyan.html, retrieved 2009-11-26 
  142. ^ Dutta & Robinson 1995, p. 273

References

Articles
Books
  • Brown, G. (1948), "The Hindu Conspiracy: 1914–1917", The Pacific Historical Review (University of California Press) 17 (3): 299–310, ISSN 0030-8684 
  • Chakravarty, A. (editor) (1961), A Tagore Reader, Beacon Press, ISBN 978-0807059715 
  • Dutta, K.; Robinson, A. (1995), Rabindranath Tagore: The Myriad-Minded Man, Saint Martin's Press, ISBN 0-312-14030-4 
  • Dutta, K. (editor); Robinson, A. (editor) (1997), Rabindranath Tagore: An Anthology, Saint Martin's Press, ISBN 0-312-16973-6 
  • Roy, B. K. (1977), Rabindranath Tagore: The Man and His Poetry, Folcroft Library Editions, ISBN 0-8414-7330-7 
  • Stewart, T. (editor, translator); Twichell, C. (editor, translator) (2003), Rabindranath Tagore: Lover of God, Copper Canyon Press, ISBN 1-55659-196-9 
  • Tagore, R. (1977), Collected Poems and Plays of Rabindranath Tagore, Macmillan Publishing, ISBN 0-02-615920-1 
  • Thompson, E. (1926), Rabindranath Tagore: Poet and Dramatist, Read, ISBN 1-4067-8927-5 
  • Urban, H. B. (2001), Songs of Ecstasy: Tantric and Devotional Songs from Colonial Bengal, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-513901-1 

Further reading

  • Chaudhuri, A. (2004), The Vintage Book of Modern Indian Literature, Vintage, ISBN 0-375-71300-X
  • Deutsch, A.; Robinson, A. (1989), The Art of Rabindranath Tagore, Monthly Review Press, ISBN 0-233-98359-7
  • Deutsch, A. (editor); Robinson, A. (editor) (1997), Selected Letters of Rabindranath Tagore, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-59018-3
  • Som, R. (2009), Rabindranath Tagore: The Singer and His Song, Viking, ISBN 978-067008248-3

External links

Analyses
Audiobooks
Talks
Texts


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Let this be my last word, that I trust in thy love.

Rabindranath Tagore (7 May 18617 August 1941), also known as Rabi Thakur, was a Bengali philosopher, poet, and winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913.

Contents

Sourced

  • The truth comes as conqueror only because we have lost the art of receiving it as guest.
    • The Fourfold Way of India (1924); this has become paraphrased as "Truth comes as conqueror only to those who have lost the art of receiving it as friend."
  • God, the Great Giver, can open the whole universe to our gaze in the narrow space of a single land.
    • Jivan-smitri

Gitanjali (1912)

  • My debts are large, my failures great, my shame secret and heavy; yet I come to ask for my good, I quake in fear lest my prayer be granted.
    • 28
  • I thought that my invincible power would hold the world captive, leaving me in a freedom undisturbed. Thus night and day I worked at the chain with huge fires and cruel hard strokes. When at last the work was done and the links were complete and unbreakable, I found that it held me in its grip.
    • 31
  • When old words die out on the tongue, new melodies break forth from the heart; and where the old tracks are lost, new country is revealed with its wonders.
    • 37
  • The smile that flickers on baby's lips when he sleeps— does anybody know where it was born? Yes, there is a rumor that a young pale beam of a crescent moon touched the edge of a vanishing autumn cloud, and there the smile was first born in the dream of a dew-washed morning.
    • 61
  • In this playhouse of infinite forms I have had my play, and here have I caught sight of him that is formless.
    • 96
  • Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
    Where knowledge is free
    Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
    By narrow domestic walls
    Where words come out from the depth of truth
    Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
    Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
    Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
    Where the mind is led forward by thee
    Into ever-widening thought and action
    Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Sādhanā : The Realisation of Life (1916)

