Rabindranath Tagore is one of India’s most cherished renaissance figures, who has put us on the literary map of the world. He was a poet’s poet and a maker of not only modern Indian literature but also the modern Indian mind. Tagore was myriad-minded and a great poet, short story writer, novelist, dramatist, essayist, painter, and composer of songs. His worldwide acclaim as a social, political, religious and aesthetic thinker, an innovator in education and a champion of the ‘One World’ idea makes him a living presence. Gandhi called him the ‘Great Sentinel’. He was also renowned as Gurudev.
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Tagore was born on May 6, 1861, in an affluent joint family at Jorasanko in Calcutta. His father Maharsi Debendranath Tagore was a religious reformer, scholar, and leader of Brahmo Samaj and his mother’s name was Sarada Devi. He was the youngest of the thirteen children. He had spent most of his childhood with servants since his mother had passed away when he was very young. His home was the hub of literary and theatrical activities. In 1883, Rabindranath Tagore married Mrinalini Devi Raichaudhuri. He had two sons and three daughters.
In his childhood, Tagore never liked the school education within the four walls. He liked the outside world; the open sky overhead and the earth under the feet. So, he was educated at home by private tutors who taught him various subjects. English was his least favourite subject. His father guided him with Upanishads. He extensively read the mystical and Vaishnav poets of India. From his early years, Rabindranath Tagore wrote poems. Some of his poems were published in periodicals when he was very young. He finished a long poem in Maithili style. His first short story in Bengali had the title, ‘Bhikharini’ (The Beggar Woman).
Tagore went to England for higher education but there also, he did not like the traditional system of education. He came back to India after a year. After he came back, he devoted himself completely to writing.
Before he turned 18 years old, he had published more than 6000 lines of verse along with prose. He became an active member of the Bengal Literary Academy and frequently contributed to many periodicals. Bengal was swinging of Renaissance in every field-religion, literature and politics when Rabindranath Tagore made his presence felt in the literary society.
He established a school named Shantiniketan at Bolpur (Birbhum district) in Bengal. In Shantiniketan, the teachers took classes under the trees with open sky overhead and green grass under the feet. The Gurukul pattern was followed in the school. Later, the school became a college and then a famous university under the name of “Visva-Bharati”. Today, students from different parts of the world come there to study.
Rabindranath Tagore wrote not only poems but also short stories, drama, novels and essays. He was awarded the world-famous Nobel prize for Literature for his famous book of poetry called ‘Gitanjali’ in 1913. The British Crown awarded him the Knighthood. However, he returned the award to mark the protest against the inhumane massacre in Jallianwala Bagh. Tagore has 2230 songs in his collection, which he composed and they are known as ‘Rabindra Sangeet’. Till today, the Bengalis sing his composed songs with pride. His famous novels like ‘Gora’, ‘Ghare-Baire’, ‘Noukadubi’, ‘Chokher Bali’ and many have been made into movies, which have won accolades worldwide.
Tagore also took up painting. He introduced a completely new form of art and his paintings were so exceptional that he won himself a very significant place among India’s famous contemporary artists.
Rabindranath Tagore was writing at a time when the entire country was thrown into the fever of freedom struggle and he plunged with deep passion into the struggle. He took part in the freedom movements by opening a Swadeshi shop selling only Indian goods and by rejecting foreign goods. He also composed many patriotic songs and articles especially during the painful partition of Bengal in 1905. Those songs inspired the youth of the country. He gave us the National Anthem: “Jana Gana Mana”. He had also composed the National anthem of Bangladesh: “Amar Sonar Bangla”. He also wrote the lyrics of Sri Lanka’s National Anthem.
Tagore died on August 7, 1941, at Calcutta leaving behind a legacy of world-class literature. He is one of the most influential Indian writers and so not only the nation but also the entire intellectual community of the world suffered an irreparable loss. The nation lost a great poet, philosopher, social reformer, mystic and a greater human being.
He was not only a representative of the nation but a wholesome product of Mother Earth, an amalgamation of Indian and modern values. Even though he is not among us, his presence can be felt through his vast works. His birthday is celebrated as Rabindra Jayanti in West Bengal. He will always be remembered as the source of inspiration of noble thoughts and great ideas for humanity.
Q1. When was Rabindranath Tagore Born and Who Were his Parents?
Ans. Rabindranath Tagore was born on 6th May 1861 to a very affluent Brahmin family to Maharsi Debendranath Tagore and Sarada Devi at Jorasanko in Calcutta. His father was a religious reformer, scholar and leader of Brahmo Samaj.
Q2. How did Tagore participate in the Movement for Freedom?
Ans. Tagore took part in the movement by opening a Swadeshi movement selling only India goods and rejecting foreign goods.
Q3. Mention a Few of his Contributions in the World of Literature.
Ans. Tagore wrote poems, short stories and novels. He had composed 2230 songs, which are collectively called Rabindra Sangeet. His few novels like Gora, Ghare-Baire, Noukadubi, Chokher Bali and many more have been developed into cinemas. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his poetry book, Gitanjali. He also composed our National Anthem – Jana Gana Mana. He also composed the National Anthem for Bangladesh and wrote the lyrics for the National Anthem for Sri Lanka.
Q4. What is Shantiniketan?
Ans. Shantiniketan is the school that he had established at Bolpur. He followed the Gurukul way of teaching in the open. It has now become a famous University called Vishwa- Bharati where students come to study from different parts of the world.