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Rabindranath Tagore Biography

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Last updated date: 19th Jul 2024
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Rabindranath Thakur was a man of various talents. He was recognized by people all over the globe for his literary works - poetry, philosophies, plays, and especially his songwriting. Rabindranath Tagore was the man who gave India, its National Anthem. He was one of the greatest entities of all time and the only Indian to receive a Nobel Prize.

Rabindranath Tagore was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1913, becoming the first non-European to receive the honour. He was only sixteen years old when he was to publish his first short story called “Bhanisimha”, was published. Rabindranath Tagore was born on the 07th of May, 1861 in Kolkata. Rabindranath Tagore was the son of Debendranath Tagore, one of Brahmo Samaj’s active members, a known and celebrated philosopher, and literate. R.N Tagore died after a prolonged illness on the 07th of August, 1941.

Rabindranath Tagore Childhood and Education

While growing up, R.N Tagore shared a very intimate relationship with his elder brother and his sister-in-law. Rabindranath Tagore's father's name is Debendranath Tagore, and his mother’s name is Sarada Devi. Rabindranath Tagore's birthday is on the 7th of May, 1861, and he was born in Calcutta, Bengal Presidency then. It is believed that they did everything together. Rabindranath Tagore's education didn’t seem too impressive. 

R.N Tagore did not enjoy schooling, and he was mostly found procrastinating and pondering for hours. He went to one of the most prestigious St. Xavier’s School, and later, he went to the University of London in Bridgton, England, to study law and become a barrister. Still, as we know, he did not enjoy schooling much; he returned home in two years but without a degree. Even though he did not enjoy schooling much, he was always found with books, pen, and ink. He would always be scribbling things in his notebook; however, he was shy to reveal his writings.

Growing Years and Career

R.N Tagore was only eight years old when he first wrote a poem. By the age of sixteen, his short story got published, titled “Bhanusimha”. R.N Tagore’s contribution to literature is beyond any measure. He was the one who had introduced new verses and prose and also lingua franca in his mother tongue, which is Bangla. R.N Tagore after returning to India after leaving his education, but he did not leave literature. 

R.N Tagore published several books of Rabindranath Tagore poems and short stories, plays, and songs. His most renowned work, called “Gitanjali”, was very well received all over India and England. He is the author of two National Anthems, which are “Amar Sonar Bangla” for Bangladesh and  “Jana Gana Mana” for India. He worked with very unfamiliar and different styles in Bangla Language. Some of them are heavily immersed in social and political satire. He was one of those who believed in global peace and equality. He is one of the pioneers of contemporary Bengali literature. 

After returning to India, he completed and published his book of poems called “Manasi” which was believed to contain his best poems. “Manasi” contained several verse forms which were fresh to contemporary Bengali literature, and it also contained some political and social satire that questioned and mocked R.N Tagore’s fellow Bengalis. 

Besides writing and working on literature, R.N Tagore also participated in the family business. In 1891, he went to East Bengal, which is now in Bangladesh, to look after his ancestral estates and lands at Shahzadpur and Shilaidaha for almost 10 years. He spent some time in a houseboat at Padma river, and his sympathy for village folk became the keynote of most literature later in his life. In East India, poems and other works of Rabindranath Tagore were published as a collection in the book called “Sonar Tari” and a very notable and celebrated play called “Chitrangada”. He has written over two thousand songs which are very popular in Bengal until now. When R.N Tagore was in his 60s, he tried his hand at painting, and for the talented man he was, his works won him a good name among India’s topmost contemporary artists.

Rabindranath Tagore and Shantiniketan

Rabindranath Tagore received his nickname “Gurudev”, out of respect by his pupils at his very unique and special school, which he established in Shantiniketan, called “Visva Bharati University” Santiniketan was developed and founded by the Tagore family. This little town was very close to Rabindranath Tagore. 

