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Tagore family
Gobindapur
Panchanan  · Sukdeb
Jairam
Pathuriaghata
Darpanarayan
Gopimohan
Chandra Coomar  · Prasanna Coomar
Gnanendramohan
Jatindramohan  · Shourindramohan
Shoutindramohan
Jorasanko
Nilmani
Ramlochan  · Rammani  · Ramballav
Dwarkanath  · Ramanath
Debendranath  · Girindranath  · Nagendranath
Debendranath’s family
Generation 1
Dwijendranath  · Satyendranath
Hemendranath  · Birendranath
Jyotirindranath  · Somendranath
Rabindranath  · Soudamini
Sukumari  · Saratkumari
Swarnakumari  · Barnakumari
Generation 2
Dwijendranath’s children
Dwipendranath  · Arunendranath
Nitindranath  · Sudhindranath
Kritendranath
Satyendranath’s children
Surendranath  · Indira
Hemendranath’s Children
Hitendranath  · Kshitindranath
Ritendranath  · Pratibha
Pragna ·Abhi  · Manisha
Shovana  · Sushama
Sunrita  · Sudakshina
Purnima  
Birendranath’s son
Balendranath
Rabindranath’s children
Rathindranath  · Shamindranath
Madhurilata · Renuka
Meera
Girindranath’s family
Generation 1
Ganedranath  · Gunendranath
Generation 2
Gunendranath's children
Gaganendranath
Abanindranath  · Sunayani

The Tagore family, with over three hundred years of history,[1] has been one of the leading families of Kolkata, and is regarded as a key influence during the Bengal Renaissance.[1] The family has produced several persons who have contributed substantially in the fields of business, social and religious reformation, literature, art and music.[1][2]

Contents

Background

"Europeans" started coming to Bengal in the 17th century.[3] After the Battle of Plassey, the British became the ruling power.

The Bengal renaissance of the 19th century was a remarkable period of societal transformation in which whole range of creative activities – literary, cultural, social and economic- flourished[4] The Bengal Renaissance was the culmination of the process of emergence of the cultural characteristics of the Bengali people that had started in the age of Hussein Shah (1493-1519).[5] This spread over covering around three centuries had a tremendous impact on Bengali society. Incidentally that coincided with the rise of the Tagore family. The Tagore family attained prominence during this period through its unusual social positioning between Indian and European influences.

To quote Chitra Deb,[6] “Though the cultural role of the Thakurs has received the greatest attention by far, their importance on final assessment is a composite one: commercial and political as well as literary and musical. They played a collective role in every patriotic movement of their times: Nabagopal Mitra’s Hindu Mela, the Congress and the National Conference, the Rakhi Festival of 1905, and the Nationalist Movement generally. The story of the Thakurs is inseparable from the story of Calcutta, Bengal and India.”

Origins

The family earlier held the title (surname) of Kushari, and hailed from Jessore District, now in Bangladesh. Two of the Kusharis, Panchanan and Sukdeb, settled in Gobindapur, one of the villages that developed into the city of Kolkata, and engaged in stevedoring business. Being Brahmins, the neighbours called them Thakurmashai, or ‘holy sir’. After the British gained control of the country, ‘Thakur’ became their family name. In English, it was Anglicized to ‘Tagore’, with some variations in spelling within the family. They were Pirali Brahmins, a sort of outcaste in orthodox society.

Darpanarayan Tagore (1731-1791), the first person in the family to gain prominence, earned major revenues through money-lending while spent as abundantly as he earned. When he quarrelled with his brother Nilmani Tagore over family matters the latter shifted out of the family household and settled in Mechuabazar, which later came to be known as Jorasanko. Subsequently, several other branches of the family settled in Pathuriaghata, Kailahata and Chorbagan, all neighbourhoods of the fledgling metropolis, particularly when Gobindapur was razed by the British for the construction of the new Fort William.[7]

The Pathuriaghata family

Gopimohan Tagore (1760-1819) was well known for his wealth and in 1822, made what may be the largest ever gift of gold to the Kali temple at Kalighat.[8] He was one of the founders of Hindu College, the institution that initiated western education in the country. He knew English, French, Portuguese, Sanskrit, Persian and Urdu, apart from Bengali.[9]

