Rabindranath Tagore

Bengali poet, philosopher and polymath (1861–1941)

Rabindranath Tagore (Bengali: রবীন্দ্রনাথ ঠাকুর), who is popularly called "Kabiguru", was born on 7 May 1861. His name is written as Rabindranath Tagore in many languages of India. He was a poet, philosopher, and artist. He wrote many stories, novels, poems, and dramas. He is also very well known for composing music. He wrote the national anthems of both India and Bangladesh. His writings greatly influenced Bengali culture during the late 19th century and early 20th century. In 1913, he became the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Raveendranath Tagore

[[File:Rabindranath Thakur unknown location.jpg|frameless|alt=Late-middle-aged bearded man in Grey robes sitting on a chair looks to the right with serene composure.|upright=1|Tagore (c. 1925)]]
Tagore (c. 1925)
Native name
Robindronath Tagore(Thakur)
Born(1861-05-07)7 May 1861
Calcutta, British India[1]
Died7 August 1941(1941-08-07) (aged 80)
Calcutta, British India[1]
Resting placeCremated at Nimtala crematorium, Calcutta, British India; Ashes scattered in the Ganga River.
Pen nameBhanu Singha Tagore (s
NationalityBritish Indian Bengali
Alma materUniversity of Calcutta
PeriodBengal Renaissance
Literary movementContextual Modernism
Notable works (other works)
Notable awardsNobel Prize in Literature
(m. 1883⁠–⁠1902)
RelativesTagore family

SignatureClose-up on a Bengali word handwritten with angular, jaunty letters.
Locations of places associated with Rabindranath Tagore
Jorasanko, Kolkata
Jorasanko, Kolkata
Locations of places associated with Rabindranath Tagore

His major works include Gitanjali (Song Offerings), a world-famous poetry book; Gora (Fair-Faced); Ghare-Baire (The Home and the World); and many other works of literature and art. Tagore was also a cultural reformer and modernized Bengali art. He made it possible to make art using different forms and styles.

Tagore died on August 7, 1941 ("Baishey Shrabon" in Bengali, 22nd Shrabon).

Tagore was born on 7th May in 1861,at Jorasanko in Calcutta. He was the youngest son of his parents. His father was Debendranath Tagore. His mother was Sharada Devi.

Rabindranath Tagore was admitted to school. But he did not like the still education. So he was educated at home He wrote his first poem when he was eight years old. In 1877, at the age of 16, Tagore published his first large poetry collection and wrote his first short story and dramas.

In February 1873, at age 11, Tagore went on a tour of India with his father. They visited many places like Amritsar in Punjab, and Dalhousie in the Himalayas. Tagore also visited his father's estate at Shantiniketan. There he read biographies and studied history, astronomy, modern science, and Sanskrit. He also read works of Kalidas.

During this time, Tagore also composed many literary works. Tagore wrote a poem in the style of Vidyapati, a famous poet who wrote in Maithili.

In 1878, Tagore went to London. Because wanted to become a barrister. Later he studied at University College London. But in 1880, after Tagore did not do well in school, his father called him back from London. His father arranged a marriage for him with Mrinalini Devi, a girl of ten years. Child marriage was common during that time. They got married on December 9, 1883. Together they had five children.



In 1901, Tagore left Sheildah. He went to Shantiniketan (West Bengal) to build an ashram (which is like a monastery in Indian religions). In English, "Shantiniketan" means "an abode [place] of peace". He built a prayer hall, a school, and a library. He planted many trees and built a garden.

Tagore's wife and two of his children died in Shantiniketan. On January 19, 1905, Tagore's father also died.

By this time, Tagore had started receiving monthly income as part of his inheritance. He also started receiving some royalties for his literary works. He was very popular among readers of the Bengali language, as well as other people who knew his works through translations and reviews.[2] Rabindranath's father bought a large parcel of land in Santiniketan, intending to establish a preparatory school.

On November 13, 1913, Tagore won the Nobel Prize in Literature. The Swedish Academy had selected him based on a small number of his translated works, and his 1912 work of poems named Gitanjali: Song Offerings.

