Rooted in the Indian reality, minus its dogmas, the flight of Rabindranath Tagore’s creative genius made him a global citizen. Swapan delves into the world of his ideas and visions, as Special Feature, exclusively for Different Truths.
Rabindranath Tagore was a great poet, prose writer and a Nobel Laureate who found his place in the niche of the world literary map for his outstanding creative and intellectual works. He has to his credit a plethora of landmark literary creations. He wrote thousands of poems and lyrics and about thirty plays and twelve novels, numerous short stories and a mass of prose literature. He was befittingly called ‘Viswa Kabi’.
Tagore’s contribution towards the intensive development of linguistic art in this country is praiseworthy. His profound mysticism and humanity, the elusive and universal character of his poetry lie deep into the soil of India’s cultural inheritance. He has marked differences from his predecessors in respect of the range of his interests, the variety of the media used for the expressions of his genius and the dramatic quality of his major contributions.The graces of Tagore’s poetic art gets blurred into a single amalgam to give vent to the varied and often contradictory elements of a human heart.
He was born on 7th May 1861, to Debendranath Tagore and Sharada Sundari Debi at Jorasanko, in West Bengal. India was lighted up by the sparkle of his genius acclaimed by the countries across the world. A creative genius combined in him the excellence of a poet, philosopher, an educator and a humanist.
Haraprasad Sastri once commented on Tagore’s literary creations that bear testimony of his versatilities, “He has tried all phases of literature —couplets, stanzas, short poems, longer pieces, fables, novels and prose romances, dramas, farces, comedies and tragedies, songs, operas, kirtans, palas, and, last but not the least, lyric poems. He had succeeded in every phase of literature beyond measure. His essays are illuminating, his sarcasms biting, his satires piercing”.
Tagore’s reputation across the world as an educational reformer, an active supporter of social reforms and a political thinker having a deep sense of compassion and empathy towards the suffering mankind. His creative genius not only received universal and enthusiastic praise but gave our country an elevated and esteemed position among the nations of the world.
His ideas on society, state, nation and nationality bear the marks of distinctiveness. His analysis and deep insight as to the above ideas had their roots deep into the Indian soil. Stories, novels, poems and songs from the pen of Tagore acted as catalytic agents for transforming the ideas of politics into expressive and meaningful thoughts. His ideas of politics are deeply embedded in the will and urge for moulding a society towards character building. His ideas of politics have no connection with the rhetoric designed to make people applaud. He valued freedom as a precious gem of mankind. But his conception of freedom was full and fundamental. To him, the ills of morbidity and torpor, cowardice and ignorance, selfishness and pleasure-seeking, superstition and moribund custom, an authority of priestcraft go to make our bondage heavier than the fetters of colonial rule. To him inner freedom born out of self- sacrifice, enlightenment, self-purification (Tagore had a fetish about purity) and self- control, which would go a long way to eradicate the political problems in India.
Tagore’s love and interest about humanity found expressions even in his writings during boyhood. When he attained maturity, his love and interest about humanity became more intense and expressive. In a poem, Prabasi, he observes that his home is in all lands, his country in all countries, and his close relatives in all homes. His patriotism was above all narrowness and hatred. His patriotic songs are characterised by refinement and restraints. They are totally free from arrogance, aggressiveness and bellicosity. They sublimate and universalise and touch the tenderest chord of our heart. No song of Tagore bears the scar of conflicting interests and a warring spree of races. His songs are bereft of incidents of distant past fraught with historic clashes, conflicts, and feuds.
He intended to reach the west and the east as an ambassador of humanity. He took an interest in being solicitous of people’s well-being rather than a supplicant to beg for his country. He played a predominant role as an uniter for forging rapprochement among the races and continents, which were at loggerheads. He played a predominant role for renewal of India’s cultural relations with Asian countries followed by repeated visits. Though Tagore was highly critical of the injustice inflicted upon colonial India by the Britishers yet he never desisted himself from being upright in adjudging the qualities of the British people. Instead of being scornful to the western countries, he respected their knowledge of science, freedom and justice, and their urge for human welfare. He expected that the people of the East, as well as the West, would exchange their views with each other with dignity and prestige. He had his conviction that the west would never be able to dominate and exploit the East if the latter was fully awake, self-possessed and self-respecting.
Tagore did never explain and analyse the ideas and issues of human rights, state, state and individual, nationalism and internationalism through the lens of western ideas and romanticism. His analysis had its base on reality and his feet remained fixed on the terra-firma. But he never nurtured conservatism. He was in favour of making the best use of the fruits of scientific inventions. He encouraged scientific research and experiments for the advancement of scientific knowledge which would facilitate all-round development.
He had insight and imagination which always worked miracle. Being endowed with these attributes, he wandered where he liked and led his readers to destinations of his choice.
Tagore’s works on Bengali literature had outgrown in such a way as to keep the same above provincialism paving the way for friendship with world literature. His writings had facilitated the flow of universal currents of thoughts and spirituality in India.
He was an educationist par excellence. He tried to edify people through his novel ideas of Visva-Bharati that had its origin in the ideal of forest retreat of teachers. It is a famous seat of learning epitomising simplicity, purity and spirituality. It is a university to be grown on the lap of the Mother Nature. Tagore’s outlook towards education is universally characterised by a constant process of humanisation. He wanted Indian students and their ideas to be rooted in antiquity fraught with rich Indian culture and traditions. He wanted the man to act as knower and the maker constituting an integral part of his system of education. He always championed the cause of intellectual, artistic and aesthetic education. He was in favour of creating personalities (through education) capable of meeting the demands of the society. To him, education shall neither be only vocational nor literary – it should be a combination of both.
The entire Indian nation owes a great debt of gratitude to Tagore and this debt can only be redeemed if his ideas and dreams are translated to practice. Let us take a vow for the fulfilment of his aspirations. That would be our befitting tribute to the Bard on his 157th birth anniversary.
Photos from the Internet
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Swapan Bhowmik is a professional academic with long teaching experiences both at undergraduate and postgraduate (open universities) levels. Jadavpur University is his alma mater. At present, his area of study concerns itself with Sino-Indian relations in the wake of One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative.