RABINDRANATH TAGORE: A WORLD HERITAGE
“All men have poetry in their hearts, and it is necessary for them, as much as possible, to express their feelings. For this, they must have a medium, moving and plaint, which can refreshingly become their own, age after age. All great languages undergo change. Those languages which resist the spirit of change are doomed and will never produce great harvests of thought and literature….. ”
These are the words of Rabindranath Tagore, the great Bengali poet, novelist and educator, who is still considered as a strong pillar of modern Indian literature. He was a creative genius, a remarkable person who combined East and West, and ancient and modern knowledge. Tagore was also an early advocate of Independence for India.
Rabindranath Tagore was born in Calcutta in the year 1861. His father, Maharishi Debenranath Tagore, belonged to a cultured and wealthy Brahmin family. He was one of the leaders of the Brahmo Samaj, which was a new religious section in the nineteenth century of Bengal. The Brahmo Samaj attempted a revival of the ultimate monistic basis of Hinduism as laid down in the Upanishads.
Rabindranath Tagore’s early life was spent in an atmosphere of religion and arts, principally literature, music and painting. In religion, his inspiration was derived from Vedas and the Upanishads. But gradually, his upnishadic monoism was diversified by the Vaishnava dualism.
Rabindranath lost his mother Sarada Devi, at a very young age. Being the youngest son, he was quite pampered by his father. Tagore’s family tried to combine traditional Indian culture with Western ideas. Rabindranath was brought up on three languages- Sanskrit, Bengali and English. He was educated at home by tutors.
In music, Tagore’s training was classical Indian. However, in his later life, when Tagore became a composer he rebelled against the tyranny of classical orthodoxy and introduced many variations of form and phrase, notably from Bengali folk music of the Baul and Bhatiyali type.
Tagore started to compose poems at the age of eight. The most formative influences on his young mind were those of the Sanskrit classics, the Vaishnava poets of Bengal, and the English romantics and post-romantics, most notably Shelley.
When he turned 17, his father sent him to England for formal education. At University College London, he studied law. But he did not like the weather. Hardly one year had passed when Tagore returned to India and instead, pursed a career as a writer, playwright, songwriter, poet, philosopher and educator.
Tagore’s first book, a collection of poems, appeared in 1878. It was published by one of his friends. Simultaneously, Tagore also managed the family estates, a project which brought him into close touch with common humanity and increased his interest in social reforms.
In 1883, Tagore married Mrinalini Devi Raichaudhari. Time passed and the couple had two sons and three daughters. In 1980, Tagore moved to East Bengal (now Bangladesh), where he collected local legends and folklore.
Between 1891 and 1895, he published 44 short stories in Bengali periodical, most of them in the monthly journal Sadhna. Between 1893 and 1900, he wrote seven volumes of poetry, including Sonar Tari, published in 1894 and Khanika published in 1900. This period was highly productive in Tagore’s career. More important was that, Tagore wrote in the common language of the people. This made him even more popular.
In 1901, Tagore founded a school at Shantiniketan as a protest against the existing bad system of education. It was an experimental school where he tried his Upanishadic ideals of education. The experiment was successful and the school later came to be known as “Vishva Bharati”. It was dedicated to emerging western and Indian philosophy and education. The school went on to become a university in 1921.
Meanwhile, Tagore’s pen continued to produce magic. He was the...