Tagore, Rabindranath (1861-1941) poet, prose writer, composer, painter, essayist, philosopher, educationist, social reformer and the first Asian to be honoured with the Nobel Prize. It is basically as a poet that he gained fame all over the world.
Rabindranath's achievement as a writer can only be viewed correctly in the context of his whole life, because his thoughts' and poetics underwent modifications as he moved from one phase of his life to another. Through constant study and ceaseless experimentation and mental exercises, he mastered the transformations that' had taken place in' world literature, culture, civilization, philosophy and knowledge over the ages. Consequently, one can trace the content and form of his art evolving ceaselessly.
The result can be seen in his countless poems, songs, short stories, novels, essays, plays, musical dramas, dance dramas, travel narratives, letters, and the innumerable speeches that he delivered at home and abroad. Nevertheless, Rabindranath’s philosophy of life itself lay on solid foundations that were built on his own ideas despite his openness to changes coming from the outside world. Remarkably, his creativity always tended to flow into ever-new channels. He was a poet not only of his age but also for all ages. His genius was a transcendent one. His arrival in Bangla literature heralded a new era.
Rabindranath Tagore was born on 7 May 1861 (25 Baishakh, 1268 in the Bangla Calendar) into the affluent and culturally rich tagore family of Kolkata's Jorasanko. His grandfather was Prince dwarkanath tagore and his father was Maharshi Debendranath Tagore . His ancestors had moved to Kolkata from East Bengal to exploit the new opportunities created by the maritime trade links set up between Bengal and European countries. The efforts of Debendranath Tagoreled to an increase in the family's wealth as well as its landholdings. The Tagores of Jorasanko played a major role in the Bengal Renaissance of the nineteenth century and in the movement for reforms in religion and society of contemporary Bengal, especially of Balcutta. Raja rammohun roy was his close friend. Rammohun's ideals had a profound influence on Dwarkanath, his son Debendranath, and his grandson Rabindranath Tagore.
A pioneering figure in the awakening of the Bengalis, Rabindranath's father Debendranath Tagore, studied in Kolkata's famous hindu college. When Dwarkanath was busy in extending his landed estates and businesses, his son Debendranath had been devoting himself to cultivating the life of a spiritualist. His Godly thought led him to study religions and philosophies of the world. In the end, he found peace in the cultuvation of the upanisads. This aspect of Debendranath's character attracted his son Rabindranath.
His father's influence can thus be seen in Rabindranath's cultivation of the spiritual life as well as in his everyday conduct. In his father the poet found a role model, someone that was focussed and yet detached, very logical and yet very emotional.
When Dwarkanath Tagore, the zamindar and trader, died in 1846 he left a heavy burden of debts on his son Debendranath, because Dwarkanath lost his fortune in the great depression of the 1820s. But Debendranath was able to tide over the difficulties caused by the collapse of his father's business and zamindari estates. Debendranath had a great reputation for his honesty, spirituality, saintliness, and liberal outlook. The father influenced the son's outlook and taste in life, especially his literary and spiritual outlook. In that age the Jorasanko Tagore family was the locus of literary and cultural activities. Rabindranath Tagore was deeply influenced by the cultural environment of the family.
Debendranath Tagore established hermitage (axram) at Bhubandanga Mouza by buying a plot there in 1863 and established on the plot the famous Santiniketan asram there. In 1888 he dedicated this asram to the worship of Brahma through a trust deed. In subsequent years Rabindranath built a study centre there for the Brahmas, which eventually got transformed into the Visva-Bharati in the hands Rabindranath.
