RavindraNath Tagore Biogrphy

RavindraNath Tagore Biogrphy

1 . Biography

Rabindranath Tagore sobriquet Gurudev, was a Bengali polymath who reshaped his regions literature and music. Author of Gitanjali and its profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, he became the first non European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913. In translation his poetry was viewed as spiritual and mercurial, his seemingly mesmeric personality, flowing hair, and other worldly dress earned him a prophet like reputation in the West. His elegant prose and magical poetry remain largely unknown outside Bengal. Tagore introduced new prose and verse forms and the use of colloquial language into Bengali literature, thereby freeing it from traditional models based on classical Sanskrit. He was highly influential in introducing the best of Indian culture to the West and vice versa, and he is generally regarded as the outstanding creative artist of modern India.A Pirali Brahmin from Calcutta, Tagore wrote poetry as an eight year old. At age sixteen, he released his first substantial poems under the pseudonym Bhanusi?ha (Sun Lion), which were seized upon by literary authorities as long lost classics.

He graduated to his first short stories and dramasand the aegis of his birth nameby 1877. As a humanist, universalist internationalist, and strident anti nationalist he denounced the Raj and advocated independence from Britain. As an exponent of the Bengal Renaissance, he advanced a vast canon that comprised paintings, sketches and doodles, hundreds of texts, and some two thousand songs, his legacy endures also in the institution he founded, Visva Bharati University Tagore modernised Bengali art by spurning rigid classical forms and resisting linguistic strictures. His novels, stories, songs, dance dramas, and essays spoke to topics political and personal. Gitanjali (Song Offerings), Gora (Fair Faced), and Ghare Baire (The Home and the World) are his best known works, and his verse, short stories, and novels were acclaimedor pannedfor their lyricism, colloquialism, naturalism, and unnatural contemplation. His compositions were chosen by two nations as national anthems the Republic of Indias Jana Gana Mana and Bangladeshs Amar Shonar Bangla. The composer of Sri Lankas national anthem Sri Lanka Matha was a student of Tagore, and the song is inspired by Tagores style.

2 . Early Life 1861 1878

The youngest of thirteen surviving children, Tagore was born in the Jorasanko mansion in Calcutta, India to parents Debendranath Tagore (1817 1905) and Sarada Devi (1830 1875). Tagore family patriarchs were the Brahmo founders of the Adi Dharm faith. The loyalist Prince Dwarkanath Tagore, who employed European estate managers and visited with Victoria and other royalty, was his paternal grandfather. Debendranath had formulated the Brahmoist philosophies espoused by his friend Ram Mohan Roy, and became focal in Brahmo society after Roys death.Rabi was raised mostly by servants, his mother had died in his early childhood and his father travelled widely. His home hosted the publication of literary magazines, theatre and recitals of both Bengali and Western classical music featured there regularly, as the Jorasanko Tagores were the center of a large and art loving social group. Tagores oldest brother Dwijendranath was a respected philosopher and poet. Another brother, Satyendranath, was the first Indian appointed to the elite and formerly all European Indian Civil Service. Yet another brother, Jyotirindranath, was a musician, composer, and playwright. His sister Swarnakumari became a novelist. Jyotirindranaths wife Kadambari, slightly older than Tagore, was a dear friend and powerful influence. Her abrupt suicide in 1884 left him for years profoundly distraught.

Tagore largely avoided classroom schooling and preferred to roam the manor or nearby Bolpur and Panihati, idylls which the family visited. His brother Hemendranath tutored and physically conditioned himby having him swim the Ganges or trek through hills, by gymnastics, and by practicing judo and wrestling. He learned drawing, anatomy, geography and history, literature, mathematics, Sanskrit, and Englishhis least favorite subject. Tagore loathed formal educationhis scholarly travails at the local Presidency College spanned a single day. Years later he held that proper teaching does not explain things, proper teaching stokes curiosity It knocks at the doors of the mind. If any boy is asked to give an account of what is awakened in him by such knocking, he will probably say something silly. For what happens within is much bigger than what comes out in words. Those who pin their faith on university examinations as the test of education take no account of this.

