Rabindranath Tagore, India's great humanist
Rabindranath Tagore (1861 – 1914) was a great Indian poet and a
philosopher. He wrote novels, essays, plays and poetic work in
colloquial Bengali. His best known work was Gitanjali (1912) a
masterpiece classic, a valuable volume of spiritual poetry.
Tagore was the first Asian writer to receive the prestigious Nobel
Prize. It is an award given each year for outstanding contribution in
the field of physics, chemistry, physiology, medicine, literature,
economics and world peace. The prize is awarded annually on December 10
by the committees based in Sweden and Norway.
Rabindranath Tagore was born on May 27, 1861 in Kolkata, Bengal. Much
of the Bengal lies in the deltas of the Ganges, the venerated holy river
and the Brahmaputra rivers.
Conquered by the British in 1757, Bengal became the centre of British
India with Kolkata as the capital.
Rabindranath belonged to a highly respectable family of artists and
philosophers in Kolkata. It is said That Rabindranath, Gogendranath,
Dwingendranath believed in Adidharma. They were residents close to the
beautiful River Ganges. The environment was serene and pleasant. It was
an ideal setting for poets, artists, philosophers and creative writers.
It was the normal practice of the aristocracy, royal and rich men in
India to proceed to England for their further education. Rabindranath
Tagore too proceeded to England for studies. He joined Brighton College
and followed a law degree at the University of London.
From his young age, Rabindranath had a liking to serve his
motherland. He returned to India spending only a few years in England
without completing his Law degree.
Rabindranath Tagore was so proud of his country that he once said,
“To know my country, one has to travel to that age, when she realised
her soul and thus transcend her physical boundaries, when she revealed
her being in a radiant magnanimity which illumined the eastern horizon.”
His sentimental, poetic and dramatic language is brilliant and
fantastic. Only a peerless poetic genius such as Rabindranath Tagore is
bestowed with such dramatic language.
Rabindranath, a nature lover lived all alone in a tiny Bengali
village, on the beautiful banks of the Ganges in a boat-house Day and
night he hear the murmur of the Ganges water flowing. He was fascinated
by the environment on moonlit nights. It an ideal setting for poets and
Rabindranath was not only a poet and philosopher, but was also a
great educationist. The focal point of Indian culture Santineketan was
his brainchild. He was a tower of inspiration to children. He founded
another educational institute, Visva Bharati. During his visits to
Ceylon, he laid the foundation stone for Sri Palee, Horana. He visited
Ananda Vidyalaya, Colombo and Mahinda Vidyalaya, Galle too. Further, he
maintained a cordial relationship with China. He was a fine human being
who loved nature, children and humanity.
He loved the company of children. Once he remarked I am their
playmate and I am the biggest child among them. I love them. The little
children are simply innocent. Another great contribution to mother India
was that he helped to bring into harmony the ideals of East and West and
broadened the foundation of Indian nchonalism. Undoubtedly, Rabindranath
Tagore was India's internationalist par excellence.
He worked for international cooperation spreading India's message to
other countries. The greatness of Rabindranath Tagore was that he always
planted his feet firmly on the Indian soil. He was proud to be an
His mind has been saturated with the wisdom of Upanishads from early
days. It was a great influence for him.
Many Hindus look upon the Vedas as revealed in the scriptures. The
Vedas were a collection of existing knowledge of the day, a jumble of
many things; hymns, prayers, rituals for sacrifice, magic, magnificent
nature and poetry. In a background like this, gradually the conception
of god grew. There are Olympian type of gods and then monotheism and
later the conception of monism took place.
The developments were taking for many years. When we reach the end of
Veda – the Vedant (Anta – meaning end), the philosophy of Upanishads
sprang up. In Sanskrit, “Upanishads means session. It is the text of
Hinduism, constituting the final stage of Vedic litrature. Written in
prose and verse, they take the form of dialogues between teacher and
pupil. They are of uncertain authorship and date from 650 BC or even
Tagore was greatly influenced by the Upanishads. He was an avid
reader, a thinker, creative writer, poet and a man full of compassion.
The Tagore family had played a leading role in various reform
movements in Bengal during the 19th century. They were men of spiritual
stature, fine writers and artists in India but Rabindranath Tagore,
towered above all of them. He was like Mount Everest, in the Himalayas
as a literary giant and philosopher.
All over India, his position gradually became one of the unchallenged
domination and supremacy. Rabindranath Tagore's life of creative
activity covered two generations. Tagore was never a politician. But, he
was committed to the freedom of the Indian people. His writings
motivated the Indians in the struggle for Independence.
Rabindranath Tagore played a prominent role in the Swadeshi Movement,
Undoubtedly, he was a great national patriot. When Britishers, offered a
knighthood, he did not accept it due to the massacre of Amristar by the
As a protest, Tagore, refused the honour con on him. He was a great
man of principles. He was a man who always put country before self.
The environment he lived was pleasing. On one side he could hear the
rythmic flow of the Ganges covered with trees and beautiful flowers. The
place was an ideal place for a poet or philosopher, peaceful background.
Rabindranath was involved in many artistic creations. The pleasing
environment motivated him to continue beautiful poetry.
Tagore's Gitanjali was one of the greatest classics. The song
offerings – Gitanjali, was assessed and considered worthy of a Nobel
W.B. Yeats writing the introduction to Rabindranath Tagore's
Gitanjali said, “reading a line from Gitanjali everyday, one would
forget all troubles in the world at least for a moment.”
Rabindranath Tagore's poetic language is really enchanting. Gitanjali
consists of 108 poems. They are very fascinating. In one poem Tagore in
his inimitable style wrote the beautiful verse:
All the stars shone in their first splendour,
The Gods held their Assembly in the sky,
And sang “Oh” the picture of perfection the joy unalloyed,
Suddenly they realised that one of the stars had been lost,
They cried in dismay,
Yes, that lost star was the best.
Some of Tagore's poems give some sort of religious fervour, relative
to God. He firmly believed that God is not in a “Dark room” covered with
a curtain. He believed that God is in the field where a farmer is
tilling or shedding sweat or where a labourer is breaking stones. Tagore
values the dignity of labour and he thinks that God reigns there. God is
with them in sun and rain.
As he grew older, Tagore became more a radical in his outlook. He
became a great humanist. Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi have been two
outstanding and dominant personalities in the first half of the 20th
century. Tagore, represented the cultural tradition of India.