Rabindranath was the youngest of Debendranath Tagore's fourteen children. Rabindranath's oldest brother Debendranath Tagorewas a philosopher and a poet. Another brother, satyendranath tagore, was the first Indian member of the Indian Civil Service. Yet another brother, jyotirindranath tagore, was a composer and a playwright. Among his sisters, swarna kumari devi earned fame as a novelist. The tagore family home resounded with musical, literary, and theatrical activities. Moreover, the family had close links with the cultural and scientific world outside. Male members of this large family were brought up in an austere atmosphere under the supervision of caring servants. Rabindranath has recorded the story of his boyhood superbly in his memoirs, Jivansmrti' [translated by Surendranath Tagore as My Reminiscences (1917)]. In the palatial Tagore house in Jorasanko were water tanks, gardens, and all kinds of enchanting spots that allured the young boy, Rabindranath. However, the child was not allowed to stray away from the servants assigned to look after him. As a result, the child's imagination constantly concocted imageries 'of the outside world. In his later life, Rabindranath's attraction for this world is reflected in innumerable ways in his verse and in the songs that he composed and the journeys he undertook.
Rabindranath's formal education began in Kolkata's Oriental Seminary. Then, for a few years, he studied in Normal School, the institution established by iswar chandra vidyasagar. Next he went to St Xavier's School, but nowhere could he settled as a serious student and eventually he left institutional education and concentrated on domestic education which was quite in common for the outstanding families.'
A significant event in his life in this period was the trip to the Himalayas that he took with his father in 1873. On his way, father and son spent some time in santiniketan. This was the first time that the poet would leave the city and experience nature's open vistas. In this trip Rabindranath was able to become intimate with his father-an important occurrence in the poet's life. His father's unique personality overwhelmed the young boy. In his isolated lodging in the Himalayas, Debendranath gave his son lessons in sanskrit and also in other aspects relating to man and nature.'
By the time Rabindranath returned from the Himalayas, he seemed to have left his childhood behind him. From this time onwards his education and study of literature became free of institutional bounds. He now had tutors to teach him Sanskrit, English literature, Physics, Mathematics, History, Geography, Natural Science, etc. In addition, he studied drawing, music, and gymnastics. Although he had stopped going to school, he, in fact, continued his intellectual exercises at home rather more vigorously. Rabindranath published his first poem, 'Abhilas' in the tattvabodhini patrika in Agrahayan 1281 (1874), although some believe that the first poem that he was able to publish was 'Bharatbhumi' in the bangadarshan in 1874. The second poem that he could get into print was 'Prakrtir Khed' (1875). He read out both these poems before a gathering organised in the Tagore home for the literati. It is relevant here to point out that the Tagore family used to organise literary conferences where they invited prominent writers, journalists, and thinkers which they had titled 'Bidvajjan Samagam'. The organisers of these conferences were Dwijendranath, Satyendranath, and Jyotirindranath.
At this point of time, Rabindranath gave himself fully to general studies. But he was also writing creatively regularly. Some of his literary works were published serially at this time in some periodicals. Thus in the bharati he published Kavi Kahini (1878) and in Jvanabkur and Pratibimba he published Banaphul (1880). It may be mentioned here that Bharati was edited by Dwijendranath and published by the Tagores while Jnanankur was a magazine where famous writers of the period used to publish their works. Rabindranath's poem 'Hindu Melar Upahar', read before the hindu mela, and bearing the mark of the nationalistic spirit of Debendranath's family, earned him early fame and made it possible for him to publish his work in such a distinguished magazine.
Noticing Rabindranath's disdain for established methods of education in Bengal, his brother Satyendranath proposed to Debendranath that his brother be sent to England to become a barrister. And so in 1878, Rabindranath sailed for England with his brother. At first he studied in a public school in Brighton. Later, he was admitted to University College of London University. However, he did not complete his education there and left England for home after a year. But his stay in London, was tremendously productive from intellectual point of view. He could observe and interpret the ways and achievements of the western civilization very directly and profitably. Its proof is his Europe-Prabasir Patra (1881) and the musical drama Valmiki Pratibha that he composed in 1881 on his return to India. In it he set some of his lyrics to western tunes. The play was performed for 'Bidvajjan Samagam' in the Tagore home. Rabindranath himself performed the role of Valmiki. His niece Pratibha acted the role of Saraswati. Rabindranath mentioned the influence in his autobiography. From this period Rabindranath concentrated his creative energies on composing poems and songs. He soon published Sandhya Sabgit (1882) and Prabhat Sangit (1883).