The British Crown gave Tagore a knighthood in 1915. However, he gave back the title in 1919 to protest the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in Amritsar. During this massacre, troops of the British Raj killed people who had no weapons.

In 1921, Tagore and an agricultural economist named Leonard K. Elmhirst set up the Institute for Rural Reconstruction in a village named Surul, near Tagore's ashram at Shantiniketan. Tagore recruited many scholars and officials from many countries to help the institute. Its goal was to use schooling to "free village[s] from ... helplessness and ignorance".

In the early 1930s, Tagore also grew more concerned about India's "abnormal caste consciousness" and differences based on castes. He lectured on the evils of such practices and also wrote many poems and dramas on these themes. He also became an activist.

He also founded a school named "Sriniketan" for teaching agriculture and crafts at Surul at a distance of about three kilometers from Shantiniketan.[3]

Last years (1932–1941)


Even during the last decade of his life, Tagore continued his activism. He criticized Mohandas Gandhi, one of India's leaders, for his comments about an earthquake on January 15, 1934 in Bihar. Gandhi had said the earthquake had happened because God wanted to punish people for practicing casteism.

Tagore also wrote a hundred-line poem about the poverty in Kolkata. Later on, Satyajit Ray based one of his movies on this poem.

During this period, Tagore wrote fifteen volumes of prose-poems. They covered many parts of human life. In his last years, Tagore took an interest in science and wrote a collection of essays. These essays explored biology, physics, and astronomy.

Tagore spent the last four years of his life in poor health. In late 1937, he lost consciousness. He was in a coma for a long time. Eventually, he woke up, but three years later, he went back into a coma. During these years, whenever he was conscious and felt well enough, he wrote poems. These poems talk about how he came close to death. Tagore died on August 7, 1941 at the age of 80 in his childhood home in Kolkata.



Between 1878 and 1932, Tagore visited thirty countries on five continents. His goal was to make his literary works known to people who did not speak Bengali. He also spread his thoughts and ideas, including his political ideas.

In 1912, Tagore went to England. The Anglo-Irish poet William Butler Yeats wrote the preface to the English translation of Tagore's famous book Gitanjali (Song Offerings). Tagore also met Ezra Pound, Robert Bridges, Ernest Rhys, Thomas Sturge Moore, and many others.

From May 1916 until April 1917, Tagore gave many lectures in Japan. Shortly after returning to India, the 63-year-old Tagore visited Peru at the invitation of the Peruvian government. At the same time, he also visited Mexico. Both governments pledged donations of $100,000 to Tagore's school at Shantiniketan.

On May 30, 1926, Tagore reached Naples, Italy. The next day, he met fascist dictator Benito Mussolini in Rome. On 20 July 1926, Tagore criticized and spoke out against Mussolini.

In July 1927, Tagore and two friends went on a four-month tour of Southeast Asia. They visited Bali, Java (island), Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Penang, Siam, and Singapore. Later on, Tagore wrote a book named Jatri (The Traveler) about his experiences during these trips.

In early 1930, Tagore left Bengal for a nearly year-long tour of Europe and the United States. In Paris and London, there were displays of his paintings. During this period, Tagore wrote his Hibbert Lectures for the University of Oxford. He also met Aga Khan III.

From June to mid-September 1930, Tagore toured Denmark, Switzerland, and Germany. Next, he toured the Soviet Union.

Tagore's travels gave him the opportunity to talk with many notable persons of his time. They included Henri Bergson, Albert Einstein, Robert Frost, Mahatma Gandhi, Thomas Mann, George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Subhas Chandra Bose, and Romain Rolland.

Tagore's last trips abroad were his visits to Iran and Iraq in 1932, and to Ceylon in 1933. He visited Iran as a personal guest of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Tagore was mainly a poet, but his other writing includes essays, short stories, travelogues, dramas, and thousands of songs. He was also an expert painter.

Many movies also have soundtracks featuring selections from Tagore's songs, the Rabindra Sangeet.