  • All the great utterances of man have to be judged not by the letter but by the spirit — the spirit which unfolds itself with the growth of life in history.
    • Preface
  • The meaning of the living words that come out of the experiences of great hearts can never be exhausted by any one system of logical interpretation. They have to be endlessly explained by the commentaries of individual lives, and they gain an added mystery in each new revelation. To me the verses of the Upanishads and the teachings of Buddha have ever been things of the spirit, and therefore endowed with boundless vital growth; and I have used them, both in my own life and in my preaching, as being instinct with individual meaning for me, as for others, and awaiting for their confirmation, my own special testimony, which must have its value because of its individuality.
    • Preface
  • The human soul is on its journey from the law to love, from discipline to liberation, from the moral plane to the spiritual. Buddha preached the discipline of self-restraint and moral life; it is a complete acceptance of law. But this bondage of law cannot be an end by itself; by mastering it thoroughly we acquire the means of getting beyond it. It is going back to Brahma, to the infinite love, which is manifesting itself through the finite forms of law.
  • Want of love is a degree of callousness; for love is the perfection of consciousness. We do not love because we do not comprehend, or rather we do not comprehend because we do not love. For love is the ultimate meaning of everything around us. It is not a mere sentiment; it is truth; it is the joy that is at the root of all creation. It is the white light of pure consciousness that emanates from Brahma. So, to be one with this sarvānubhūh, this all-feeling being who is in the external sky, as well as in our inner soul, we must attain to that summit of consciousness, which is love: Who could have breathed or moved if the sky were not filled with joy, with love?
  • Of course man is useful to man, because his body is a marvellous machine and his mind an organ of wonderful efficiency. But he is a spirit as well, and this spirit is truly known only by love. When we define a man by the market value of the service we can expect of him, we know him imperfectly. With this limited knowledge of him it becomes easy for us to be unjust to him and to entertain feelings of triumphant self-congratulation when, on account of some cruel advantage on our side, we can get out of him much more than we have paid for. But when we know him as a spirit we know him as our own. We at once feel that cruelty to him is cruelty to ourselves, to make him small is stealing from our own humanity...
  • Man is not entirely an animal. He aspires to a spiritual vision, which is the vision of the whole truth. This gives him the highest delight, because it reveals to him the deepest harmony that exists between him and his surroundings. It is our desires that limit the scope of our self-realisation, hinder our extension of consciousness, and give rise to sin, which is the innermost barrier that keeps us apart from our God, setting up disunion and the arrogance of exclusiveness. For sin is not one mere action, but it is an attitude of life which takes for granted that our goal is finite, that our self is the ultimate truth, and that we are not all essentially one but exist each for his own separate individual existence.
  • We never can have a true view of man unless we have a love for him. Civilisation must be judged and prized, not by the amount of power it has developed, but by how much it has evolved and given expression to, by its laws and institutions, the love of humanity. The first question and the last which it has to answer is, Whether and how far it recognises man more as a spirit than a machine? Whenever some ancient civilisation fell into decay and died, it was owing to causes which produced callousness of heart and led to the cheapening of man's worth; when either the state or some powerful group of men began to look upon the people as a mere instrument of their power; when, by compelling weaker races to slavery and trying to keep them down by every means, man struck at the foundation of his greatness, his own love of freedom and fair-play. Civilisation can never sustain itself upon cannibalism of any form. For that by which alone man is true can only be nourished by love and justice.
  • In love all the contradictions of existence merge themselves and are lost. Only in love are unity and duality not at variance. Love must be one and two at the same time.
    Only love is motion and rest in one. Our heart ever changes its place till it finds love, and then it has its rest. But this rest itself is an intense form of activity where utter quiescence and unceasing energy meet at the same point in love.
    In love, loss and gain are harmonised. In its balance-sheet, credit and debit accounts are in the same column, and gifts are added to gains. In this wonderful festival of creation, this great ceremony of self-sacrifice of God, the lover constantly gives himself up to gain himself in love. Indeed, love is what brings together and inseparably connects both the act of abandoning and that of receiving.