At this time a remarkable event occurred in the poet's life that he has described elaborately in his autobiography. He was then staying with his civilian brother Jyotirindranath in a house in Kolkata's Sudder Street. One evening, as the sun was rising, he suddenly felt an awakening in him that made him feel that the world, nature, and mankind had become flooded by a universal wave of joy. His celebrated poem, 'Nirjharer Svapnabhabga' [The Fountain's Awakening] is a record of that mystical moment: The poem-in an English version- begins thus:
O, how did the sun's ray
Into my heart find its wayFoodgrain
This dawn, how could birdsong pierce my heart's dark denFoodgrain
After all this time, why does the heart suddenly stir againFoodgrain
Suddenly, Rabindranath was able to leave the hermetic world he had created in his imagination to take his place amidst humanity. From this point on Rabindranath's creativity began to have a major impact on the literary scene. In quick succession he wrote Chhabi O Gan (1884), Prakrtir Pratishodh (1884), Kadi O Komal (1886), Mayar Khela (1888) and Manasi (1890). In addition to these books of verse, he published prose essays, critical pieces, fiction, etc. This was also the time when he published his first two novels, Bouthakoranir Hat (1883) and Rajarshi (1887).
On 9 December 1883, Rabindranath married Mrinalini Devi Raichaudhuri, daughter of Khulna's Benimadhav Raichaudhuri. The couple had two sons and three daughters. Soon after his marriage Rabindranath was entrusted with the task of looking after some of his father's extensive landholdings. Among his tasks then was to act as the secretary of the original Brahma Samaj set up by his father. At this juncture, the Brahma Samaj was going through a period of uncertainty and internal nonconformism. The young Rabindranath discharged the duty entrusted to him of overseeing the religious movement diligently.
Another chapter of Rabindranath's life began subsequently. In September 1890 he left for England for the second time with his brother Satyendranath for a month. When he returned in October he had to take charge of management of some of his father's estates at his directive. In following his father's instructions, Rabindranath was led to the source of many of his literary creations. The poems, plays and novels he had written till this time were basically created out of his own mind and were thus almost entirely products of his own original creation. But now he had had the opportunity to come close to the life of ordinary people and survey the lifestyle of the poor from a close-up. The poet seems to have descended from the world of imagination to the real world.
The outcome was the collection of short stories titled Galpaguchchha the great classic for Bangla literature. In addition, the brilliant letters that he wrote to his niece Indira Devi, inspired by the beauty of North and East Bengal, were subsequently published as Chhinnapatra and Chinnapatrabali (1912). At this stage of his life, Rabindranath travelled throughout Bangladesh, going to places such as Gazipur, Shahzadpur, patisar, Kaligram as well as Shelidah, to manage his father's estates. In particular, the rural life and the landscape of Shelidah very vividly reflected in the poetry he wrote then. While traveling by a boat on the padma, he was able to view the river, its sandbanks, flora and fauna, sunrises and sunsets, the poverty and simplicity of the people who lived by the banks, and the passions that kept them together so closely. All these found their way into his fictions and verses of the time.
Some critics have categorized Rabindranath's work of this period as compositions of his sadhana phase, after the periodical called Sadhana, edited by Dwijendranath's son Sudhindranath, where many of them appeared. He also contributed many fine poems and stories to the periodical while expressing his views in it on education and politics in some forthright essays. In one such essay, 'Shiksar Herpher' (1892), he proposed that Bangla be made the language of education. He also emphasized the pursuit of developmental activities. The main thrust of his prose pieces was to emphasize knowledge of one's country, society, and culture; to rectify oneself through principles derived from a humanistic outlook; to be self-reliant; and do without the alms offered by the colonial rulers. The essays that he wrote reflected, on the one hand, his thoughts about Bengali society, and on the other, India's heritage, its spiritual aspects, and the importance of the pursuit of truth and unity. Among his publications of the period are Sonar Tari (1894), Chitra (1896), Kalpana (1900), Ksanika (1900), and Katha O Kahini (1900). In the works of this phase are reflected the poet's grasp of reality, his ideal of beauty, his ideas about ancient and contemporary India. He also wrote at this time about inspirational examples of the abdication of the self to be seen in present-day society and recent history.
