Tagore, the Nobel laureate poet, writer, philosopher was the ambassador
of Indian culture to the rest of the world. He is probably the most
prominent figure in the cultural world of Indian subcontinent and the
first Asian man to be awarded with Nobel prize. Even though he is mainly
known as a poet, his multifaceted talent showered upon different
branches of art, such as, novels, short stories, dramas, articles,
essays, painting etc. And his songs, popularly known as Rabindrasangeet,
have an eternal appeal and is permanently placed in the heart of the
Bengalis. He was a social reformer, patriot and above all, a great
humanitarian and philosopher. India and Bangladesh - the national
anthems of these two countries are his composition.
was born on Tuesday, 7th May 1861 in a wealthy family in Calcutta at the
address of 6, Dwarakanath Thakur Lane, Calcutta. He was the ninth son of
Debenadranath and Sarada Devi. His grand father Dwarakanath Tagore was a
rich landlord and social reformer. Even though he was from a very
wealthy family, in those days Jorasanko house ( Tagore house ) was a
center of culture.
was first admitted into Oriental Seminary School. But he did not like
the conventional education and started home study under several
teachers. Later he went to Normal School, Bengal Academy and St Xaviers
School , but all lasted for a brief period. At the age of 7 he wrote a
rhyme. Went to visit Northern part of India and Himalayas with this
father. In 1874, his first published poem Abhilaash(Desire) was
published anonymously in a magazine called Tattobodhini.
Mother Sarada Devi expired in 1875. For the first time a poem with his
name as author was published in Amritabazar Patrika (weekly). He
translated Macbeth into Bengali verse which was later published in Bharati
magazine. Following the style of Vaisnava Padalvali (verses), he
wrote Bhanusingher Padavali under the penname of Bhanusingha. In
the beginning of his literary works, there was impact of his elder
brother Jyotirindranath and his wife Kadambari Devi. Two magazines, Bharati
and Balak - were used to get published from the Tagore house and
he regularly contributed to those. His first book of poems, Kabi
Kahini ( tale of a poet ) was published in 1878. In the same year,
he sailed to England with his brother Satyandranath. He got admitted
into the University College in England and started studying under Prof
Henry Morley. Retuned to India on 1880. Wrote two musical plays - Valmiki
Prativa (The Genius of Valmiki) and Kalmrigaya (The Fatal
Hunt ). Acted in these plays too. Left for England in 1881, but changed
his mind and came back from Madras and went to Mussorie to meet his
father. In 1882, he wrote Sandhya Sangeet ( Evening Songs ) which
impressed Bankim Chandra Chatterjee so much that he took off his garland
of greeting from his neck and put around that of Tagore in a function.
Wrote a famous poem - Nirjharer Swapnabhanga ( The Fountain
Awakened from its Dream ). Got married to Bhabatarini Devi in 1883 at
the age of 22. Later her name was changed to Mrinalini Devi. In 1884
wrote a collection of poem - Kadi-o-kamal (Sharp and Flats).
Continued writing in different forms. His first child ( daughter )
Madhurilata was born in 1886. Wrote musical drama - Mayar Khela.
Also wrote dramas - Raja-o-rani ( King and Queen) and Visarjan
(Sacrifice). In 1890 daughter Renuka was born.
In 1890 Tagore went to Shilaidaha ( now in Bangladesh) to take care of
the family estate. Here he was influenced by the natural beauty and
simple life of rural Bengal. Attended session of Indian National
Congress and sang the song Vandemataram on the opening day. Wrote
famous dance/musical drama - Chitrangada. His youngest daughter
Mira was born in 1892. In 1894 , wrote famous collection poems - Sonar
Tari ( The Golden Boat ). Son Samindra was born in 1894.
1901 he took the editorial charge of the magazine Bangadarshan.
Got involved with freedom fighting movement. Established Bolpur
Bramhacharyaashram at Shantiniketan, a school in the pattern of old
Indian Ashrama. In 1902 his wife Mrinalini died. Composed Smaran
( In Memoriam ), a collection of poems, dedicated to his wife.
Within six months from this incident his daughter Renuka expired. The
demise of father Debendranath happened in 1905. He strongly protested
Lord Curzon's decision to divide Bengal on the basis of religion. Wrote
a number of national songs and attended protest meetings. He introduced
the Rakhibandhan ceremony , symbolizing the underlying unity in
undivided Bengal. Was shocked by the sudden death of son Samindra in
1907. In 1909 started writing Gitanjali from Silaidaha. Composed Janaganamana
in 1911 which later became the national anthem of India.