After he underwent an upanayan initiation at age eleven, he and his father left Calcutta in February 1873 for a months long tour of the Raj. They visited his fathers Santiniketan estate and rested in Amritsar en route to the Himalayan Dhauladhars, their destination being the remote hill station at Dalhousie. Along the way, Tagore read biographies, his father tutored him in history, astronomy, and Sanskrit declensions. He read biographies of Benjamin Franklin among other figures, they discussed Edward Gibbons The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and they examined the poetry of Kalidasa. In mid April they reached the station, and at 2,300 metres (7,546 ft) they settled into a house that sat atop Bakrota Hill. Tagore was taken aback by the regions deep green gorges, alpine forests, and mossy streams and waterfalls. They stayed there for several months and adopted a regime of study and privation that included daily twilight baths taken in icy water.He returned to Jorosanko and completed a set of major works by 1877, one of them a long poem in the Maithili style of Vidyapati, they were published pseudonymously. Regional experts accepted them as the lost works of Bhanusimha, a newly discovered 17th century Vaishnava poet. He debuted the short story genre in Bengali with Bhikharini (The Beggar Woman), and his Sandhya Sangit (1882) includes the famous poem Nirjharer Swapnabhanga (The Rousing of the Waterfall).

Servants subjected him to an almost ludicrous regimentation in a phase he dryly reviled as the servocracy. His head was water dunkedto quiet him. He irked his servants by refusing food, he was confined to chalk circles in parody of Sitas forest trial in the Ramayana, and he was regaled with the heroic criminal exploits of Bengals outlaw dacoits. Because the Jorasanko manor was in an area of north Calcutta rife with poverty and prostitution,35 he was forbidden to leave it for any purpose other than traveling to school. He thus became preoccupied with the world outside and with nature. Of his 1873 visit to Santiniketan, he wrote What I could not see did not take me long to get overwhat I did see was quite enough. There was no servant rule, and the only ring which encircled me was the blue of the horizon, drawn around these solitudes by their presiding goddess. Within this I was free to move about as I chose.

3 . Shelaidaha 1878 1901

Because Debendranath wanted his son to become a barrister, Tagore enrolled at a public school in Brighton, East Sussex, England in 1878. He stayed for several months at a house that the Tagore family owned near Brighton and Hove, in Medina Villas, in 1877 his nephew and nieceSuren and Indira Devi, the children of Tagores brother Satyendranathwere sent together with their mother, Tagores sister in law, to live with him. He briefly read law at University College London, but again left school. He opted instead for independent study of Shakespeare, Religio Medici, Coriolanus, and Antony and Cleopatra. Lively English, Irish, and Scottish folk tunes impressed Tagore, whose own tradition of Nidhubabu authored kirtans and tappas and Brahmo hymnody was subdued. In 1880 he returned to Bengal degree less, resolving to reconcile European novelty with Brahmo traditions, taking the best from each. In 1883 he married Mrinalini Devi, born Bhabatarini, 1873 1902, they had five children, two of whom died in childhood.

In 1890 Tagore began managing his vast ancestral estates in Shelaidaha (today a region of Bangladesh), he was joined by his wife and children in 1898. Tagore released his Manasi poems (1890), among his best known work. As Zamindar Babu, Tagore criss crossed the riverine holdings in command of the Padma, the luxurious family barge. He collected mostly token rents and blessed villagers who in turn honoured him with banquetsoccasionally of dried rice and sour milk. He met Gagan Harkara, through whom he became familiar with Baul Lalon Shah, whose folk songs greatly influenced Tagore. Tagore worked to popularise Lalons songs. The period 1891 1895, Tagores Sadhana period, named after one of Tagores magazines, was his most productive, in these years he wrote more than half the stories of the three volume, 84 story Galpaguchchha. Its ironic and grave tales examined the voluptuous poverty of an idealised rural Bengal.

4 . Santiniketan 1901 1932

In 1901 Tagore moved to Santiniketan to found an ashram with a marble floored prayer hallThe Mandiran experimental school, groves of trees, gardens, a library. There his wife and two of his children died. His father died in 1905. He received monthly payments as part of his inheritance and income from the Maharaja of Tripura, sales of his familys jewelry, his seaside bungalow in Puri, and a derisory 2,000 rupees in book royalties. He gained Bengali and foreign readers alike, he published Naivedya (1901) and Kheya (1906) and translated poems into free verse. In November 1913, Tagore learned he had won that years Nobel Prize in Literature the Swedish Academy appreciated the idealisticand for Westernersaccessible nature of a small body of his translated material focussed on the 1912 Gitanjali Song Offerings. In 1915, the British Crown granted Tagore a knighthood. He renounced it after the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre.

In 1921, Tagore and agricultural economist Leonard Elmhirst set up the Institute for Rural Reconstruction, later renamed Shriniketan or Abode of Welfare, in Surul, a village near the ashram. With it, Tagore sought to moderate Gandhis Swaraj protests, which he occasionally blamed for British Indias perceived mentaland thus ultimately colonialdecline.48 He sought aid from donors, officials, and scholars worldwide to free villages from the shackles of helplessness and ignorance by vitalising knowledge. In the early 1930s he targeted ambient abnormal caste consciousness and untouchability. He lectured against these, he penned Dalit heroes for his poems and his dramas, and he campaignedsuccessfullyto open Guruvayoor Temple to Dalits.