Though Rabindranath was never actively involved in politics, he at the same time never detached himself from the current events either. On the contrary, he was unique in his attitude towards nationalism. He inaugurated the meeting of the Congress party that took place in Kolkata in 1896 by singing 'Bande Mataram' to his own tune. He composed his celebrated piece 'Shivaji's Utsav' at this time, inspired by the Shivaji Festival introduced by Maharashtra's Balgangadhar Tilak. In many articles that he contributed to Sadhana, Babgadarshan, and Bharati, he commented on the contemporary political situation. During the movement against the partition of Bengal that took place in 1905, he fiercely opposed the division of Bengal. In an essay published in Bangadarshan, he expressed his views on the subject forcefully. He also composed on the occasion a famous song celebrating the unity of Bengal: 'Let Bengal's soil, water, air, and fruits be one and blessed, O Lord'.
This was the period when Rabindranath composed many of his well-known patriotic songs. Two of them were chosen as the national anthems of Bangladesh and India. In his famous essay, 'Swadeshi Samaj' (Bhadra 1311/ 1904), he outlined a programme of action to make the country and its people self-reliant. In it he discussed different aspects of rural reconstruction, mass education, ownership in society, co-operative movements, and other schemes for social welfare. In fact, the rural reconstruction projects that he undertook later had their roots in the time he spent in Shelidah. He also introduced a number of schemes to alleviate the sufferings of his poor tenants. Among them were innovative projects in the fields of education, health, water supply, road construction and repair, and financial schemes to free peasants from the burden of loans. However, although Rabindranath wrote on behalf of the movement for self-rule, he never supported extreme nationalism or terrorist activities.
In 1901, Rabindranath left Shelidah and settled in Santiniketan. From then on began the tradition of holding a Paus festival and fair, named after one of the winter months of Bengal. In 1901 (7 Paus, 1308), Rabindranath established a school on the premise of his father's asram what came to be known as Santiniketan. The school started with five students. Rabindranath's son Rathindranath was the first student of this school, The poet's wife Mrinalini looked after the welfare of the students.
Life in Santiniketan School was modeled on the life led in ancient Indian forest hermitages. It was a simple life where the disciples were very close to their master. Assisting Rabindranath in running this hermitage was a Roman Catholic Vedantist priest named Brhamobandhav Upadhyay. It was he who first called Rabindranath 'Visva Kavi', that is to say, world-poet.
Rabindranath was always dissatisfied with the traditional educational system. He had nurtured in himself for a long time a scheme for an educational system that would be oriented towards both the spiritual and practical life. It was to achieve this scheme that he established Santiniketan School. It was his goal to make it an ideal institution of learning. Subsequently, he wanted to express through Visva-Bharati India's openness to the world, encourage the study of India's past, stimulate India's curiosity about international cultures, and develop the love of humanity in his students. Santiniketan School was set up in the beginning of the Swadeshi era. The end of the First World War transformed it into Visva-Bharati that soon became a bridge to the world.
In his personal and domestic life Rabindranath faced many setbacks throughout his lifetime. In 1902 the poet's wife Mrinalini Devi died. A few months later his daughter Renuka passed away. In 1905 Debendranath died and the poet's youngest son, Samindranath died in 1907. These successive deaths left Rabindranath grief-struck. Nevertheless, he continued to discharge his responsibilities in running the asram carefully and diligently. In addition to these setbacks in his domestic life, Rabindranath had to weather a severe financial crisis for some time then. But he seemed possessed with an inner force that would allow him to transcend all adversities. As a result there was no slackening in the pace of his work and his literary activities never stopped at any point of time.
