India produced two great men during the war of independence – Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore. The Mahatma was a man of great and holy soul or spirit; Tagore was a man of great and holy heart. The Mahatma and Gurudev, as they called them each other, remained inseparable throughout life and looked upon each other as the fountain-head of solace and inspiration. Both were complementry to each other in many respects. Before the Mahatma. Tagore became known in the west as the representative of the ancient Indian culture and philosophy. In the post-war Europe, he was acclaimed as the great man of the world. The city of changed her name in honour of his visit. There were torch-light processions in Germany during his visit to the country, Everywhere he was honoured as even a King or a Victor is not honoured.
Tagore’s birth and early education
Rabindranath Tagore saw the light of day on May 6, 1861 as the youngest son of Maharishi Devendranath Tagore, a big landlord and a leader of the Brahma Samaj. The Tagore family of Jorashanko is well-known all over Bengal for its cultural leadership. The child Rabindra studied for sometime at a convent school and then was educated privately at home. His eldest brother, Dwijendranath, was a poet. So was an elder sister Swarana Kumari. The poet Beharnal was a kind of preceptor to Rabindranath. He began composing poems very early in life.
Tagore’s visit to England and his style
Rabindranath sailed for England in his seventeenth year and studied for sometime at the University College London. In his ‘Autobiography’ he has described some of his heart-touching experiences in England. After a short stay there, he came back to India. When he was twenty-four, he went to the countryside to take charge of his father’s estate. There he took to writing and by and by made a name for himself. At the beginning, the old school of critics did not appreciate his free style of writing. He was a prolific writer. He wrote many volumes of essays, poems, short stories and novels. He touc hed every branch of literature and made it immortal by his contri bution. He wrote numberless articles on politics, education and religion.
He received the Nobel prize
At the beginning of the twentieth century, we find Rabindranath Tagore in the forefront of the nationalist movement in Bengal. In his fortieth year, he founded his school at Shantiniketan, Bolpur. He was the President of the first Bengal Literary Conference, 1906 and the Bengal Provincial (Political) Conference, 1907. More than an educationalist, more than a social reformer and patriot, Tagore was a poet. He taught poetry, composed poetry and loved poetry. In 1912, he sailed for England and translated into English a collection of his songs known as ‘Gitanjali’. There he came in contact with W. B. Yeats, an eminent English poet. He was awarded the Noble Prize for literature in 1913. It was a day of rejoicing for Bengal and India. The Calcutta University conferred an Hon. D. Litt. on him in 1914. The same year, he was knighted. Honours come on him in thick fast. He pre ferred a quiet and slitary life of his school to that among his admirers in outside world.
His message of the world
Rabindranath Tagore moved from country to country is Europe. America and the Far East delivering lectures. Everywhere he was received with open arms. He had a message of peace and humanity for the post-war world. He asked the people of the world to return to the ways peace and brother hood and condemned the materialism of the West. The whole world eistened to his divine message with attention and looked upon him as the ancient wisdom of the East. He came under the impact of the Upanishads and also the old Sanskrit poetry. The Vaishnay poets of Hindi also influenced him. The symbolism which characterizes his later works is particularly comprehensible for an Indian.
He established Vishwabharati and renounced Knighthood
Rabindranath was not merely a philosopher and a poet but also a man of the masses. He renounced his Knighthood in 1919 after the Jallianwalla tragedy. In this connection, he wrote a letter to the Viceroy. In 1921, he changed his school at Bolpur into a centre of international culture and called it ‘Vishwabharti.’ Now he was known as the Gurudev’ all over India. On his 70th birthday in 1931, Rabindra Jayanti was celebrated throughout India. He passed away in 1941, a few months after celebrating his 81st birthday.
His contribution to literature
Tagore wrote in Bengali 35 poetical works, about 40 plays, about 19 story books and novels, over 50 collection of Essays on Literature, Art and Religion and composed over 3000 songs periodically in small collections with annotations. Many of his works have been translated into English. The Gitanjali is his most widely read and appreciated work.
Tagore was a prolific writer. He was a great poet, perhaps the greatest poet of India. His poems have been translated into almost all the languages of the world. His University, Shanti niketan, now enjoys a world-wide reputation. He has been called “the Poet Laureate of Asia”. He was a great idealist and a dreamer of dreams.