5 . Twilight years 1932 1941

Tagores life as a peripatetic litterateur affirmed his opinion that human divisions were shallow. During a May 1932 visit to a Bedouin encampment in the Iraqi desert, the tribal chief told him that Our prophet has said that a true Muslim is he by whose words and deeds not the least of his brother men may ever come to any harm Tagore confided in his diary I was startled into recognizing in his words the voice of essential humanity.To the end Tagore scrutinised orthodoxyand in 1934, he struck. That year, an earthquake hit Bihar and killed thousands. Gandhi hailed it as seismic karma, as divine retribution avenging the oppression of Dalits. Tagore rebuked him for his seemingly ignominious inferences. He mourned the perennial poverty of Calcutta and the socioeconomic decline of Bengal. He detailed these newly plebeian aesthetics in an unrhymed hundred line poem whose technique of searing double vision foreshadowed Satyajit Rays film Apur Sansar. Fifteen new volumes appeared, among them prose poem works Punashcha (1932), Shes Saptak (1935), and Patraput (1936). Experimentation continued in his prose songs and dance dramas Chitra (1914), Shyama (1939), and Chandalika (1938), and in his novels Dui Bon (1933), Malancha (1934), and Char Adhyay (1934).

Tagores remit expanded to science in his last years, as hinted in Visva Parichay, 1937 collection of essays. His respect for scientific laws and his exploration of biology, physics, and astronomy informed his poetry, which exhibited extensive naturalism and verisimilitude. He wove the process of science, the narratives of scientists, into stories in Se (1937), Tin Sangi (1940), and Galpasalpa (1941). His last five years were marked by chronic pain and two long periods of illness. These began when Tagore lost consciousness in late 1937, he remained comatose and near death for a time. This was followed in late 1940 by a similar spell. He never recovered. Poetry from these valetudinary years is among his finest. A period of prolonged agony ended with Tagores death on 7 August 1941, aged eighty, he was in an upstairs room of the Jorasanko mansion he was raised in. The date is still mourned. A. K. Sen, brother of the first chief election commissioner, received dictation from Tagore on 30 July 1941, a day prior to a scheduled operation his last poem.Im lost in the middle of my birthday. I want my friends, their touch, with the earths last love. I will take lifes final offering, I will take the humans last blessing. Today my sack is empty. I have given completely whatever I had to give. In return if I receive anythingsome love, some forgivenessthen I will take it with me when I step on the boat that crosses to the festival of the wordless end.

6 . Travels

Between 1878 and 1932, Tagore set foot in more than thirty countries on five continents. In 1912, he took a sheaf of his translated works to England, where they gained attention from missionary and Gandhi prot?g? Charles F. Andrews, Irish poet William Butler Yeats, Ezra Pound, Robert Bridges, Ernest Rhys, Thomas Sturge Moore, and others. Yeats wrote the preface to the English translation of Gitanjali, Andrews joined Tagore at Santiniketan. In November 1912 Tagore began touring the United States and the United Kingdom, staying in Butterton, Staffordshire with Andrewss clergymen friends. From May 1916 until April 1917, he lectured in Japan and the United States. He denounced nationalism. His essay Nationalism in India was scorned and praised, it was admired by Romain Rolland and other pacifists.Shortly after returning home the 63 year old Tagore accepted an invitation from the Peruvian government. He travelled to Mexico. Each government pledged US$100,000 to his school to commemorate the visits. A week after his 6 November 1924 arrival in Buenos Aires, an ill Tagore shifted to the Villa Miralrio at the behest of Victoria Ocampo. He left for home in January 1925. In May 1926 Tagore reached Naples, the next day he met Mussolini in Rome. Their warm rapport ended when Tagore pronounced upon Il Duces fascist finesse. He had earlier enthused