Rabindranath's stay in Santiniketan left a lasting impact on his works. In the volume called Naivedya that he published in 1901 and in his many prose essays of the period one can see the fruits of his devotion to the spiritual life, practiced according to the precepts of ancient Indian religious beliefs. In the novels Chokher Bali (1309 BS), Naukadubi (1313 BS), and Gora (1316 BS), he portrayed the realities of life, the psychology of people, and the many problems facing his country. But it was at this stage that a great change occurred in Rabindranth's worldview. He managed to transcend the confines of narrow nationalism and arrive at a vision of timeless India. It was at this time too that he composed his famous poem, 'Bharat Tirtha' that has the following lines 'O my heart, arise fulfilled and land at India's shore of humanity'. On the one hand, India's historical progress and identity now became much more meaningful to the poet; on the other his musings led him to the pursuit of beauty and the world of the Formless. These pursuits are reflected in his volumes of verse Kheya (1906) and Geetavjali (1910) [subtitled in English 'Song Offerings' in the translation of 1912], and in his plays Raja (1910) and Dakghar (1912). In this phase of his work the poet tried to make sorrow and death an integral part of his philosophy of life. A few of the geetanjali poems were written in Shelidah, but most of them were written in Santiniketan. After he composed his poems and had set them to music, he would have his students sing them for him. They would sing the songs in unison in the moonlight under the open sky. Almost all of the plays Rabindranath wrote in the latter part of his life were composed in Santiniketan. His students would act them out after he had written them. He also used to compose musical plays and dance dramas for the seasonal festivals organised here.
Among the diverse forms of creative work Rabindranath is associated with, his songs are perhaps the most outstanding. His ear for music came from his family's love of it and he was able to cultivate his gift for songs and dances in the distinctive musical environment of the Tagore home. Mingling western and eastern influences, experimenting continuously with diverse tunes, and blending them in new ways with his exquisite lyrics, he created his own unique form of music, something that is imbued with his own nature. Gradually, his distinctive form of music, Rabindra Sabgit (tagore songs), became immensely popular and has now transcended time.
In 1911 the vangiya sahitya parishad (Bengal Literary Society), consisting of eminent people such as ramendrasundar trivedi, Justice Saradacharan Mitra, Acharya prafulla chandra ray, jagadish chandra bose, Manindranath Nandi, and others, celebrated the poet's fiftieth birthday. This was the first major event organised by the literati to honor him before he received the Nobel Prize.
The Jorasanko Tagore's home was always a major centre of activity for contemporary literature and art. Cultivated people from home and abroad would visit Jorasanko regularly. It was thus that the famous art critic Ananda Koomaraswamy and Sister Nivedita became intimate with the members of the family. Koomaraswamy translated some of Rabindranath's poems for the Modern Review. The famous historian Jadunath Sarker also translated some of Rabindranath's works for that magazine. Sister Nivedita translated his famous short story 'Kabuliwala' in the January 1912 number of the periodical. This story overwhelmed the English painter William Rothenstein with emotion. He wrote to abanindranath tagore inquiring about the poet. A few translations of his poems were subsequently sent to Rothenstein. At that time the philosopher brajendra nath seal, on his way to England for a conference, took them with him to England. Observing the interest it had aroused amidst the people he had shown the translations to, Seal urged the poet to come to England.
In June 1912 Rabindranath arrived in England, accompanied by his son Rathindranath and daughter-in-law Pratima Devi. The poet had already met Rothenstein in Kolkata in 1911. Rabindranath handed over to him some of his own translations of his poems. He met in the artist's house some of England's most famous poets and scholars. Notable among them were the Anglo-Irish poet WB Yeats and the Englishmen CF Andrews. Yeats would later write the preface to the English Geetanjali, thereby facilitating Rabindranath's reception in the west. Andrews would eventually become a disciple of both Rabindranath and Gandhi. Yeats listened with rapt attention to Rabindranath's reading of his poems. Later, the India Society published the book along with Yeats's excellent Preface. Subsequently, Rabindranath's Chitrabgada (1913), Malini and Dakghar (1914) were translated into English. His reputation as an outstanding poet kept growing in the European continent with these translations.