Prasanna Coomar Tagore, (1801-1868), son of Gopimohan Tagore, was one of the leaders of the Landholders' Society and later the president of the British Indian Association, the earliest organisations of Indians in the country. He had started as government lawyer but later turned his attention to family matters. Apart from being a director of Hindu College, he was involved with the activities of several institutions. Tagore Law lectures are organised by Calcutta University on the strength of donations he made. He was founder of the first local theatre – the Hindu theatre.[10] He was the first Indian to be appointed to the Viceregal Legislative Council.[11]

Gnanendramohan Tagore (1826-1890), son of Prasanna Coomar Tagore, converted to Christianity and married Kamalmani daughter of Krishna Mohan Banerjee. He was disowned by his father and disinherited. He went to England and qualified for the bar from Lincoln’s Inn. He became the first Indian to become a barrister. For sometime he taught Hindu Law and Bengali at the University of London.[12]

Jatindramohan Tagore (1831-1908), son of Harakumar Tagore, inherited the Pathuriaghata branch wealth. He contributed substantially to the development of theatre in Kolkata and was himself a keen actor. He inspired Michael Madhusudan Dutt to write Tilottamasambhab Kabya and published it at his cost. In 1865, he established the Banganatyalaya at Pathuriaghata. He was keen in music also and patronised musicians. With his active support one of them, Kshetra Mohan Goswami, introduced the concept of orchestra in to Indian music for the first time in this country. He was president of the British Indian Association and was the first Indian to be member of the Royal Photographic Society.[13]

Ramanath Tagore (1801-1877) and Jatindramohan were major patrons of European art. Their palatial home, the Tagore Castle[14] at Pathuriaghta had a major collection of European painters. Subsequently, members of the family took to oil-painting. Shoutindramohan Tagore (1865-98) was one of the first Indians to have studied at the Royal Academy.[15]

Shourindramohan Tagore (180-1914), son of Harakumar Tagore, was a great musician who was awarded the doctor of music titles by Philadelphia University in 1875 and by Oxford University in 1896. He was proficient in both Indian and Western music. He founded the Banga Sangeet Vidyalaya in 1871 and the Bengal Academy of Music in 1881. He was honoured by the Shah of Iran with the ‘Nabab Shahzada’ title. The British government made him ‘Knight Bachelor of the United Kingdom’. He was also a playwright and Justice of the Peace. He was also a leading philanthropist of his time.[16]

The Jorasanko family

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Business wealth

Dwarkanath Tagore (1794-1846) was the man who ushered the family into its special role in Bengali history and culture. He was son of Nilmani Tagore’s second son, Rammani Tagore, but was adopted by the childless elder son, Ramlochan Tagore. He not only inherited the great wealth of the Jorasanko[17] family but also built up an extensive business empire even while he worked as sheristadar, the highest position then open to Indians. He was a luxury loving prodigal.[18] His manners led his European friends to call him ‘Prince’.[18] He was a friend of Raja Rammohun Roy and played a leading role in the social development of the country.[18] He was a shareholder of Macintosh & Co, a director of the Commercial Bank, founder of the Union Bank, director of several insurance companies, established Carr & Tagore Co. and engaged in coal mining (pioneering work), silk and indigo trade, shipping and sugar manufacture. He established himself as an industrialist and one of the leading rich men in the society of his time.[19]

He was the second person amongst the educated Indians, after Raja Rammohun Roy to sail to England in 1842, with two persons accompanying him, ignoring the prohibition of the pandits.[20] Rabindranath Tagore’s creative multiplicity or Debendranath Tagore’s spiritual pursuits were, to a considerable extent, made possible because of the foundations of leisure provided by Dwarakanath Tagore’s wealth.[21]

Spiritual pursuits

After Dwarkanath Tagore, the leadership of the family passed on to Debendranath Tagore(1807-1905) and Girindranath Tagore, the two sons of Dwarkanath Tagore. Debendranath Tagore founded the Brahmo religion and also started its journal Tattwabodhini Patrika. His children continued in the Brahmo Samaj. Girindranath Tagore also joined the Brahmo Samaj but his children, Ganendra and Gunendra, did not. Gunendra’s sons, Gaganendra, Samarendra and Abanindra branched out but retained cordial relationship with the Jorasanko family.[18] Debendranath Tagore took over the reins of the Brahmo Samaj in 1843 and not only resurrected it but also enriched it in many ways. It became the inspirtaion for the Bengal Renaissance.[22] It was he who gave the Brahmo movement the trappings of a separate faith and introduced its own unique rituals. The Brahmo Samaj cast a very wide-ranging influence on its parent Hindu society, much wider than its limited membership would ostensibly permit.[23]

