Rabindranath Tagore: 25 lesser known facts.

Rabindranath Tagore: 25 lesser known facts.

As Indians, we are all familiar with our National anthem, “Jana Gana Mana.” We sing it during flag-hoisting events; while commemorating the greatest freedom fighters of India; and as a pre-movie ritual in most theaters. The song in the assembly has united faculty, staff, and students. The song in sports events expressed the nation’s pride. The song before the Indian flag roused thousands of people to fight and sacrifice for the country and continue to do so. The song is a spark in the hearts of Indians that symbolizes loyalty and respect towards the nation.

Rabindranath Tagore wrote the Indian National Anthem, “Jana Gana Mana.” It was adopted from “Bharoto Bhagyo Bidhata,” a Bengali poem by Rabindranath Tagore. The song unites multicultural India with its patriotism-filled lyrics and expression of the nation’s “Unity in diversity” identity. Throughout his life, Rabindranath Tagore actively inspired crores of Indians with his songs, poems, and playwrights in achieving India’s united freedom. Today, we Indians are blessed with the writings of Rabindranath Tagore. Indians celebrate national and patriotic events with Tagore’s “Jana Gana Mana.” May 7, 2024 marks the 163rd birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore. So, let’s celebrate Rabindranath Tagore’s birthday by learning more about him and his contributions to Indian cultural history.

