Rabindranath Tagore 159th Birth Anniversary: Date, significance, lesser-known facts about Tagore

Updated on May 08, 2020 08:48 AM IST
Rabindranath Tagore Jayanti 2020: Celebrated annually and globally in May, Rabindranath Tagore Jayanti falls on the 25th day of the Bengali month of Boishakh. Tagore was born on the day in the year 1268, according to the Bengali calendar.
Rabindranath Tagore 159th Birth Anniversary: Date, significance, lesser-known facts about Tagore.(ILLUSTRATION: Biswajit Debnath)
Rabindranath Tagore 159th Birth Anniversary: Date, significance, lesser-known facts about Tagore.(ILLUSTRATION: Biswajit Debnath)
Hindustan Times, Delhi | Byhindustantimes.com

Rabindranath Tagore Jayanti or Rabindra Jayanti is a cultural celebration to mark the birth anniversary of the luminary, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Rabindranath Tagore on his birth anniversary. Celebrated annually and globally in May, Rabindranath Tagore Jayanti falls on the 25th day of the Bengali month of Boishakh. Tagore was born on the day in the year 1268, according to the Bengali calendar and 1861 AD, as per the Gregorian calendar. Tagore was also referred to as ‘Gurudev’, ‘Kabiguru’, and ‘Biswakabi’.

Nicknamed Rabi, he was the youngest of 13 children and lost his mother in March 1875 when he was not yet 14. At the age of 11, he accompanied his father on a tour across India. During the journey, he also read the works of famous writers including classical Sanskrit poet Kalidasa. Upon returning, he composed a long poem in the Maithili style. Tagore began studying the works of Shakespeare in his college years and in 1880 when he returned to Bengal without a degree, he was inspired to produce his own literary works by fusing the elements of Bengali and European traditions. In 1882, one of his most acclaimed poems titled Nirjharer Swapnabhanga was published.

While Gitanjali is considered Tagore’s tour de force, he was also a prolific songwriter who composed 2,230 songs categorised as Rabindra Sangeet. He is also credited with writing several volumes of short stories, and novels including works such as Gora, Ghare-Baire and Yogayog.

In remembrance and reverence for the polymath that Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore was, cultural programmes and events are held during the course of the day. These include the life and works of Tagore, singing Rabindra sangeet (songs composed by Tagore, which many singers have also sung their own renditions of), dances, drama, writing, poetry recitation and others. The day is celebrated on a large scale at Shanti Niketan in Birbhum, West Bengal, primarily at Visva-Bharati University which was established by him.

In the year 2011, to mark and honour Gurudev’s 150th birth anniversary, the Government of India had issued five rupee coins.

As per a PTI report, the West Bengal government has decided to celebrate the birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore on Friday in a less colourful manner, a senior government official said, amid the ongoing lockdown to fight COVID-19

“Rabindra Jayanti will be observed by the state government at 4 PM on May 8 at Cathedral Road in the southern part of the city. The honourable chief minister will remain present at the programme,” he said on Wednesday.

“There will be no big celebrations like other years as no gatherings will be allowed due to the Covid-19 outbreak. The chief minister will only garland the statue of Tagore. There will be no stage and no singing programme,” he said.

On Rabindranath Tagore 159th birth anniversary, also known as Pochishe Boishakh 2020, here are a few lesser-known facts about Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore:

* Gurudev became the first non-European to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. He was bestowed with this coveted honour after the publication of his acclaimed collection of poems, Geetanjali.

* Rabindranath Tagore is the only known person to have written the national anthems for two different countries - Jana Gana Mana, the national anthem for India; and Amar Sonar Bangla, the national anthem for Bangladesh. According to some historians, however, the Sri Lankan national anthem too was based on a Bengali song originally written by Tagore in 1938. It was translated into Sinhalese and adopted as the national anthem in 1951.

* It was Tagore who conferred the title of ‘Mahatma’ on MK Gandhi in 1915. Although Tagore is said to have admired Gandhi, he differed with him on certain issues.

* Rabindranath Tagore and Albert Einstein met four times between 1930 and 1931 and mutually revered each other for each other’s contributions.

* William Rothenstein, the painter, was a friend of the Tagore family. Tagore gave Rothenstein the translations of his own songs, including the Gitanjali, when the latter travelled to London in 1912. Rothenstein was so taken by Tagore’s poetry and introduced him to famous names like Ezra Pound and WB Yeats.

* In March 2004, the Nobel prize awarded to Rabindranath Tagore was stolen from a museum in the Uttarayan complex in Shanti Niketan. A new medal was later reissued to Tagore on his birth centenary.

* Tagore was tutored by his elder brother Hemendranath, as he was not too fond of formal education. His distaste towards this method of education was such that he only attended college for a single day later in life.

* In order to challenge conventional methods of classroom education, Tagore established a university of his own, where he wanted humanity to be studied “somewhere beyond the limits of nation and geography”.

* Rabindranath Tagore took up drawing and painting at the age of 60 which he then successfully exhibited to the public.

* According to the Bengali calendar, Tagore was born on the 25th day in the month of Boishakh in 1268. Subsequently, West Bengal celebrates Tagore’s birthday as per the Bengali calendar, which overlaps on either May 8 or May 9 on the Gregorian calendar. In other states, Rabindranath Tagore Jayanti is observed as per the Gregorian calendar on May 7 annually.

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