1912 went to Europe for the second time. On the journey to London he
translated some of his poems/songs from Gitanjali to English. He met
William Rothenstein, a noted British painter, in London. He was first
introduced to Rothenstein in Calcutta at a gathering at
Abanindranath Tagore's house before. Rothenstien was impressed by the
poems, made copies and gave to Yeats and other English poets. He
arranged a reading in his house where Yeats read Tagore's poems in front
of a distinguished audience comprising of Ezra Pound, May Sinclair,
Ernest Rhys etc. Tagore sailed for America ( for the first time ) from
England. Reached New York, came to Urbana, Illinois, gave a lecture and
went to Chicago. In the mean time, India Society of London published
Gitanjali ( song offerings ) containing 103 translated poems of Tagore.
Yeats wrote the introduction for this book and Rothenstein did a pencil
sketch for the cover page. The book created a sensation in English
literary world. Tagore was traveling America . Delivered lectures in
Rochester, Boston, Harvard University. Ezra Pound's "Poetry"
Magazine published from Chicago had the honor of publishing first
English poem of Tagore. His six Gitanjali poems appeared in Poetry
in December, 1912 issue. Poet returned back to Calcutta. In 13th
November of 1913, Indians came to know that the Nobel prize for
literature has been awarded to Tagore for his Gitanjali. On 26th
Decemeber, University of Calcutta conferred on him the honorary degree
of "D.Litt.". Received Knighthood in 1915.
to Japan in 1916. On the way gave speech at Rangoon, Singapore, Hongkong.
In Sep, 1916 got invitation from different institutions in USA and
reached Seattle ( Washington). Lectured at Portland, San Fransisco, Los
Angeles, Santa Barbara, Salt Lake City, Chicago, Iowa, Milwakee,
Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia, Boston. At Columbia Theatre, New York
read translation from his novel Raja. Returned to Calcutta in
1917. In 1918 his eldest daughter Madhurilata passed away. In 1919, the
poet started a tour to South India. Delivered lectures on different
topics at Bangalore, Mysroe, Ooty, Coimbatore, Palghat, Salem, Trichy,
Sirangapatnam, Kumbakonam, Tanjore and Madras. At Madras spoke as
Chancellor of National University, founded by Annie Besant and stayed as
a guest of Mr. Besant at Adyar. In 1919, he wrote a historic letter to
Lord Chelmsford repudiating his Knighthood in protest of the massacre at
Jalianwalabag, Punjab. In 1920 he went to Gandhiji's Sabarmati Ashram
and visited Ahmedabad, Surat and Bombay. Call came from Europe again in
1920. Toured different places in England and Paris, Hague ,
Brussells. From Europe to America. Delivered lectures at New York,
Princeton, Chicago and came back to Europe. His effort to raise
fund for Viswabharati was not very fruitful in America, mostly because
he was seen as anti-British and pro-German. He continued talks at
Geneva, Zurich, Humburg, Copenhaegen, Stockholm, Berlin, Frankfurt,
Vienna, Prague and in other cities.
1921, established Viswabharati University. He gave all his money from
Nobel Prize and royalty money from his books to this University. Went to
Bombay and from there to Poona. Visited and lectured at Mysore,
Bangalore,Coimbatore, Trivandam, Cochin and Colombo. Got
invitation from China and visited Sanghai, Peiking. Visited Japan again
in this tour. Went to South America. Met Argentine poet Madam Victoria
Ocampo at Buenos Ayres. The poet gave her a name , Vijaya and
wrote Purabi - a collection of poems dedicated to her. On the
return journey visited Italy and lectured in Milan, Venice, Florence.
Mahatma Gandhi visited Santiniketan in poet's birthday. In 1926 visited
Dacca, Moimonsingha, Comilla. Visited Europe again and this time went to
Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Czechslovakia, Huungary, Bulgaria, Rumania,
Greece and Egypt. In 1927 went to Malayasia, Java, Thailand. In 1929
Canada. In 1930 Russia. In 1932 Iran, Iraq. And in 1934 to SriLanka.
1940 Oxford University arranged a special ceremony in Santiniketan to
honor the poet with Doctorate Of Literature. Tagore passed away on 7th