Rabindranath Tagore’s skills cannot be summed up in a few words. He was an excellent polymath with an interest in art and literature. Tagore worked as a poet, writer, composer, philosopher, social writer, and reformer. He worked towards reshaping Bengali and Hindi literature and music.
Rabindranath Tagore was born on 7th May 1861 in Calcutta. He was the first Indian to win Nobel Prize in Literature for his poetry Gitanjali. His poetry was considered musical, but unfortunately, it remained largely unknown outside Bengal. Tagore was referred to as the Bard of Bengal. He was popularly known as Gurudev and was a fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society.
Rabindranath Tagore was born in a Bengali Brahmin family in the Jorasanko Mansion. His family was among the most reputable families in Bengal. Tagore spent most of his childhood with his house help. His mother had died in his early childhood, and his father used to travel around the world. Tagore did not like attending school and usually avoided classroom teaching; instead, he preferred roaming in the nearby areas. He used to spend his days exploring the lanes of Bolpur and Panihati. He was encouraged to participate in outdoor activities by his brother. One of his brothers made him learn swimming, trekking, gymnastics, and wrestling.
Rabindranath Tagore’s father wanted to make him a barrister. Therefore, he enrolled Tagore in Brighton, East Sussex, England in 1878. Tagore joined the University College London and pursued law for a brief period. However, he left his studies to pursue independent study of Shakespeare’s plays. He was greatly influenced by the folk tunes of England and Scotland. After spending a few years in England, Tagore returned to India in 1880. After returning to Bengal, he used to write plays, poems, and novels. His writings had a profound impact on the people of Bengal; however, his literary works could not get large-scale recognition.
In 1901, Rabindranath Tagore moved to Shantiniketan. He found an ashram there and named it The Mandir, which became an experimental school for Tagore. Tagore’s wife and two children died in Shantiniketan in an unfortunate event. Moreover, he also had to go through his father's demise in 1905.
In 1913, Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel Prize in Literature in November. He was appreciated for his poetry Gitanjali. In addition, he was awarded a knighthood by King George V on his birthday. However, Tagore renounced this honor after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
Interesting Facts on Rabindranath Tagore
- Rabindranath Tagore was the first non-European to win a Nobel Prize in Literature.
- He inspired the creation of three national anthems. The national anthem of Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and India was created by him.
- Rabindranath Tagore used the Nobel prize money for the construction of a school. He named the school “Visva Bharti.” The school ran in Shantiniketan and gave the nation many distinguished personalities like Amartya Sen and Satyajit Ray.
- The greatest work of Tagore, Gitanjali, was not entirely written by him. The preface of his most acclaimed work was written by another greatest poet of the 20th century, W.B. Yeats.
- Tagore was red-green color blind, but he devoted most of his time to creating artworks. His strange color schemes and off-beat aesthetics made people realize that he was color blind.
- Tagore’s Nobel prize was stolen in theft in Shantiniketan. However, he was again awarded the prize by the Swedish Academy. They sent two replicas, a gold and a silver.
- Rabindranath Tagore was invited by Albert Einstein to his residence. The two had a deep conversation about religion and science. Their chat is documented in the “Note on the Nature of Reality.”
- Tagore was similar to his father, Debendranath Tagore, who influenced the Bengali Rennaisance. Likewise, Rabindranath Tagore discovered and influenced Bengali art, literature, music, and theatre.
Rabindranath Tagore composed 2,230 songs and majorly wrote lyrics for his plays and dramas. His songs are popularly known as Rabindrasangit and merge fluidly in his literature. His music is largely influenced by the thumri style of Indian music.
Impact and Legacy
Every year, various events are organized on the birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore. Many small groups join to hold Tagore Festival in Urbana, Illinois, USA. Some groups also organize a walking pilgrimage from Kolkata to Shantiniketan. Anyone wanting to learn about the life and contributions of Rabindranath Tagore can visit the museums dedicated to him. There are eight Tagore museums, out of which five are present in Bangladesh and three in India.
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