Tagore also wrote many non-fiction books. These covered many subjects, including the history of India, linguistics, essays and lectures, details of his travels, and other autobiographical things.

One of his famous dramas is 2 plays by Tagore and Dipashri In 1917, Tagore published a book called My Reminiscences. In this book, Tagore gives credit to his friend and mentor, Akshay Chowdhury,[4] for influencing him in literature since he was a child. Akshay was the youngest son of Mihir Chandra Chowdhury, whose ancestry was linked with the Dutta Chowdhury (Chowdhuries) family of Andul. Rabindranath used to call Akshay Akshay Babu.

Akshay Chowdhury, Romesh Chandra Dutt, and Jyotiridranath Tagore were classmates at Hindu School in Kolkata. Because of this, Akshay developed a strong, friendly relationship with the Tagore family.

Rabindranath wrote that he loved to discuss high-level literature in detail with "Akshay Babu". At times, Akshay and his wife, Sarat Kumari Chaudhurani,[5] used to participate in long talks about literature in a garden at Thakur Bari.

Music and artwork


Tagore was also a musician and painter. He wrote around 2,230 songs. People call these songs "Rabindra Sangeet" (which means "Tagore Song" in English). These songs are now a part of modern Bengali culture. Tagore's many poems and songs are parts of his novels and stories.

His songs and music cover many aspects of human emotion, devotional hymns, and love songs. In most Bengali-speaking families, people sing Rabindra Sangeet'.

Music critic Arther Strangeways of The Observer first introduced Tagore's songs to non-Bengalis through his book The Music of Hindustan. The book describes Tagore Song as a "vehicle of a personality ... [that goes] behind this or that system of music to that beauty of sound which all systems put out their hands to seize." Rabindra Sangeet has two great works, which are now national anthems of two countries: India and Bangladesh. This makes Tagore the only person in the world to have written the national anthems of two nations. They are Bangladesh's Amar Sonaar Baanglaa and India's Jana Gana Mana. Rabindrasangit. They are also influenced by musicians like Vilayat Khan, Buddhadev Dasgupta, and composer Amjad Ali Khan.

At age 60, Tagore took an interest in drawing and painting. He used many styles from different parts of the world. His styles included craftwork by the Malanggan people of northern New Ireland, Haida carvings from the Pacific Northwest region of North America, and woodcuts by Max Pechstein. Sometimes, Tagore used his handwriting in artistic styles on his manuscripts. His drawings and paintings were displayed in France and London. These varied artistic influences were further enriched by his extensive travels. Tagore's travels to Europe, Japan, and the U.S. exposed him to diverse cultures and artistic movements, significantly influencing his work. His visit to the 1913 Armory Show in Chicago, which featured Fauvist painters like Matisse and Derain, notably impacted his art. Tagore's painting of women in a field reflects Fauvist traits such as bold colours and expressive brushwork. This experience exemplifies his openness to experimenting with new styles and techniques, showcasing a blend of global influences in his art. [6]

Theatrical pieces


When he was 16 years old, he performed in a drama organized by his brother, Jyotirindranath Tagore. When Tagore was 20 years old, he wrote a drama named Valmiki Pratibha (The Genius of Valmiki). This described the life of Valmiki, a man who stopped being a robber and became a learned person, his blessing from the goddess Saraswati, and his writing of the Ramayana.

Another notable play by him is Dak Ghar (The Post Office), which describes how a child tries to escape from his confinement and falls asleep. This sleeping is suggestive of death. This play received reviews in many parts of Europe. In 1890, he wrote Visarjan (Sacrifice). Many scholars believe this to be his finest drama. The Bangla-language original versions included intricate sub-plots and extended monologues. He wrote many other dramas on a variety of themes. In Tagore's own words, he wrote them as "the play of feeling and not of action". Furthermore, Tagore’s “The King of the Dark Chamber” presents readers with a fascinating and enigmatic protagonist in the form of the King, an unseen monarch, even to his queen Sudarshana. Tagore portrays him as a powerful yet reclusive ruler, whose secluded existence in a dark chamber symbolizes his internal struggles and dissatisfaction with his appearance. Despite his regal facade and the power he wields, the King exhibits remarkable selflessness and forgiveness, as seen when he responds with understanding to Sudarshana's fear and repulsion upon seeing his true form, and spares the life of the King of Kanchi who caused great mischief. This complex character invites readers to reflect on internal conflicts and selflessness within themselves. [7] Another important aspect is Tagore's Rabindra Nritya Natya, dance dramas based on Tagore's plays.