R.N Tagore wrote several poems and songs about this place. Unlike other universities, “Visva Bharati” University was open to each student who was eager to learn. The classrooms and the scope for learning in this university were not confined within four walls. Instead, classes took place in open space, beneath the massive banyan trees on the university grounds. To this date, this ritual of attending classes in open spaces is practiced by the students and the teachers. R.N Tagore permanently moved to the school after.

Rabindranath Tagore Death and His Encounters with Death

R.N Tagore was only fourteen years old when Sharada Devi, his mother, passed away. After his mother's sudden and heartbreaking demise, R.N Tagore was mostly seen avoiding classrooms and schooling. Instead, he would roam about his town Bolpur. He had to face the death of several of his loved ones, that too, one after the other, which left him devastated and heartbroken. After his mother, R.N Tagore lost a very close friend and a very significant influence, Kadambari Devi, his sister-in-law. It is presumed that R.N Tagore’s novella called “Nastanirh” was about Kadambari Devi.

It is also believed that she had committed suicide four months after R.N Tagore’s marriage to Mrinalini Devi. There are some serious speculations made about R.N Tagore, and his sister-in-law sharing a very intimate relationship and that maybe the two were in love; however, there has been no confirmation on the same. Later, his wife, Mrinalini Devi, too died due to an illness. He lost his two daughters, Madhurilata, who R.N Tagore adored and was fond of the most due to tuberculosis, and Renuka and his son Shamindranath due to cholera. These deaths shook him to the core, but he never failed to pick up his pen again. Even though all these encounters with death gave him shaping his personality and writing style, he kept longing for a companion who shares the same interests as he does. 

Life was a little less cruel to him at this point. When he found that companion, he had been longing for - his niece Indira Devi, who was highly educated and well-read. R.N Tagore wrote to her about some sensitive details about his life. These letters to Indira Devi witnessed the sheer vulnerability of his emotional state, sensibilities, and experiences. Since Indira Devi had copied all his letters in a notebook; it eventually got published. “Chinnapatra” can give one a glimpse of Tagore’s growth as a human and as an artist. Grief had been a constant part of R.N Tagore’s life, which is often reflected in his literary works; after losing Rabindranath Tagore's wife and daughters, he lost his father too. These years of sadness and sorrow, which were very actively reflected in his literary works, were introduced as “Gitanjali” which won him the Nobel Prize.

Rabindranath Tagore and His Nationalism

R.N Tagore was politically very aware and very critical at the same time, he not only criticized the British Raj, but he was also very vocal about the mistakes his fellow Bengalis and Indians made. These were reflected in the socio-political satires he wrote and published. When R.N Tagore had been awarded a knighthood, as a sign of protest against the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, he repudiated the award. Recognition, fame, money nothing mattered to him when it came to his country. He loved his country, the lands, rivers, and the people of his country very much. 

It is thus quite right to say that Tagore opposed European colonialism and supported Indian nationalists. He also shunned the Swadeshi Movement and urged Indians to accept that education is the way forward. A blind revolution will only lead to the loss of lives and unwanted and unnecessary loss of life.

Rabindranath Tagore and His Love For Literature, Art, and Music

Some of the most renowned works of Tagore which are highly recommended works of literature are “Noukadubi'', “Shesher Kobita”, “Chaturanga”, “Gora”, “Char Adhyay”, “Jogajog”, “Ghare Baire”. “Ghare Baire'' was also produced as a film by another precious talent Satyajit Ray. His novels were very underappreciated in his time but gained a lot of respect after film directors like Tapan Sinha, Tarun Majumdar and of course, Satyajit Ray adapted and made feature films based on his novels. In popular culture, even his songs, poems and novels are employed in Movies and as background scores. The genre of the songs by Rabindranath Tagore are known as “Rabindra Sangeet'' and movies have been adapted and made out of his novels “Noukadubi” and “Chokher Bali”. It is highly recommended to read “Gitanjali'' to appreciate Tagore's poetic style and to appreciate some very heartfelt and moving songs that he wrote, it is recommended to listen to “Tobu Mone Rekho”. 