  • In love, at one of its poles you find the personal, and at the other the impersonal. At one you have the positive assertion — Here I am; at the other the equally strong denial — I am not. Without this ego what is love? And again, with only this ego how can love be possible?
    Bondage and liberation are not antagonistic in love. For love is most free and at the same time most bound. If God were absolutely free there would be no creation. The infinite being has assumed unto himself the mystery of finitude. And in him who is love the finite and the infinite are made one.
  • Compulsion is not indeed the final appeal to man, but joy is. Any joy is everywhere; it is in the earth's green covering of grass; in the blue serenity of the sky; in the reckless exuberance of spring; in the severe abstinence of grey winter; in the living flesh that animates our bodily frame; in the perfect poise of the human figure, noble and upright; in living; in the exercise of all our powers; in the acquisition of knowledge; in fighting evils; in dying for gains we never can share. Joy is there everywhere; it is superfluous, unnecessary; nay, it very often contradicts the most peremptory behests of necessity. It exists to show that the bonds of law can only be explained by love; they are like body and soul. Joy is the realisation of the truth of oneness, the oneness of our soul with the world and of the world-soul with the supreme lover.
  • That side of our existence whose direction is towards the infinite seeks not wealth, but freedom and joy. There the reign of necessity ceases, and there our function is not to get but to be. To be what? To be one with Brahma. For the region of the infinite is the region of unity. Therefore the Upanishads say: If man apprehends God he becomes true. Here it is becoming, it is not having more. Words do no gather bulk when you know their meaning; they become true by being one with the idea.
  • Though the West has accepted as its teacher him who boldly proclaimed his oneness with his Father, and who exhorted his followers to be perfect as God, it has never been reconciled to this idea of our unity with the infinite being. It condemns, as a piece of blasphemy, any implication of man's becoming God. This is certainly not the idea that Christ preached, nor perhaps the idea of the Christian mystics, but this seems to be the idea that has become popular in the Christian west.
    But the highest wisdom in the East holds that it is not the function of our soul to gain God, to utilise him for any special material purpose. All that we can ever aspire to is to become more and more one with God. In the region of nature, which is the region of diversity, we grow by acquisition; in the spiritual world, which is the region of unity, we grow by losing ourselves, by uniting. Gaining a thing, as we have said, is by its nature partial, it is limited only to a particular want; but being is complete, it belongs to our wholeness, it springs not from any necessity but from our affinity with the infinite, which is the principle of perfection that we have in our soul.
  • Knowledge is partial, because our intellect is an instrument, it is only a part of us, it can give us information about things which can be divided and analysed, and whose properties can be classified part by part. But Brahma is perfect, and knowledge which is partial can never be a knowledge of him.
  • Indeed, the realisation of the paramātman, the supreme soul, within our antarātman, our inner individual soul, is in a state of absolute completion. We cannot think of it as non- existent and depending on our limited powers for its gradual construction. If our relation with the divine were all a thing of our own making, how should we rely on it as true, and how should it lend us support?
    Yes, we must know that within us we have that where space and time cease to rule and where the links of evolution are merged in unity. In that everlasting abode of the ātaman, the soul, the revelation of the paramātman, the supreme soul, is already complete. Therefore the Upanishads say: He who knows Brahman, the true, the all-conscious, and the infinite as hidden in the depths of the soul, which is the supreme sky (the inner sky of consciousness), enjoys all objects of desire in union with the all-knowing Brahman.
  • This "I" of mine toils hard, day and night, for a home which it knows as its own. Alas, there will be no end of its sufferings so long as it is not able to call this home thine. Till then it will struggle on, and its heart will ever cry, "Ferryman, lead me across." When this home of mine is made thine, that very moment is it taken across, even while its old walls enclose it. This "I" is restless. It is working for a gain which can never be assimilated with its spirit, which it never can hold and retain. In its efforts to clasp in its own arms that which is for all, it hurts others and is hurt in its turn, and cries, "Lead me across". But as soon as it is able to say, "All my work is thine," everything remains the same, only it is taken across.
    Where can I meet thee unless in this mine home made thine? Where can I join thee unless in this my work transformed into thy work? If I leave my home I shall not reach thy home; if I cease my work I can never join thee in thy work. For thou dwellest in me and I in thee. Thou without me or I without thee are nothing.

