What can one say about Gurudev! One feels so humbled, so belittled by the greatness and brilliance of this man and his towering elevation that words fall sort to describe his contribution in the field of art, music, literature, dance, education and philosophy.
Born on 7th May / 25th day of Baisakh Month in the Hindu Calendar in the year 1861 in Kolkata, India he was a gifted prodigy who left his indelible footprint in the field of poetry, music, short story, song composition, playwright, essayist, novelist, painter. He revolutionized the use of Bengali Language from the age old clutches of Sanskrit verse and made frequent use of colloquial language. He was responsible for elevating Indian culture in the eyes of the Westerners by forcing them to cast a new look at it and in terms of creative pursuits, he is undoubtedly the reigning King of 20th Century India.
He was the first Indian recipient of Nobel Prize in the year 1913, for his collection of verses ‘Geetanjali’ in the field of literature.
Born in a Zamindar family to a social reformer Sh.Debendranath Tagoer, who had declared himself a a Brahmo thus liberating himself from the narrow confines of Hinduism he completed his initial schooling at home, following which he was sent to England in the late 1870s. There he started with his literary sojourn and published several books of poetry. In 1891, he came back to India to take charge of his father’s property in East Bangladesh where he often stayed in a houseboat on the Padma River and his close association with nature and indigenous folks became inspiration for his finest short stories and poetry collections.
One of his most lasting contribution is in the field of education as he conceptualized a free school which he set up on an experimental basis in Shantiniketan, in the Kolkata suburbs. It is here that he amalgamated the best in Eastern and Western culture and this later became the VishwaBharati University in 1921.
The literary work which fetched him the Nobel Prize – Gitanjali was lot inspired by the pathos arising the deaths of his wife and two children which forced him to confront death from close quarters. This contained English translation of his Bengali verse which was hailed by the likes of W.B Yeats and Andre Gide. He received the Knighthood from the British Empire in 1915 for his formidable body of work but was repudiated in 1991 as Tagore’s form of protest for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
Tagore spent much of his years abroad campaigning for the cause of Indian Independence and had excellent relation with Gandhi, Nehru and other stalwarts of the freedom movement. Priyadarshini Indira Gandhi, Pundit Nehru’s daughter spent many of her formative years under his wing.
His novels are no less read in the annals of Bengali house holds and have since then formed the content of many excellent movies which have been made on them.
It was as late as 1920s that he took up painting and produced works whichrank him with contemporary greats of his times. He dies at the age of 80 on Aug 9th, 1941 and left behind a vacuum which India and particularly the people in Bengal have yet to come to terms with. It is a lasting tribute to this man that the national anthem in India and Bangladesh was adopted from Tagore’s brilliant creations.