Short stories


Tagore wrote many stories. Galpaguchchha (Bunch of Stories) is a three-volume collection of eighty-four of his stories. Tagore wrote about half of these stories during the period from 1891 to 1895. This collection continues to be very popular work of Bangla literature. These stories have been used for many movies and theatrical plays.

Tagore drew inspiration and ideas for writing his stories from his surroundings, from the village life of India. He saw the poor people very closely during travels to manage his family's large landholdings. Sometimes he used different themes to test the depth of his intellect.



Tagore's poetry is very varied and covers many styles. He drew inspiration from 15th and 16th century poets and from ancient writers like Vasa. Bengal's Baul folk singers were also influenced by his style of poetry. He wrote many poems when he was at Shelidah managing his family's estates. Many of his poems have a lyrical quality. These poems tell about the "man within the heart" and the "living God within". Over the next 70 years, he repeatedly revised his style of writing poetry. In 1930s, he wrote many experimental works of poetry, and also used modernism and realism in his works.

One of his poems reads "all I had achieved was carried off on the golden boat; only I was left behind". Tagore is known around the world for his Gitanjali ("Song Offerings"), his best-known collection, which won him his Nobel Prize. A freeverse translation by Tagore of a verse of Gitanjali reads as follows:

"My song has put off her adornments. She has no pride of dress and decoration. Ornaments would mar our union; they would come between thee and me; their jingling would drown thy whispers."
"My poet's vanity dies in shame before thy sight. O master poet, I have sat down at the feet. Only let me make my life simple and straight, like a flute of reed for thee to fill with music."



Tagore is the only person to have written anthems for three countries.[8]


Political views


Tagore's political views were complicated. He criticized European colonialism and supported Indian nationalists. But he also criticized the Swadeshi movement that many nationalist leaders in India liked. He liked self-help and learning. He asked Indians to accept "there can be no question of blind revolution, but of steady and purposeful education". Many people did not like his thinking. In late 1916, some Indians plotted to kill him when he was staying in a hotel in San Francisco, USA. When they saw him face-to-face, however, they instead started arguing with Tagore and changed their minds about killing him. Tagore also wrote many songs praising the Indian independence movement. He also returned the British honor of Knighthood as a protest against the 1919 Amritsar massacre. In Amritsar, troops of the British Raj had opened fire on unarmed civilians, killing many. Despite his unfriendly relations with Gandhi, Tagore played a key role in resolving a Gandhi-B. R. Ambedkar dispute which was about separate electorates for untouchables. Untouchables were people considered lowest in the social order. Rabindranath Tagore helped the freedom of India. He was first to identify the theme of "Globalization".[18] Insert non-formatted text here

Educational views


Tagore was also critical about the traditional style of education. While on a visit to Santa Barbara, California on October 11, 1917, he thought of a new type of education: a new type of university which he wanted to set up at Shantiniketan. On December 22, 1918, work for building the new university began. It opened on December 22, 1921. He named the university Visva-Bharati University. Tagore worked hard to raise funds for the university, and he toured many parts of Europe and the United States for this purpose. He gave all his Nobel Prize money to this university. The university gave personal guidance to all students. Students lived close to nature, and the teacher-student relationship followed a pattern of the gurukul system of ancient India. In his own words, he wanted this university to become "a world center for the study of humanity ... somewhere beyond the limits of nation and geography".

He also had a dream for the future India. He wanted India's freedom from the British rule. He dreamt of an India "where the mind is without fear it is ".



