“You cannot cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.” –Tagore
We know him as Poet and Nobel Prize Winner, but he is more, the composer of Two National Anthems:
‘Jana Gana Mana for India’
‘Amar Shonar Bangla for Bangladesh’
These were just a few of his achievements; he was a prominent educator and philosopher. Let us learn more about Rabindranath Tagore.
Born & Education:
Rabindranath Tagore was born on 7 May 1861 in a Bengali Brahmin family to Debendranath Tagore and his wife, Sarada Devi.
As a child, Tagore was not fond of classroom education, so he was educated at home. At the age of seventeen, Tagore was sent to England to be a barrister/lawyer, but it was a brief period, he left soon after, without finishing his degree.
Instead of law, Tagore was fascinated and interested in studying Shakespeare, Religio, Medici and Antony, and Cleopatra.
In 1880, Tagore returned to India with an intention to merge European novelty with Brahmo tradition – absorbing the best from both. Tagore married Mrinalini Devi in 1883, and together they had five children, two of whom died in childhood.
The Tagore family was responsible for the founding of the Brahmo Samaj and the Adi Dharam faith. As a previous rule, only Brahmins were allowed to the pulpit. Tagore eased that norm and people from other castes were permitted as well.
Works and Achievements:
Rabindranath Tagore’s writing is deeply rooted in both Indian and Western learning traditions. Apart from fiction in the form of poetry, songs, stories, and dramas, it also includes descriptions of ordinary people’s lives, literary critique, philosophy, and social concerns.
- In 1890, Tagore published his first collection of poems titled “Manasi,” one of his finest works.
- Tagore is mainly known for his short stories, which dealt with the trials of and the challenges faced by ordinary people.
- Tagore also composed over 2,000 songs, which are known as Rabindra Sangeet.
- Tagore was disturbed by the wide gap between rural and urban India. And how rural people were facing challenges like hunger, liability, ill-health, and lack of necessary foundations like education, healthcare, and others.
- In 1901 Tagore moved to Santiniketan to found an ashram which would serve as a school, complete with gardens and a library. Today Santiniketan (in keeping with Tagore’s vision) is a famous university town.
- Tagore also shared a special relationship with Mahatma Gandhi, as they were both prominent thinkers of the 20th century.
- Both men had lengthy discussions on topics like truth, freedom, democracy, education, and the future of humanity as India struggled to gain independence from colonial rule.
- As a novelist, Tagore contributed significantly to the landscape of Bengali fiction, and some of Tagore’s most prominent novels are;
Ghare Baire (The Home and the World),
Gora (The Fair One),
Chokher Bali (Sand in the Eye)
Shesher Kabita (The Last Poem)
- Tagore won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913 for his collection of poems titled Gitanjali (An Offering of Songs) and was the first non-European to earn this honor.
- In 1915 the British Government granted Tagore a knighthood, which he surrendered in 1919 after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
- Tagore once, while delivering a lecture at the Oxford University, he spoke of the importance of India’s religious ideals, while quoting from ancient texts and popular poetry, both.
Tagore’s focus always remained on reasoning and discarding backward thinking.
Tagore passed away on 7 August 1941. He was 80 at that time. Most of Tagore’s work has been translated into English and other foreign languages and enjoyed across India and the world.
Tagore will always be remembered, not only in India but across the world. As the man who penned mesmerizing poetry and was someone who introduced India to the West, while also introducing India with Western thinking and ideals and explaining the beauty of Indian Culture and religion.