Creative outpourings

Several of Debendranath Tagore’s children were brilliant. Dwijendranath Tagore (1840-1926) was a great scholar, poet and music composer. He wrote extensively in the newspapers and magazines of the day on literature, philosophy and religion. He was editor of "Bharati" and Tattwabodhini Patrika. A pioneer in Bengali shorthand, he was one of organisers of the Hindu Mela[24]

Satyendranath Tagore, (1842-1923), was the first Indian to join the Indian Civil Service.in 1864. Earlier, he and his brother Ganendranath were among the first students to pass the Entrance Examination of Calcutta University in 1857. Even while serving in an adminsistrative job, he was a prolific writer, poet and song composer. Many of his nationalist songs are still sung. He was editor of "Tattwabodhini Patrika" and took an active interest in the Hindu Mela. He encourage his wife, Gyanadanandini Debi, to adopt western ideas and for that purpose took her to a governor’s party and also to England, something unthinkable in those days.[25]

Debendranath's third son Hemendranath was a strict disciplinarian who was entrusted with the responsibility of looking after the education of his younger brothers as well as administrating the large family estates.Like most of Debendranath's children, he had varied interests in different fields.On one hand he composed a number of "Bromhosangeets" and on the other,wrote articles on physical science which he planned to compile and edit into a text book for school students.If his untimely death had not prevented him from completing the project,this would certainly have been the first science text book to be written in Bengali.He was known for his physical strength and wrestling skills. Exceptionally for the times,he insisted on a formal education for his daughters.He not only put them through school but trained them in music, arts and European languages such as French and German.It was another mark of his forward looking mentality that he actively sought out eligible grooms from different provinces of India for his daughters and married them off in places as far away as UP and Assam.

Jyotirindranath Tagore (1849-1925) was a scholar, artist, music composer and theatre personality. He knew several languages – Bengali, Sanskrit, English, Bengali, Marathi and Persian. In 1924, he translated "Gita Rahasya" of Bal Gangadhar Tilak into Bengali. He also translated several other books. He wrote several plays, and directed and acted in them. He composed songs that are still available in CDs. Around 2,000 of his paintings are in possession of Rabindra Bharati. A selection of his paintings were published in London in 1914, at the instance of Rothenstein.[26]

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) his youngest son, was the first Asian to win a Nobel Prize, and was exceptionally talented and the most famous in the family. Rabindrinath is best remembered in history for writing what became the national anthems of the nations of India and Bangladesh and for coining the title Mahatma for Indian nationalist leader Mohandas Gandhi.[27]

Amongst his daughters Swarnakumari Devi (1855-1932) was a gifted writer, editor, song-composer and social worker. She was editor of "Bharati", a remarkabale performance in an age when very few girls went to school. She also edited a children’s magazine Balak. Sakhi Samiti was developed by her as means for upliftment of women. Her husband Janakinath Ghosal was one of the founders of the Indian National Congress. As a result she also participated in his nationalistic activities. She was the author of several books.[28]

The artists

After Rabindranath, the most notable in the Jorasanko family were Gaganendranath Tagore (1867-1938), Abanindranath Tagore (1871-1951), and Sunayani (1875-1962). They made an immense contribution to Indian art.[29] Even earlier, Abanindranath Tagore’s grand father and father, Gindranath (1820-1854), Gunendranath (1847-81), and subsequently Abaindranath Tagore’s cousin, Hitendranath Tagore (1867-1908) and his nephew Jaminiprakash Ganguli, were all gifted and prolific painters, specialising in a genre of dusky landscapes and romantic studies of peasant life.