Rabindranath Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore

Interesting facts about Rabindranath Tagore

  1. Rabindranath Tagore wrote the “Bharoto Bhagyo Bidhata” song during the protests against the partition of Bengal by the British in 1905. But in 1911, Tagore first sang the song in a session held by the Indian National Congress in Calcutta. Later, a translated version of the song, “Jana Gana Mana,” was made the National Anthem of India.
  2. Tagore was born on seven May 1861, in Kolkata. At home, his nickname was “Rabi”. He is popularly known as “the Bard of Bengal ” and is also addressed as Gurudeb, Kobiguru, or Biswakabi.
  3. Rabindranath Tagore’s father was Debendranath Tagore, who played a significant role in influencing the Bengali Renaissance. Similarly, Rabindranath Tagore played a crucial role in shaping and transcending Bengali Art, Literature, Music, and Theatre for future generations.
  4. Rabindranath Tagore grew up in a joint family, with as many as 200 Tagores living in a vast complex known as Jorasanko in northern Calcutta. Tagore has around 11 siblings who were writers, musicians, and philosophers.
  5. Bengal’s first female novelist was Tagore’s own sister, Swarnakumari Devi. Tagore’s elder brother, Satyendranath Tagore, was the first Indian to be in the formerly all-European ICS(Indian Civil Service).
  6. Coming from a family of accomplished individuals, Tagore started writing poetry at the age of 8 years. He was mainly taught at home by tutors of high intellect.
  7. At 11, Tagore’s father took him on a trip to the Himalayas and taught him Mathematics, Sanskrit, and ancient religious texts.
  8. Tagore suffered from Protanopia, a condition that causes partial color deficiency.
  9. Tagore was 14 years old when he did his first public poetry recitation at a Bengali cultural and nationalistic festival organized by his brothers. His poem on the greatness of India’s past, expressing sorrow at its present state under British rule, was acclaimed.
  10. At 16, Tagore embarked on a literary adventure and composed 22 padavalees. This composition came to be known as “Bhanusimha Thakurer Padavalee,” which he published under his pseudonym – Bhanusimha, meaning Sun Lion.
  11. Tagore’s father wanted him to become a lawyer. So he briefly studied law at the University College London before leaving it to study Shakespeare’s plays. Finally, he returned to India without earning any college degrees in 1880.
  12. Tagore was a multifaceted individual. In addition to being a writer, Tagore was a painter, a composer, a social reformer, a dramatist, a novelist, a philosopher, and an educationist.
  13. He wrote around 2000 songs popularly known as Rabindra Sangeet, most of which are inspired by his experiences traveling the world.
  14. Some of his notable works in Bengali are:
    • Original Poetry: Sonar Tari(The Golden Boat),1894; Gitimalya(Wreath of Songs),1914
    • Original Dramas: Valmiki Pratibha(The Genius of Valmiki),1881; Chitrangada(Chitra),1892; Raja(The King of the Dark Chamber),1910
    • Plays: Jeevan Smriti(My Reminiscences),1912
  15. In addition to the National Anthem of India, he wrote “Amar Sonar Bangla,” the national anthem of Bangladesh. He also inspired the Sri Lankan national anthem, “Sri Lanka Matha,” written by Ananda Samarakoon, a Tagore’s disciple.
  16. He was the first non-European, the first Asian, and the only Indian to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913. He received the Nobel prize for “Song Offerings,” an English version of his book Gitanjali(1910), a collection of Bengali poems.
  17. Someone unknown stole Tagore’s Nobel prize from a safety vault at Visva-Bharati University, where it was stored. After this incident, the Swedish Academy presented two replicas of the award, one of gold and the other of bronze, to the University.
  18. Rabindranath Tagore used his Nobel Prize money to set up a school, Visva-Bharati, in Shantiniketan – a unique neighborhood built by Tagore’s father. This school was the first of the co-ed systems in that period. It followed a novel education system, completely different from the education system prevailing in those times. He also founded Visva-Bharati University there.
  19. In 1915, Tagore was bestowed with the honor of knighthood by King George V of England. However, in 1919, he disclaimed the knighthood in protest against the Jallianwala Bagh massacre that killed 379 peaceful and unarmed demonstrators in Amritsar, India, by the British troops under the command of General Dyer.
  20. Einstein, a world-renowned physicist who received the Nobel Prize in Physics, and Rabindranath Tagore had one of the most talked about discourses and debates across the world in those times, which was a face-off between spirituality and science. Though both have opposing beliefs, they discussed god, humanity, science, truth, and beauty. This conversation was later transcribed under “Note on the Nature of Reality” and is available online.
  21. Tagore has visited over 30 countries and five continents. He introduced Bengali culture to foreign lands and tried to induce the positive aspects of his visits to his motherland. In honor of his visits, the foreign governments there pledged thousands of dollars to Vishwa Bharati University.
  22. In Tagore’s lifetime, he met many luminaries of that time, such as George Bernard Shaw, an Irish playwright; Robert Lee Frost, a poet; Ananda K Coomaraswamy, a metaphysician; Romain Rolland, a French novelist; Thomas Mann, a German essayist; Uday Shankar, one of the excellent classical dancers of India.
  23. Rabindranath Tagore immensely supported Gandhi’s ideology of independent India. Tagore was the first to call Gandhi “Mahatma.” Since then, it has become Gandhi’s identity.
  24. The original surname of Rabindranath Tagore was Kushari, as biographer Shri Prabhat Kumar Mukherjee mentioned in his book “Rabindrajibani O Rabindra Sahitya Prabeshika.”
  25. Today, there are eight museums dedicated to Rabindranath Tagore, with three in India and five in Bangladesh. Museums in India are:
    • Rabindra Bharati Museum at his ancestral home in Jorasanko Thakur Bari, Kolkata.
    • Rabindra Bhavan Museum, at the Vishwa-Bharti University, Shantiniketan.
    • Rabindra Museum, at a house he once stayed in Mungpoo, near Kalimpong.

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Rabindranath Tagore’s birth anniversary, also known as Rabindra Jayanti, falls on May 7 and is celebrated yearly by his followers worldwide. According to the Bengali calendar, his birthday is on the 25th day of the Bengali month, Boishakh. On Tagore’s birth anniversary, various cultural events and Rabindra Sangeet gatherings are organized every year to commemorate his works. The day calls for special celebrations at Shantiniketan and Visva-Bharati University. In 2011, to mark the 150th Rabindranath Tagore birth anniversary, the Indian government introduced a five-rupee coin. Rabindranath Tagore is an artist and philosopher who pictured nationalism as transcending culture beyond boundaries. His work continues to inspire and encourage upcoming artists and young leaders.

Suggested Books of Rabindranath Tagore

“Don’t limit a child to your own learning for he was born in another time.” – Rabindranath Tagore

It is popularly suggested that Tagore’s poems and short stories inspire young artists in bringing their imagination to life through various forms of paintings, writings, and compositions. Here are a few recommendations of Tagore’s books for young kids:

  1. “Kabuliwala” consists of simple language and humor with a pinch of reality, making it a classic read, especially for children.
  2. Since kids love moons and stars, “The Astronomer” is about them through dialogues between two siblings.
  3. “Clouds and Waves” is a heart-rending poem reflecting a child’s love for his mother.

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