In addition to all this, Rabindranath Tagore was a commendable artist and musician too. His paintings are celebrated both nationally and internationally and have received wide acclaim. His songs are considered to be at the heart of Bengal culture and his compilations are fondly termed Rabindra Sangeet. These songs elaborate on themes of love, worship, devotion, and so on. RN Tagore started painting at the age of 60. His brilliant artwork is displayed to this day in several museums globally.

Rabindranath Tagore And His Last Days

Rabindranath Tagore died in the place he loved the most. However, the last few years of his life were quite painful.  He was affected by chronic illness during the last 4 years of his life. In 1937, he went into a comatose condition due to this prolonged suffering he was enduring. On August 7th in 1941, this great novelist, poet, musician, and painter passed away quietly in the same Jorasanko mansion in which he was brought up.


Here is everything students should know about Rabindranath Tagore, his life, his works and his achievements in life.

FAQs on Rabindranath Tagore Biography

1. What are the Famous Books Written by Rabindranath Tagore?

We all know that Rabindranath Tagore took a keen liking to write from a young age. Although he was frequently seen skipping school, you could always find him scribbling something in his notebook. This paved the way for a great future novelist who even received the Nobel Prize for Literature. His works talked about nationalism, social evils, and the need for harmony between Indians. Gitanjali is RN Tagore’s most acclaimed work. It has received critical praise internationally and is loved by all literary aficionados. Here are some famous books are written by Rabindranath Tagore: 

  • Gitanjali

  • The Home and the world

  • Gora

  • Kabuliwala

  • The Post Office

2. Why is Rabindranath Tagore so Famous?

Rabindranath Tagore is famous for the Nobel Prize Award for literature and he was the first Indian to achieve such huge respect and honour. He had many talents apart from writing great poems. It should be noted that RN Tagore’s popularity in English speaking nations grew in leaps and bounds after the publication of his book Gitanjali. Later in 1913, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for this critically acclaimed book. Another huge factor contributing to Tagore’s growing popularity was the renunciation of his knighthood. He did not accept this honour conferred by the British crown on him in protest against the Jalianwala Bagh massacre. This great poet also toured extensively around Japan and the U.S., where he talked about the importance of nationalism. This helped him earn deep admiration and respect from foreigners all over the world.

3. Why Did Rabindranath Tagore Receive the Nobel Prize for Literature?

The Nobel Prize award was awarded to Rabindranath Tagore in the year 1913 because of his sensitive, impeccable, fresh, unique, and beautiful verse. He expressed his poetic thoughts in his own words that are mostly followed in the West. Rabindranath Tagore is considered responsible for the modernization of Bengali literature. He preserved the cultural heritage of this beautiful language all while breathing some new life into it. Gitanjali is a collection of song offerings that have been penned down by this legendary novelist and poet. It was this book that won him the revered Nobel Prize in Literature. In total, there were 157 poems in that book that touched upon various themes such as devotion, nationalism, worship, etc.

4. What was Tagore’s Stint as an Actor?

We all know that Rabindranath Tagore is famous for writing many dramas that have derived inspiration from Indian mythology and contemporary social issues facing society in those days. He began his drama career writing alongside his brother when he was only a young teenager. At 20 years of age, RN Tagore penned a drama named ‘Valmiki Pratibha’ and also played the lead role of the titular character in it. The drama was based on stories about the legendary dacoit named Valmiki. It is Valmiki who later changed his ways and wrote one of the two greatest Indian epics – Ramayana. This was Tagore’s short stint as an actor.

5. Did RN Tagore Receive a Formal Education?

Rabindranath Tagore’s family always wished that he became a barrister. They sent him to elite schools and universities, in the hopes that he would pursue a career in law. However, young Rabindranath always shied away from rote learning and spent most of his time scribbling down ideas in his notebook. RN Tagore was also enrolled in the University College in London but he dropped out without completing his formal education. However, his love for English, Irish, and Scottish literature soon helped him morph into the much revered and loved novelist he is known as today.