Gaganendranath was a pioneer in many ways – in adopting Indian styles of painting after training in western art, and then absorbing Japanese styles.[30] However, it was his brother Abanindranath who inaugurated what became known as the "Bengal school" or "Neo-Oriental school". Its influence spread across the country while it incorporated various strains of South Asian influence.[31]

The younger generation

The younger generation also contributed substantially. Dwijendranath’s second son Sudhindranath (1869-1929) was a renowned author. His son Soumyendranath (1901-74) was well-known as a leftist politician. Satyendranath’s son Surendranath (1872-1940) also had political links. His daughter Indira (1873-1960) distinguished herself in literature, music and women’s movement. She married Pramatha Chowdhury, a distinguished scholar and writer. The list does not end here. All of them had enormous talent and were brought up in an ideal environment of literary debates and discussions, musical compositions, painting, and theatrical performances. Sharmila Tagore, a well-known Mumbai actress, belongs to this family but it is not known to which branch of the family.

The family environment

The environment at Jorasanko was filled with literature, music, painting and theatre. They had their own education system. In the earlier days, the women did not go to school but they were all educated at home. Swarnakumari Debi has recalled how in her early days the governess would write something on a slate which the girls then had to copy. When Debedranath discovered this, he at once stopped such a mindless and mechanical method and brought in a better teacher, Ajodhyanath Pakrashi – a male outsider in the women’s quarters... Some of the sons like Ganendra, Gunendra and Jyoitrindra set up their own private theatre. To start with men played in the role of women, but over a period of time even the women joined.[32] The environment in the family played a major role in the development of its members. Even Rabindranath Tagore who went to win the Nobel Prize in literature had very little formal education.[33]

Being somewhat conservative, Debendranath Tagore had put in many restrictions about members of the family participating in certain types of activities outside the house. Therefore, they brought the outside world into their house and the entire family, including the women participated. Two small examples will illustrate the environment:

“A baiji named Saraswatibai, renowned for her singing, had come from Kashi. We wanted to listen to her singing. She charged six hundred rupees for a single night’s performance. We sent Shyamsundar, “Go and bargain, see what you can manage.” Shyamsundar went and could fix her up for three hundred rupees. He came back and said, “Three hundred rupees and two bottles of brandy.” On hearing about the brandy we were taken aback, mummy could object. Shyamsundar said, “She cannot sing without taking brandy.” Everything was ready. Saraswati entered the gathering. She was demure, round nosed, nothing great. Natore said, “Abanda, what have you done? Just thrown away three hundred rupees.” She was going to sing two songs. Natore was ready to accompany her on the mridangam. As the clock struck ten she started singing. One song and it was eleven at night. Natore was paralysed with the mridnagam in his laps. The wonderful voice of Saraswati reverberated around that dance-hall. How wonderfully she had tuned her voice. Some of us with pillows in our laps, others with hands close to our hearts, we were all wonderstruck. The gathering was won over with just one song. Everyone was still immersed in the song, when Saraswati said, “Aur kuch farmaiye.” (present your wish). After listening to her, no one dared to put anything forward. Then I told Shyamsundar, “Ask her to sing a bhajan. We have heard that bhajans of Kashi are very famous.” She sang a bhajan known to all, “Ao to Brajachandalal...” (Come oh, Lord!) Everybody was dumbfounded...
"... The atarwala (scent seller) had come, we used to call him Gabriel Saheb, a genuine Jew. It was as if Shylock from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice had come alive and travelled all the way from Istambul to sell atar (scent) on the southern veranda of the Jorasanko house... so many types of people came and so much happened..."[34]

Although the Jorasanko branch of the family had close links with Shilaidaha, in Kushtia District, now in Bangladesh and Santiniketan, where Rabindranath developed Viswa Bharati,[35] their roots were in the Jorasanko house. It was popular as Jorasanko Thakur Bari of the Tagores and now houses the Rabindra Bharati University.

References

  • Deb, Chitra, Jorasanko and the Thakur Family, in Calcutta, the Living City, Vol I, edited by Sukanta Chaudhuri, pp 64–67, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-563696-1
  • Kopf, David (1979), The Brahmo Samaj and the Shaping of the Modern Indian Mind, Princeton University Press, ISBN 0691031258
  • Sengupta, Nitish, "History of the Bengali-speaking People", 2001/2002, UBS Publishers’ Distributors Pvt. Ltd., ISBN 81-7476-355-4
  • Sengupta, Subodh Chandra and Bose, Anjali (editors), (1976/1998), Sansad Bangali Charitabhidhan (Biographical dictionary) Vol I, in Bengali, Sahitya Sansad ISBN 81-85626-65-0
  • Devi Choudhurani, Indira, Smritisamput Vol I (1997/2000), in Bengali, Rabindra Bhaban, Viswa Bharati.
  • Tagore, Abanindranath and Chanda, Rani, Jorasankor Dhare (By the side of Jorasanko) in Bengali,(1944/2003), Viswabaharati Publications Division.
  • Sastri, Sivanath, Ramtanu Lahiri O Tatkalin Banga Samaj in Bengali, (1903/2001), New Age Publishers Pvt. Ltd.