Stray Birds (1916)

Stray Birds online as translated from Bengali to English by the author
  • If you shed tears when you miss the sun, you also miss the stars.
    • 6
  • Your idol is shattered in the dust to prove that God's dust is greater than your idol.
    • 51
  • The roots below the earth claim no rewards for making the branches fruitful.
    • 134
  • Let this be my last word, that I trust in thy love.
    • 326

The Gardener (1915)

  • Ah me, why did they build my house by the road to the market town?
    • 4
  • I am restless. I am athirst for faraway things. My soul goes out in a longing to touch the skirt of the dim distance. O Great Beyond, O the keen call of thy flute! I forget, I ever forget, that I have no wings to fly, that I am bound in this spot evermore.
    • 5
  • We do not stray out of all words into the ever silent;
    We do not raise our hands to the void for things beyond hope.
    • 16
  • Please is frail like a dewdrop, while it laughs it dies. But sorrow is strong and abiding. Let sorrowful love wake in your eyes.
    • 27
  • My heart, the bird of the wilderness, has found its sky in your eyes.
    • 31
  • Let your life lightly dance on the edges of Time like dew on the tip of a leaf.
    • 45
  • To the guests that must go, bid God's speed and brush away all traces of their steps.
    • 45
  • The wise man warns me that life is but a dewdrop on the lotus leaf.
    • 46
  • O Woman, you are not merely the handiwork of God, but also of men; these are ever endowing you with beauty from their own hearts. . . You are one-half woman and one-half dream.
    • 59
  • In the world's audience hall, the simple blade of grass sits on the same carpet with the sunbeams, and the stars of midnight.
    • 74
  • Who are you, reader, reading my poems an hundred years hence?
    I cannot send you one single flower from this wealth of the spring, one single streak of gold from yonder clouds.
    Open your doors and look abroad.
    From your blossoming garden gather fragrant memories of the vanished flowers of an hundred years before.
    In the joy of your heart may you feel the living joy that sang one spring morning, sending its glad voice across a hundred years.
    • 85

Fireflies (1928)

  • Bigotry tries to keep truth safe in its hand
    With a grip that kills it.

    Wishing to hearten a timid lamp
    great night lights all her stars.

    • 24
  • God seeks comrades and claims love,
    the Devil seeks slaves and claims obedience.
    • 25
  • The child ever dwells in the mystery of ageless time,
    unobscured by the dust of history.
    • 26
  • Jewel-Like the immortal
    does not boast of its length of years
    but of the scintillationg point of the moment.
    • 29
  • While God waits for his temple to be built of love, men bring stones.
    • 41
  • I touch God in my song
    as the hill touched the far-away sea
    with its waterfall.
    • 42
  • Light finds her treasure of colours
    through the antagonism of clouds.
    • 43
  • The one without second is emptiness,
    the other one makes it true.
    • 46
  • Life's errors cry for the merciful beauty
    that can modulate their isolation
    into a harmony with the whole.
    • 47

External links

Wikipedia
Wikipedia has an article about:

Simple English

[[File:|right|thumb|Rabindranath Tagore]]

Rabindranath Tagore (May 7 1861 - August 7 1941) was a Bengali poet from India. His name was originally written as Robindronath Thakur. He was also a philosopher and an artist. He wrote many stories, novels and dramas, as well as composing music and many songs. His writings greatly influenced Bengali culture during the late 19th century and early 20th century. In 1913, he won the Nobel Prize in Literature, the first Asian to win this prize. People also call him Gurudev.

Tagore was born in the city of Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta, at No. 6 Dwarkanath Tagore Lane, Jorasanko Thakur Bari. Tagore was a Bengali Brahmin by birth. He wrote his first poem when he was only eight years old. He published his first large poetry collection in 1877. He wrote his first short story and dramas when he was only 16 years of age.

Tagore's major works included Gitanjali (Song Offerings), Gora (Fair-Faced), and Ghare-Baire (The Home and the World); and many other literary and art works. He was also a cultural reformer, and modernized Bangla art by rejecting the rigidity of form and style.

Tagore wrote Jana Gana Mana, the national anthem of India.[1][2][3] [4][5][6][7][8] He also wrote Amar Shonar Bangla, the national anthem of Bangladesh.[9]

Contents

Early life (1861 - 1901)

Tagore’s nickname was "Rabi". He was the youngest of his parent's 14 children. His father was Debendranath Tagore and his mother was Sarada Devi. In February 1873, when he was 11 years old, he went with his father on a tour of India. The tour lasted several months. They visited many places in India including Amritsar in Punjab, and Dalhhousie in the Himalayas. Tagore also visited his father’s estate at Santiniketan. There he read biographies, studied history, astronomy, modern science, and Sanskrit. He also read works of Kalidasa. During this time, he also composed many literary works. One of them was a long poem in Maithili language. People of north Bihar (India) speak Maithili language. Tagore wrote this poetry in Maithili language in a style of Vidyapati, a famous poet of Maithili language.

In 1878, he went to London. He enrolled at a public school in Brighton, England. He wanted to become a barrister. Later he studied at University College London. But in 1880, his father called back him from London. His father arranged a marriage for him with Mrinalini Devi, a girl just ten years old. The marriage took place on 9 December 1883. They had five children, but four died before reaching full adulthood.