without any doubt he is a great personality. There is such a massive vigour in that head that it reminds one of Michael Angelos chisel. A fire bath of fascism was to have educed the immortal soul of Italy clothed in quenchless light.On 14 July 1927 Tagore and two companions began a four month tour of Southeast Asia. They visited Bali, Java, Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Penang, Siam, and Singapore. The resultant travelogues compose Jatri (1929). In early 1930 he left Bengal for a nearly year long tour of Europe and the United States. Upon returning to Britainand as his paintings exhibited in Paris and Londonhe lodged at a Birmingham Quaker settlement. He wrote his Oxford Hibbert Lectures? and spoke at the annual London Quaker meet. There, addressing relations between the British and the Indiansa topic he would tackle repeatedly over the next two yearsTagore spoke of a dark chasm of aloofness. He visited Aga Khan III, stayed at Dartington Hall, toured Denmark, Switzerland, and Germany from June to mid September 1930, then went on into the Soviet Union. In April 1932 Tagore, intrigued by the Persian mystic Hafez, was hosted by Reza Shah Pahlavi. In his other travels, Tagore interacted with Henri Bergson, Albert Einstein, Robert Frost, Thomas Mann, H.G. Wells and Romain Rolland. Visits to Persia and Iraq (in 1932) and Sri Lanka (in 1933) composed Tagores final foreign tour, and his dislike of communalism and nationalism only deepened. Vice President of India M. Hamid Ansari has said that Rabindranath Tagore heralded the cultural rapprochement between communities, societies and nations much before it became the liberal norm of conduct. Tagore was a man ahead of his time. He wrote in 1932, while on a visit to Iran, that each country of Asia will solve its own historical problems according to its strength, nature and needs, but the lamp they will each carry on their path to progress will converge to illuminate the common ray of knowledge. His ideas on culture, gender, poverty, education, freedom, and a resurgent Asia remain relevant today.

7 . Works

Known mostly for his poetry, Tagore wrote novels, essays, short stories, travelogues, dramas, and thousands of songs. Of Tagores prose, his short stories are perhaps most highly regarded, he is indeed credited with originating the Bengali language version of the genre. His works are frequently noted for their rhythmic, optimistic, and lyrical nature. Such stories mostly borrow from deceptively simple subject matter commoners. Tagores non fiction grappled with history, linguistics, and spirituality. He wrote autobiographies. His travelogues, essays, and lectures were compiled into several volumes, including Europe Jatrir Patro (Letters from Europe) and Manusher Dhormo (The Religion of Man). His brief chat with Einstein, Note on the Nature of Reality, is included as an appendix to the latter. On the occasion of Tagores 150th birthday an anthology (titled Kalanukromik Rabindra Rachanabali) of the total body of his works is currently being published in Bengali in chronological order. This includes all versions of each work and fills about eighty volumes. In 2011, Harvard University Press collaborated with Visva Bharati University to publish The Essential Tagore, the largest anthology of Tagores works available in English, it was edited by Fakrul Alam and Radha Chakravarthy and marks the 150th anniversary of Tagores birth.

8 . Music and Art

Tagore composed 2,230 songs and was a prolific painter. His songs compose rabindrasangit (Tagore Song), which merges fluidly into his literature, most of whichpoems or parts of novels, stories, or plays alikewere lyricised. Influenced by the thumri style of Hindustani music, they ran the entire gamut of human emotion, ranging from his early dirge like Brahmo devotional hymns to quasi erotic compositions. They emulated the tonal color of classical ragas to varying extents. Some songs mimicked a given ragas melody and rhythm faithfully, others newly blended elements of different ragas. Yet about nine tenths of his work was not bhanga gaan, the body of tunes revamped with fresh value from select Western, Hindustani, Bengali folk and other regional flavours external to Tagores own ancestral culture. Scholars have attempted to gauge the emotive force and range of Hindustani ragas the pathos of the purabi raga reminded Tagore of the evening tears of a lonely widow, while kanara was the confused realization of a nocturnal wanderer who had lost his way. In bhupali he seemed to hear a voice in the wind saying stop and come hither.Paraj conveyed to him the deep slumber that overtook one at nights end.

Reba Som, Rabindranath Tagore The Singer and His Song.Tagore influenced sitar maestro Vilayat Khan and sarodiyas Buddhadev Dasgupta and Amjad Ali Khan. His songs are widely popular and undergird the Bengali ethos to an extent perhaps rivaling Shakespeares impact on the English speaking world. It is said that his songs are the outcome of five centuries of Bengali literary churning and communal yearning. Dhan Gopal Mukerji has said that these songs transcend the mundane to the aesthetic and express all ranges and categories of human emotion. The poet gave voice to allbig or small, rich or poor. The poor Ganges boatman and the rich landlord air their emotions in them. They birthed a distinctive school of music whose practitioners can be fiercely traditional novel interpretations have drawn severe censure in both West Bengal and Bangladesh.For Bengalis, the songs appeal, stemming from the combination of emotive strength and beauty described as surpassing even Tagores poetry, was such that the Modern Review observed that there is in Bengal no cultured home where Rabindranaths songs are not sung or at least attempted to be sung Even illiterate villagers sing his songs. Arthur Strangways of The Observer introduced non Bengalis to rabindrasangit in The Music of Hindostan, calling it a vehicle of a personality that go behind this or that system of music to that beauty of sound which all systems put out their hands to seize.

