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Shri. Rabindranath Tagore

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Name- Rabindranath Tagore

DOB- 7 May 1861 Calcutta, British India

Father- Debendranath Tagore

Mother- Sarada Devi

Death- 7 August 1941 (aged 80) Calcutta, British India

 


 

Early Life and Education

Rabindranath Thakur (Tagore) was the youngest of the thirteen children born to Debendranath Tagore and Sarada Devi. His father was a great Hindu philosopher and one of the founders of the religious movement, ‘Brahmo Samaj’. Nicknamed ‘Rabi’, Tagore was very young when his mother died and since his father was away most of the time, he was raised by the domestic help. The Tagores were ardent art-lovers who were known throughout the Bengal for their dominant influence over Bengali culture and literature. Having been born in such a family, he was introduced to the world of theatre, music (both regional folk and Western) and literature from an early age.

When he was eleven, he accompanied his father on a tour across India. While on this journey, he read the works of famous writers, including Kalidasa, a celebrated Classical Sanskrit poet. Upon his return, he composed a long poem in the Maithili style, in 1877. In 1878, he moved to Brighton, East Sussex, England, to study law. He attended the University College London for some time, following which he started studying the works of Shakespeare. He returned to Bengal in 1880 without a degree, with the aspiration of fusing the elements of Bengali and European traditions in his literary works. In 1882, he wrote one of his most acclaimed poems, ‘Nirjharer Swapnabhanga’. Kadambari, one of his sisters-in-law, was his close friend and confidante, who committed suicide in 1884. Devastated by this incident, he skipped classes at school and spent most of his time swimming in the Ganges and trekking through the hills.

 

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Career

In 1890, while on a visit to his ancestral estate in Shelaidaha, his collection of poems, ‘Manasi’, was released. The period between 1891 and 1895 proved to be fruitful during which, he authored a massive three volume collection of short stories, ‘Galpaguchchha’. In 1901, he moved to Shantiniketan, where he composed ‘Naivedya’, published in 1901 and ‘Kheya’, published in 1906. By then, several of his works were published and he had gained immensely popularity among Bengali readers. In 1912, he went to England and took a sheaf of his translated works with him. There he introduced his works to some of the prominent writers of that era, including William Butler Yeats, Ezra Pound, Robert Bridges, Ernest Rhys, and Thomas Sturge Moore.

His popularity in English speaking nations grew manifold after the publication of ‘Gitanjali: Song Offerings’ and later in 1913, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. In 1915, he was also granted knighthood by the British Crown, which he renounced after the 1919 Jalianwala Bagh massacre. From May 1916 to April 1917, he stayed in Japan and the U.S. where he delivered lectures on ‘Nationalism’ and on Personality’. In 1920s and 1930s, he travelled extensively around the world; visiting Latin America, Europe and South-East Asia. During his extensive tours, he earned a cult following and endless admirers.

Tagore’s political outlook was a little ambiguous. Though he censured imperialism, he supported the continuation of British administration in India. He criticized ‘Swadeshi Movement’ by Mahatma Gandhi in his essay "The Cult of the Charka", published in September 1925. He believed in the co-existence of the British and the Indians and stated that British rule in India was "political symptom of our social disease". He never supported nationalism and considered it to be one of the greatest challenges faced by humanity. In this context he once said “A nation is that aspect which a whole population assumes when organized for a mechanical purpose”. Nevertheless, he occasionally supported the Indian Independence Movement and following the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, he even renounced his knighthood on 30 May 1919. On the whole, his vision of a free India was based not on its independence from the foreign rule, but on the liberty of thought, action and conscience of its citizens.

 

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Major Works

‘Gitanjali’, a collection of poems, is considered his best poetic accomplishment. It is written in traditional Bengali dialect and consists of 157 poems based on themes pertaining to nature, spirituality and intricacy of (human) emotions and pathos. A proficient songwriter, Tagore composed 2,230 songs, which are often referred to as ‘Rabindra Sangeeth’. He also wrote the national anthem for India - ‘Jana Gana Mana’- and for Bangladesh - ‘Aamaar Sonaar Banglaa’ for which, both nations will forever be indebted to him. ‘Galpagucchaccha’ a collection of eighty stories is his most famous short story collection which revolves around the lives of rural folks of Bengal. The stories mostly deal with the subjects of poverty, illiteracy, marriage, femininity, etc. and enjoy immense popularity even today.

 

Personal Life

Tagore married Mrinalini Devi in 1883 and fathered five children. Sadly, his wife passed away in 1902 and to add to his grief two of his daughters, Renuka (in 1903) and Samindranath (in 1907) also died.

 

Death

He became physically weak during the last few years of his life. He left for the heavenly abode on 7 August 1941, at age of 80.

 

Awards

Nobel Prize in Literature

 

Quotes

Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.

I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.

 

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