In 1890, Tagore began managing his family’s estates in Shelidah, now in Bangladesh. In 1898, Tagore’s wife and children also came there to live with him. Tagore traveled across the vast estate. He saw the poor people very closely. During 1891 - 1895, he wrote many short stories about life in Bengal, particularly village life.

Shantiniketan (1901 – 1932)

In 1901, Tagore left Shelidah. He came to Santiniketan (West Bengal) to found an ashram. He built a prayer hall, a school, and a library. He planted many trees and built a beautiful garden. There, Tagore's wife and two of his children died. His father also died on January 19 1905. By this time, he had started receiving monthly income as part of his inheritance. He also started receiving some royalties for his literary works. He had a large following among readers of the Bengali language, as well as other people who knew his works through translations and reviews.

On November 14 1913, Tagore learned that he had won the 1913 Nobel Prize in Literature. The Swedish Academy had selected him based on a small amount of his translated works, and his 1912 work of poems named Gitanjali: Song Offerings.

The British Crown gave him a knighthood in 1915. However, he gave back the title in 1919 as a protest to (Jallianwala Bagh Massacre) in Amritsar. The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre was the killing of unarmed people by the troops of the British Raj.

In 1921, Tagore and an agricultural economist [[Leonard K. Elmhirst set up the Institute for Rural Reconstruction in a village named Surul near his ashram at Shriniketan. An English language translation of Shriniketan would mean an abode (place) of peace. He recruited many scholars and officials from many countries to help the Institute use schooling to "free village[s] from the shackles of helplessness and ignorance". In the early 1930s, he also grew more concerned about India's "abnormal caste consciousness" and differences based on castes. He lectured on the evils of such practices, and also wrote many poems and dramas on these themes. He also appealed to authorities at Kerala's Guruvayoor Temple to admit Dalits inside the temple. Dalits were people lowest in the social system of India. They could not participate in many functions including entry into places of worship of Hindus.

Last years (1932 - 1941)

Even during the last decade of life, Tagore remained publicly active. He criticized Mohandas Gandhi, the Indian leader, for Gandhi’s comments about an earthquake on January 15 1934 in Bihar. Gandhi had commented that the earthquake had happened on account of God’s will to punish people for practicing casteism. He was also sad at the decline of Bengal and poverty in Kolkata. He wrote a poem of one hundred lines about the poverty of Kolkata. Later on, Satyajit Ray based one of his movies on this poem.

During this period, Tagore wrote fifteen volumes of prose-poems. They covered many aspects of human life. In his last years, Tagore took an interest in science, and wrote a collection of essays. These essays explored biology, physics, and astronomy.

Tagore spent last four years (1937 - 1941) of his life in pain and illness. In late 1937, he lost consciousness. He remained in coma for a long time. Three years later, this happened again. During this period, whenever he felt better, he composed poems. These poems are his best poems. These poems deal with his close encounters with death. After a long period of suffering, Tagore died on August 7 1941, in the same large house in Kolkata where he was born and where he had spent his childhood.

Travels

During 1878 and 1932, Tagore visited thirty countries on five continents. His purpose was to make his literary works known to persons who did not know Bengali language. He also spread his thoughts and ideas, including political ideas.

In 1912 he went to England. Anglo-Irish poet William Butler Yeats wrote the preface to English translation of his work, Gitanjali (Song Offerings). Tagore also met Ezra Pound, Robert Bridges, Ernest Rhys, Thomas Sturge Moore, and many other figures.

From May 1916 until April 1917, Tagore gave many lectures in Japan. Shortly after returning to India, the 63-year-old Tagore visited Peru at the invitation of the Peruvian government. At the same time, he also visited Mexico. Both governments pledged donations of $100,000 to the school at Shantiniketan.

On May 30 1926, Tagore reached Naples, Italy; he met fascist dictator Benito Mussolini in Rome the next day. On July 20 1926, Tagore criticized and spoke out against Mussolini.

In July 1927, Tagore and two friends went on a four-month tour of Southeast Asia. They visited Bali, Java (island), Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Penang, Siam, and Singapore. Later on, he wrote a book named “Jatri” (The Traveler). In this book, he wrote about experiences of his travels.

