Rabindranath Tagore was one of the most famous wordsmiths of India. He was also known as “Gurudev” or the “Poet of poets” for having cast an unforgettable impression on the minds and hearts of his readers.
Rabindranath was the youngest of the thirteen children born to Debendranath Tagore and Sarada Devi. He was born on 7th May 1861 in Calcutta, Bengal. Rabindranath was fondly called “Rabi” by his parents. His father was a well-known Hindu philosopher and social reformer who introduced little Rabi to the world of theatre, music and literature at an early age. A child prodigy, Rabindranath wrote his first poem when he was merely seven. He did his early education at home and spent most of the time in the lap of nature.
Education and work
In 1878, he was sent to Brighton, England, to study law, but he failed to complete his studies and returned to Bengal in 1880. Back in his hometown, he devoted himself completely towards his love for reading and writing. In 1882, he wrote one of his most acclaimed poems, ‘Nirjharer Swapnabhanga’. In 1883, Tagore married Mrinalini Devi and fathered five children. In 1890, his compilation of poems, ‘Manasi’ was released. The period between 1891 and 1895 saw the release of his collection of short stories, ‘Galpaguchchha’.
In 1901, Rabindranath founded Santiniketan, meaning ‘Abode of Peace’, an international university with an extensive and flexible curriculum suitable for students with different aptitudes and needs. This was perhaps the most glorious and happy period in Rabindranath’s life but things were about to change. Sadly, between 1902 and 1907, Tagore lost his wife, son and daughter. Out of his anguish, emerged some of his most sensitive and critically acclaimed work Gitanjali that was published in 1910. It was authored in traditional Bengali dialect and comprised of 157 poems based on nature, spirituality and complex human emotions.
Gitanjali and Nobel prize
Rabindranath’s popularity grew manifold after the publication of Gitanjali in India as well as abroad, and in 1913, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He was the first non-European to win a Nobel Prize in Literature!
In 1915, he was granted knighthood by the British, which he relinquished as a symbol of protest against the 1919 Jalianwala Bagh massacre. During the 1920s and 1930s, he travelled extensively around the world; earning a huge fan-following. “Let us not pray to be sheltered from dangers but to be fearless when facing them”- these inspirational words of Rabindranath Tagore infused new life into the young Indian freedom fighters. He used to deeply admire Mohandas Karamachand Gandhi and it was he who gave him the title “Mahatma”.
Jana Gana Mana – Indian national anthem
Most of Rabindranath’s poems, stories, songs and novels talked about the social evils prevalent during those times such as child marriage and dowry. Tagore had composed about 2,230 songs, which are often referred to as ‘Rabindra Sangeeth’. We are sure that all of you know that it was Rabindranath Tagore who penned the national anthem for India – ‘Jana Gana Mana’, but do you know that he also wrote the Bangladeshi national song – ‘Aamaar Sonaar Banglaa’? Well, it is believed that even the national anthem of Srilanka is based on a Bengali song written by this famous historical figure!
Indian culture and Literature
Rabindranath Tagore loved to travel; during his lifetime, he visited more than thirty countries on five continents and spread the essence of Indian culture and Literature. His works have been translated into many foreign languages also including English, Spanish, German, Dutch etc. Even today, years after his death, this sage-like man, is alive in the hearts of the people of India through his treasured contribution in the realm of literature and music.