Notes

  1. ^ a b c Deb, Chitra, pp 64-65.
  2. ^ "The Tagores and Society". Rabindra Baharati University. http://www.rabindrabharatiuniversity.net/museum/tagore_family/tagore_society.htm. Retrieved 2007-04-24.  
  3. ^ Sengupta, Nitish, pp 119-126
  4. ^ Sengupta, Nitish, pp 209-216
  5. ^ History of Bengali-speaking People by Nitish Sengupta, p 210, 212-213.
  6. ^ Chitra Deb is a writer on social and historical subjects. She is attached to Ananda Bazar Patrika and has made enormous contribution in the field of study of the Tagores.
  7. ^ Deb, Chitra, p 64.
  8. ^ Dutta, Kalyani, "Kalighat", in "Calcutta, the Living City", Vol I, edited by Sukanta Chaudhuri, p 25, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-563696-1.
  9. ^ Sengupta, Subodh Chandra and Bose, Anjali, p 141
  10. ^ Sengupta, Subodh Chandra and Bose, Anjali, p 313
  11. ^ Cotton, H.E.A., Calcutta Old and New, 1909/1980, pp344-345, General Printers and Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
  12. ^ Sengupta, Subodh Chandra and Bose, Anjali, pp 184, 313
  13. ^ Sengupta, Subodh Chandra and Bose, Anjali, p 433
  14. ^ It was so named because it was built like a castle. It was one of the landmarks of old Kolkata, off old Chitpore.
  15. ^ Guha Thakurta, Tapati, Art in Old Calcutta, the Melting Pot of Western Styles, in Calcutta, the Living City, Vol I, edited by Sukanta Chaudhuri, pp 148-151, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-563696-1.
  16. ^ Sengupta, Subodh Chandra and Bose, Anjali, p 532
  17. ^ Jorasanko is so called because of the two (jora) wooden or bamboo bridges (sanko) that spanned a small stream at this point. The celebrated seat of the Tagore family, it was also home of the Sinhas(including Kaliprasanna Sinha), the Pals (including Krishnadas Pal), and the families of Dewan Banarasi Ghosh and Chandramohan Chatterji. “The area thus became the cradle of Bengal Renaissance,” says Nair, P. Thankappan in The growth and Development of Old Calcutta in Calcutta, the Living City, Vol I, edited by Sukanta Chaudhuri, p 17, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-563696-1.
  18. ^ a b c d Deb, Chitra, p 65.
  19. ^ Sengupta, Subodh Chandra and Bose, Anjali, p 223
  20. ^ Sastri, Sivanath, p99.
  21. ^ Sengupta, Nitish, p 258
  22. ^ Sengupta, Subodh Chandra and Bose, Anjali, p 219
  23. ^ Sengupta, Nitish, p 242
  24. ^ Sengupta, Subodh Chandra and Bose, Anjali, p 225
  25. ^ Sengupta, Subodh Chandra and Bose, Anjali, pp 554-555
  26. ^ Sengupta, Subodh Chandra and Bose, Anjali, pp 184-185
  27. ^ Sengupta, Subodh Chandra and Bose, Anjali, pp 454-455.
  28. ^ Sengupta, Subodh Chandra and Bose, Anjali, pp 609-610.
  29. ^ Deb, Chitra, p
  30. ^ Sengupta, Subodh Chandra and Bose, Anjali, pp 124-125.
  31. ^ Mitra, Tapan, Art and Artists in Twentieth Century Calcutta, in "Calcutta, the Living City", Vol I, edited by Sukanta Chaudhuri, p 261-62, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-563696-1.
  32. ^ Jorasanko and the Thakur Family by Chitra Deb in Calcutta, the Living City, edited by Sukanta Chaudhuri, Vol I, page 66
  33. ^ Please see Life of Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1901)
  34. ^ Tagore, Abanindranath and Chanda, Rani, pp 72, 75-76.
  35. ^ visva-bharati

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