In 1971, Amar Shonar Bangla became the national anthem of Bangladesh. It was writtenironicallyto protest the 1905 Partition of Bengal along communal lines lopping Muslim majority East Bengal from Hindu dominated West Bengal was to avert a regional bloodbath. Tagore saw the partition as a ploy to upend the independence movement, and he aimed to rekindle Bengali unity and tar communalism. Jana Gana Mana was written in shadhu bhasha, a Sanskritised register of Bengali, and is the first of five stanzas of a Brahmo hymn that Tagore composed. It was first sung in 1911 at a Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress and was adopted in 1950 by the Constituent Assembly of the Republic of India as its national anthem.At sixty, Tagore took up drawing and painting, successful exhibitions of his many workswhich made a debut appearance in Paris upon encouragement by artists he met in the south of France95were held throughout Europe. He was likely red green color blind, resulting in works that exhibited strange colour schemes and off beat aesthetics. Tagore was influenced by scrimshaw from northern New Ireland, Haida carvings from British Columbia, and woodcuts by Max Pechstein. His artists eye for his handwriting were revealed in the simple artistic and rhythmic leitmotifs embellishing the scribbles, cross outs, and word layouts of his manuscripts. Some of Tagores lyrics corresponded in a synesthetic sense with particular paintings.

9 . Theatre

At sixteen, Tagore led his brother Jyotirindranaths adaptation of Moli

10 . Novels

Tagore wrote eight novels and four novellas, among them Chaturanga, Shesher Kobita, Char Odhay, and Noukadubi. Ghare Baire (The Home and the World)through the lens of the idealistic zamindar protagonist Nikhilrepudiates the frog march of nativism, terrorism, and religious querulousness popular among segments of the Swadeshi movement. A frank expression of Tagores conflicted sentiments, it was conceived of during a 1914 bout of depression. The novel ends in grody Hindu Muslim interplay and Nikhils likely death from a head wound. Gora, nominated by many Bengali critics as his finest tale, raises controversies regarding connate identity and its ultimate fungibility. As with Ghare Baire matters of self identity (jati), personal freedom, and religion are lividly vivisected in a context of family and romance. In it an Irish boy orphaned in the Sepoy Mutiny is raised by Hindus as the titular gorawhitey. Ignorant of his foreign origins, he chastises Hindu religious backsliders out of love for the indigenous Indians and solidarity with them against his hegemon compatriots. He falls for a Brahmo girl, compelling his worried foster father to reveal his lost past and cease his nativist zeal. As a true dialectic advancing arguments for and against strict traditionalism, it tackles the colonial conundrum by portraying the value of all positions within a particular frame not only syncretism, not only liberal orthodoxy, but the extremest reactionary traditionalism he defends by an appeal to what humans share. Among these Tagore highlights identity conceived of as dharma.

In Jogajog (Relationships), the heroine Kumudinibound by the ideals of ?iva Sati, exemplified by Dakshayaniis torn between her pity for the sinking fortunes of her progressive and compassionate elder brother and his foil her roue of a husband. Tagore flaunts his feminist leanings, pathos depicts the plight and ultimate demise of women trapped by pregnancy, duty, and family honour, he simultaneously trucks with Bengals putrescent landed gentry. The story revolves around the underlying rivalry between two familiesthe Chatterjees, aristocrats now on the decline (Biprodas) and the Ghosals (Madhusudan), representing new money and new arrogance. Kumudini, Biprodas sister, is caught between the two as she is married off to Madhusudan. She had risen in an observant and sheltered traditional home, as had all her female relations.Others were uplifting Shesher Kobitatranslated twice as Last Poem and Farewell Songis his most lyrical novel, with poems and rhythmic passages written by a poet protagonist. It contains elements of satire and postmodernism and has stock characters who gleefully attack the reputation of an old, outmoded, oppressively renowned poet who, incidentally, goes by a familiar name Rabindranath Tagore. Though his novels remain among the least appreciated of his works, they have been given renewed attention via film adaptations by Ray and others Chokher Bali and Ghare Baire are exemplary. In the first, Tagore inscribes Bengali society via its heroine a rebellious widow who would live for herself alone. He pillories the custom of perpetual mourning on the part of widows, who were not allowed to remarry, who were consigned to seclusion and loneliness. Tagore wrote of it I have always regretted the ending.

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