Who was Rabindranath Tagore?
Rabindranath Tagore was born on May 7, 1861 in Calcutta India. He was a Bengali poet who won the Noble Prize in 1913. He was one of the most influential persons of that time, and even until this day, in introducing to western culture the best of Indian culture, and vice versa. (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1988). That is part of the purpose of this book, in addition to giving young people of India an opportunity to learn about their own cultural heritage.
Tagore was born into a large, extended family, he was the youngest of 13 surviving children, and his father sent him to England to study, with the desire for him to become a barrister. However, Tagore’s interests lay in writing and the arts, and gradually he was able to devote himself in that capacity when returning to India, in addition to caring for his family’s estates, which are in a region, once part of India, that is now a part of Bangladesh. Both Bengal state in India, of which what was once Calcutta, now renamed Kolkotta, and the country of Bangladesh speak the language Bengali, one of several India Sanskrit based languages, and a major language among the 23 languages recognized by the State of India today. Tagore wrote his works in Bengali, and they were later translated by himself or others into English. However, it is said that the English does not capture the full flavor of Tagore’s beautiful poetic works. The Bengali language has been described as “sweet flowing waters,” by one (non-Bengali) Indian man, and to this day Bengalis have a fondness and affinity to poetry.
In 1890 Tagore wrote Manast, a collection of poems that contains some of his best known poetry. The book has innovations in Bengali forms of poetry, as well as Tagore’s first social and political poems. He published several books of poetry while in his 20’s.
When he moved to his father’s estate in 1891, he lived with poor and humble people, and his heart was moved. Much of his later writing reflected that sentiment and theme.
His wife and daughter both died, between 1902 and 1907, and this sadness was reflected in and inspired some of what became his best poetry. The English version of his well known collection Gitanjali (1910, “Song Offering”) is what brought him the Nobel Prize in 1913. He was knighted in 1915 (by the British), but he surrendered it in 1919 as a protest against the Amritsar Massacre.
Twenty-one collections of his writings appeared in the last 25 years of his life. He lectured in Europe, the Americas, China, Japan, Malaya, and Indonesia. While traveling and lecturing, he introduced the west to Indian culture.
Tagore also wrote novels, essays, articles, plays, and was a gifted composer and singer, he was one of India’s most foremost artists painters. In 1901 Tagore founded a school at Santiniketan, near Bolpur, where he sought to blend the best in the Indian and Western traditions. In 1921 the school became the Visva-Bharati University, which endures until today. Two songs from Tagore are now the national anthems of Bangladesh and India: theAmar Shonar Bangla and theJane Gang Mana respectively.
Tagore’s style is described in terms of “rhythmic lyricism, colloquial language, meditative naturalism, and philosophical contemplation.” Tagore is also described as a “cultural reformer” and polymath who “modernised Bengali art by rejecting strictures binding it to classical Indian forms.” Tagore’s later studies in science, particularly biology, physics, and astronomy, impacted his later poetry.
Tagore’s poetry certainly was influenced by the Hindu epic poems of the Upanishads and other works, however, his exposure to the rural Bengal folk music had an impact on his poetry and other work as time progressed.
Tagore became ill in 1937 and remained in a comatose state and near death for an “extended period”. He recovered, wrote poetry that was marked with a preoccupation of death, and he finally died in 1941 at the age of eighty.
About the Author
John Scott is an educator in Newark, NJ, and works in Newark public schools. He is 46 and his certficate is in Early Childhood. Mr. Scott writes poetry between classes, collects poetry from students and encourages poetry as a healthy creative outlet for children and teens. He has two books, Dawn of a New Discovery, which features both original poems and collected historical and modern poems, as well as a how-to section and poets biographies. The second book is Bengali Flower, which is a collection of poems from Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel prize winning poet from the early 1900′s and contemporary with Mahatma Gandhi. Bengali Flower comes in two version, one with scripture, psalms and proverbs, and the other without. Both have background pages on Tagore, India and Kolkota (Calcutta), as well as a section on the Bengali language.
Dawn of a New Discovery, 384 pages
Bengali Flower, 144 pages
Bengali Flower with Psalms, Proverbs and Scripture, 144 pages
All three books are also available on Amazon.com