In early 1930 he left Bengal for a nearly yearlong tour of Europe and the U.S. In Paris and London, displays of his paitings took place. During this period, he wrote his Hibbert Lectures for the University of Oxford. He also met Aga Khan III. He also toured Denmark, Switzerland, and Germany from June to mid-September 1930; and then the Soviet Union.

All these travels by Tagore gave him opportunity to discuss with many notable persons of his time. They included Henri Bergson, Albert Einstein, Robert Frost, Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Mann, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Subhas Bose and Romain Rolland.

Tagore's last travels abroad were his visits to Iran and Iraq in 1932, and Ceylon in 1933. His visit to Iran was as a personal guest of Shah Reza Shah Pahlavi of Iran.

Works

People know Tagore mainly as a poet. But his literary works include novels, essays, short stories, travelogues, dramas, and thousands of songs. He was also an expert painter.

Novels and non-fiction

Tagore wrote eight novels and four short novels (novellas). Some of them are: “Gora”, Chaturanga, Shesher Kobita, , Char Odhay, and Noukadubi. Ghare Baire (The Home and the World). These works covered a variety of themes. "KAABOOLIWALA" is a tagore's children's literature

Tagore’s novels remain among the least-appreciated of his works. However, recently many movies have used the stories of these novels. Many movies also have soundtracks featuring selections from Tagore's Rabindra sangeet.

Tagore also wrote many non-fiction books. These also covered many subjects including history of India, linguistics, essays and lectures, autobiography, and details of travels by him.

Music and artwork

Tagore was also an excellent musician and painter. He wrote around 2,230 songs. People call these songs as Rabindra Sangeet. Translated into English language, Rabindra Sangeet would mean "Tagore Song". These songs are now a part of present day culture of Bengali people. His many poems and songs are parts of his novels and stories.

His songs and music cover many aspects of human emotion, from devotional hymns to songs of love. In most of Bengali speaking families, people sing Rabindra Sangeet. Music critic Arther Strangeways of The Observer first introduced his songs to non-Bengalis. He did this through his book named The Music of Hindostan. The book describes Tagore Song as a "vehicle of a personality ... [that] go behind this or that system of music to that beauty of sound which all systems put out their hands to seize." Among Rabindra Sangeet are two great works, which are now national anthems of two different countries, India and Bangladesh. Thus, Tagore is the only person in the world to have written the national anthems of two nations. They are: Bangladesh's Amar Sonaar Baanglaa and India's Jana Gana Mana. Rabindrasangit influenced the styles of such musicians like Vilayat Khan, Buddhadev Dasgupta, and composer Amjad Ali Khan

At age sixty, Tagore took interest in drawing and painting. Successful displays of his drawings and paintings took place in France and London. He made drawings and painted using many styles from different parts of the world. His styles included craftwork by the Malanggan people of northern New Ireland, Haida carvings from the Pacific Northwest region of North America, and woodcuts by Max Pechstein. Sometimes, Tagore used his handwritings in artistic styles on his manuscripts.

Theatrical pieces

When he was only a boy of sixteen years, he had performed in a drama organized by his brother, Jyotirindranath Tagore. When Tagore was of twenty years old, he wrote a drama named Valmiki Pratibha (The Genius of Valmiki). This described the life of Valmiki, his change from a robber to a learned person, blessing to him by goddess Saraswati, and his writing of the Ramayana.

Another notable play by him is Dak Ghar (The Post Office), describes how a child tries to escape from his confinement, and falls asleep. This sleeping is suggestive of death. This play received reviews in many parts of Europe. In 1890 he wrote Visarjan (Sacrifice). Many scholars believe this to be his finest drama. The Bangla-language originals included intricate subplots and extended monologues. He wrote many other drams on a variety of themes. In Tagore's own words, he wrote them as "the play of feeling and not of action". Rabindra Nritya Natya means dance dramas based on Tagore’s plays.

Short stories

Tagore wrote many stories during the period from 1891 to 1895. Galpaguchchha (Bunch of Stories) is a three volume collection of eighty-four of his stories. Tagore wrote about half of these stories during the period 1891 to 1895. This collection continues to be very popular work of Bangla literature. These stories have given ideas to produce many movies and theatrical plays.

Tagore drew inspiration and ideas for writing his stories from his surroundings, from the village life of India. He saw the poor people very closely during travels to manage his family’s large landholdings. Sometimes he used different themes to taste his depth of his intellect.