Even many decades after his death, people hold festivals in his honor in many parts of the world. Examples include the following:

  • The annual Bengali festival/celebration of Kabipranam - Tagore's birthday anniversary - held in Urbana, Illinois in the United States.
  • The Rabindra Path Parikrama is held in Shantinketan and many places in Kolkata and West Bengal. Even cultural institutions and families in private households organise programmes to celebrate his birthday.

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, who is also a Bengali, once noted that even for modern Bengalis, Tagore was a "towering figure", being a "deeply relevant and many-sided contemporary thinker".

Tagore's collected 1939 Bangla-language writings (Rabīndra Rachanāvalī) are one of Bengal's greatest cultural treasures, and Tagore himself has been proclaimed "the greatest poet India has produced".

He was also famous in much of Europe, North America, and East Asia. Translations of his works are available in many languages, including Russian, English, Dutch, German, and Spanish. In the United States, Tagore gave many lectures during 1916 and 1917. Many people attended those lectures.

Between 1914 and 1922, the Jiménez-Camprubí spouses translated at least twenty-two of Tagore's books from English into Spanish. These Spanish translations influenced many leading figures of Spanish literature, including Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral of Chile; Octavio Paz of Mexico; and José Ortega y Gasset, Zenobia Camprubí, and Juan Ramón Jiménez of Spain

Various composers, including classical composer Arthur Shepherd’s, have set Tagore's poetry to music.


Notes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Rabindranath Tagore - Facts". NobelPrize.
  2. "In 1901 He started ashram in "santiniketan"". Indore [M.P.] India. 11 February 2020. Archived from the original on 15 February 2020. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  3. Staff, Basictell Editorial (7 June 2021). "Biography of Rabindranath Tagore". Basictell. Retrieved 2022-04-16.
  4. "Akshay Chowdhury". MilanSagar.com (in Bengali). Retrieved 5 June 2016. (English translation from Google Translate)
  5. "Dutta Chaudhury family of Andul". duttachaudhurichronicles.com/. Archived from the original on 2016-05-06. Retrieved 2016-05-07.
  6. Das, Dattatraya (2023-09-27). "Exploring Tagore's Life: Unveiling the Stories that Shaped His Literary and Artistic Legacy". Celebrating Tagore - The Man, The Poet and The Musician. Retrieved 2024-07-15.
  7. Das, Dattatraya. "The King of the Dark Chamber: Unraveling Tagore's Enigmatic Protagonist". Celebrating Tagore - The Man, The Poet and The Musician. Retrieved 2024-07-15.
  8. 8.0 8.1 NationalAnthems.me, Bangladesh, Amar Shonar Bangla আমার সোনার বাংলা; retrieved 2012-9-21.
  9. National Anthem - Know India. Nation Portal of India. Government of India.
  10. Bhatt, P.C., ed. (1999). Constituent Assembly Debates. Vol. XII. Lok Sabha Secretariat.
  11. "Volume XII. Tuesday, the 24th January 1950. Online Transcript, Constituent Assembly Debates". Archived from the original on 2011-07-21. Retrieved 2009-06-07.
  12. Ganpuley's Memoirs.1983. Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.p204
  13. Rajendra Rajan (May 4, 2002). "A tribute to the legendary composer of National Anthem". The Tribune.
  14. "Controversy over Jana Gana Mana takes a new turn" (HTML). Rediff. Retrieved 2008-06-08.
  15. "Who composed the score for Jana Gana Mana? Gurudev or the Gorkha?" (HTML). Rediff. Retrieved 2008-06-08.
  16. Singh, Amardeep (2015-09-14). "Amardeep Singh: National Anthem Throwdown: Jana Gana Mana vs. Bande Mataram".
  17. National Anthem: From "Namo Namo" to "Sri Lanka Matha" , dbsjeyaraj.com, Retreived 2012-04-09
  18. Bhattacharjee, Pijush Kanti (2015). "Sir Rabindranath Tagore Struggled for Global Freedom". Indian Journal of Applied Research [IJAR], vol. 5, issue 7, pp. 255-258, July 2015.

Other websites


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