Rabindranath Tagore participated in the nationalist movement and shared a close bonding with Mahatma Gandhi.(ILLUSTRATION: Biswajit Debnath)
Rabindranath Tagore participated in the nationalist movement and shared a close bonding with Mahatma Gandhi.(ILLUSTRATION: Biswajit Debnath)

Rabindranath Tagore : Multifaceted bard of India

This polymath, poet and artist reshaped Bengali literature and music, introduced India’s rich cultural heritage to the West and was the first non-European to receive the Nobel Prize. He also composed ‘Jana Gana Mana’, India’s national anthem.
By HT Correspondent | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON NOV 25, 2019 03:43 PM IST

This polymath, poet and artist reshaped Bengali literature and music, introduced India’s rich cultural heritage to the West and was the first non-European to receive the Nobel Prize. He also composed ‘Jana Gana Mana’, India’s national anthem.

Born in Calcutta on May 7, 1861 to Sarada Devi and Debendranath Tagore, a religious reformer and philosopher he was closely associated with the Brahmo Samaj sect.

Nicknamed Rabi, he was the youngest of 13 children, and was not yet 14 when his mother died in March 1875. When he was 11, Tagore accompanied his father, on a tour across India. During the journey, he also the works of famous writers including classical Sanskrit poet Kalidasa. On his return, he composed a long poem in the Maithili style. After receiving his initial education at home, he was sent to Britain in 1878 at 17, to take up formal education and his father hoped he would become a lawyer. He first lived in Brighton in East Sussex and then was a student of the University College London for a short while. Tagore began studying the works of Shakespeare. In 1880, he returned to Bengal without a degree but was inspired to produce his own literary works by fusing the elements of Bengali and European traditions. In 1882, he came up with one of his most acclaimed poems that was titled Nirjharer Swapnabhanga.

Fame & recognition

In 1890, while on a visit to his ancestral estate in Shelaidaha, his collection of poems titled Manasi was released. During the period between 1891 and 1895 he had authored a three-volume collection of short stories titled Galpaguchchha that revolves around the everyday lives of common people. In 1901, he founded a school at Santiniketan (meaning the Abode of Peace), that became the Visva-Bharati University in 1921. It was at Santiniketan that he composed poetic works titled Naivedya and Kheya, in 1901 and 1906 earning him immense popularity. His repute spread manifold in the West after the publication of Gitanjali: Song Offerings and in 1913 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Considered his best poetic accomplishment, the collection comprises 157 poems. From May 1916 to April 1917, he stayed in Japan and the US where he delivered lectures on the theme Nationalism and on Personality. He participated in the nationalist movement and shared a close bonding with Mahatma Gandhi. At 60, Tagore took up drawing and painting, held successful exhibitions of his works first in Paris and later on in different parts of Europe.

Awards & achievements

Apart from being awarded the Nobel in Literature, Britain’s King George V conferred knighthood on him in 1915 but Tagore renounced it in the wake of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919. In 1940, the Oxford University awarded him a Doctorate of Literature at a special ceremony held at Santiniketan.

Other major works

While Gitanjali is Tagore’s tour de force, he was also a proficient songwriter who composed 2,230 songs categorised as Rabindra Sangeet. He also wrote the national anthems of both India and Bangladesh -- Jana Gana Mana and Amar Sonar Bangla. Other than writing several volumes of short stories, Tagore had also authored several novels including works such as Gora, Ghare-Baire and Yogayog.

Personal life

He married Mrinalini Devi in 1883 and the couple had five children. His wife passed away in 1902 and he breathed his last on August 7, 1941 aged 80.

INTERESTING FACTS

1. In March 2004, the Nobel medal awarded to Tagore was stolen from a museum in the Uttarayan complex of Santiniketan. The Nobel Foundation later sent a replica the same year in December.

2. It was Rabindranath Tagore who gave Gandhi the title of Mahatma. He also regularly corresponded with the eminent scientist Albert Einstein and the duo held each other in great esteem.

2. WB Yeats, one of the foremost figures of 20th century English literature and Andre Gide, noted French author, were among those who showered praise on Tagore’s Gitanjali.

3. Tagore’s multifaceted genius can be found in the fact that despite being in his 60s, he began painting, producing works that ranked him among India’s leading contemporary artists.

4. It is believed that the Sri Lankan composer Ananda Samarakoon, who wrote the national anthem of Sri Lanka called Sri Lanka Matha, was inspired and influenced by Tagore.

SOURCE: Wikipedia, Thefamouspeople.com

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