Poetry

Tagore's poetry is very varied, and covers many styles. He drew inspiration from 15th - and 16th century poets, as also from ancient writers like Vyasa. Bengal’s Baul folk singers also influenced his style of poetry. He wrote many poems when he was at Shelidah managing his family’s estates. Many of his poems have a lyrical quality. These poems tell about the "man within the heart" and the "living God within". Over next seventy years, he repeatedly revised his style of writing poetry. In 1930s, he wrote many experimental works of poetry, and also used modernism and realism in his works.

One of his poems have words like: "all I had achieved was carried off on the golden boat; only I was left behind.". However, Tagore is known around the world for his, ‘‘Gitanjali’’ (Song Offerings), his best-known collection, winning him his Nobel Prize. A free-verse translation by Tagore of a verse of Gitanjali reads as follows:

"My song has put off her adornments. She has no pride of dress and decoration. Ornaments would mar our union; they would come between thee and me; their jingling would drown thy whispers."
"My poet's vanity dies in shame before thy sight. O master poet, I have sat down at thy feet. Only let me make my life simple and straight, like a flute of reed for thee to fill with music."

Political views

Tagore’s political views were complex. He criticized European colonialism, and supported Indian nationalists. But, he also criticized the Swadeshi movement of many nationalist leaders of India. Instead, he emphasized self-help and intellectual uplift of the masses. He requested Indians to accept that "there can be no question of blind revolution, but of steady and purposeful education". Many people did not like his thinking. In late 1916, some Indians wanted to kill him when he was staying in a hotel in San Francisco, USA. They did not kill him as they started arguing with Tagore, and then dropped the idea to kill him. Tagore also wrote many songs praising the Indian independence movement. He also returned the British honor of Knighthood as a protest against the 1919 Amritsar massacre. In Amritsar, troops of the British Raj had opened fire on unarmed civilians killing many persons. Despite his not very cordial relations with Gandhi, Tagore played a key role in resolving a Gandhi-B. R. Ambedkar dispute involving separate electorates for untouchables. Untouchables were people considered lowest in the social order.

Tagore was also critical of traditional style of education. While on a visit to Santa Barbara, California on 11 October 1917, he visualized a new type of education. He thought of a new type of university which he desired to be set up at Santiniketan. On 22nd December 1918, work for building the new university began. It started functioning from 22nd December 1921. He named the university: Visva-Bharati University. Tagore worked hard to raise funds for the university, and toured many parts of Europe and USA for this purpose. He gave all his Nobel Prize monies to this university. The university gave personal guidance to all students. Students lived in close proximity to nature, and teacher-student relationship followed pattern of gurukul system of ancient India. In his own words, he wanted this university to become “a world center for the study of humanity ... somewhere beyond the limits of nation and geography."

He also had a dream for the future India. He wanted India’s freedom from the British rule. He dreamt of an India: “Where the mind is without fear”.

His legacy

Even after many decades of his death, Tagore’s legacy continues in many ways. People hold many festivals in his honor in many parts of the world. Examples include:

  • The annual Bengali festival/celebration of Kabipranam - Tagore's birthday anniversary - held in Urbana, Illinois in the United States
  • The Rabindra Path Parikrama walking pilgrimages leading from Calcutta to Shantiniketan, and ceremonial recitals of Tagore's poetry held on important anniversaries.

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, who is also a Bengali, once noted that even for modern Bengalis, Tagore was a "towering figure", being a "deeply relevant and many-sided contemporary thinker".

Tagore's collected 1939 Bangla-language writings (Rabīndra Racanāvalī) are one of Bengal's greatest cultural treasures, while Tagore himself has been proclaimed "the greatest poet India has produced".

He was also famed throughout much of Europe, North America, and East Asia. Translations of his works are available in many languages of the world, including Russian, English, Dutch, German, Spanish, and many others. In the United States, Tagore gave many lectures during 1916 and 1917. Many people attended those lectures.

Between 1914 and 1922, the Jiménez-Camprubí spouses translated at least twenty-two of Tagore's books from English into Spanish. These Spanish translations influenced many leading figures of Spanish literature. Some of them are Chile Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral of Chile; Mexico Octavio Paz of Mexico; and José Ortega y Gasset, Zenobia Camprubí, and Juan Ramón Jiménez of Spain

Various composers, including classical composer Arthur Shepherd’s, have set Tagore’s poetry to music.

References

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