From England, Rabindranath went to America. He had sent his son there previously to study agriculture and animal husbandry in the University of Illinois at Urbana. In the process the poet had exchanged letters with some of the faculty members of this institution who had then invited him to visit their campus and lecture to them. He now addressed them as a philosopher and humanist. These lectures have been collected in the book titled Sadhana (1913). From America the poet went back to England where he gave some more lectures. In 1913 he returned home. In November of that year news came that he had been awarded the Nobel Prize.
Through continuous study, correspondence, and world tours Rabindranath always kept himself informed about the intellectual developments, scientific innovations, and political changes taking place everywhere. This had an impact on his outlook and on his work. The meditative strain of Geetanjali could be seen in Gitimalya and Gitali (both published in 1914), but his work now took another turn. His new approach to writing could be seen in the work he contributed to the periodical called sabujpatra edited by pramatha chowdhury. This periodical took recourse to the language of everyday life not only to convey progressive ideas but also for literary expression. Influenced by it, Rabindranath changed his poetic idiom and began experimenting with new forms of writing. Most of the poems of Balaka (1916) were published in this periodical. Going beyond the meditative universe of the Geetanjali poems, in these poems Rabindranath articulated his altered vision of a world in motion. The insights Rabindranath had gained in his travels in the west lay behind the new perspective that he adopted in this book.
Before the Balaka poems, Rabindranath's essentially romantic temperament flitted restlessly at times between aspects of happiness and sorrow and separation and union in human relationships and at times seemed to be bent on a search for the eternal sources of beauty. The two sides of his personality were reconciled in the Balaka poems. The main theme of his Sandhya Sangit (1882) collection, for example, was unhappiness and anguish at not being able to reconcile himself with the world. In Prahbat Sangit (1883) he had called out to nature and humanity. In Kadi O Komal (1886) nature and man's hopes and aspirations had attracted him, although he was preoccupied here with humanity as a whole as well. In Sonar Tari (1894) he had quested after beauty by detaching himself from the world of humanity. In the Manasi (1890), Sonar Tari (1894), and Chitra (1896) volumes Rabindranath sought a way between the finite and the infinite. He saw in one's life the presence of a Jivan Devata or the deity of life. Between the poems of Kheya (1906) and those of Geetanjali (1910) the poet had been immersed in the search of the eternal. But in balaka he was able to express himself with much greater vigour now that he had been transformed because of the changes that had been taking place in philosophy, politics, and views about humanity throughout the world. This was also when the poet's outlook embraced modernist views. And indeed, one of Rabindranath's distinctive achievements was his blending of eastern thought and western ideas in his modes of expression as well as his views about life. Bergson's ideas about vitalism had also impacted on his early thought. Balaka is thus a book containing an altered perspective on life. Along with new ideas and emotions, Rabindranath brought to these poems new forms of expression and techniques of verse. Notions about a world in motion brought to his consciousness the sense of an immense force at work in the world. Now he began to use free verse and experiment with diction and rhythms as perhaps can be seen in the English translations of the following lines:
As leaves lie fallen in winter's hermitage
Who knows why
Spring's heady wind sweeps pastFoodgrain
Knowing no shame, no fear
It gusts through the sky gleefully
Arousing the idle winter hours
From their dew-filled stupor.
In this phase of his life Rabindranath wrote the novels Chaturabga (1916) and Ghare-Baire (1916) [the latter novel has been translated into English as The Home and the World by Surendranath Tagore in 1919]. Both these works were published serially in Sabujpatra. This was a period when Bengali literature was taking a significant new turn as was Rabindranath's own mind. Rabindranath articulated the humanist ethos of the Balaka poems in the play titled Falguni that he also published the same year as these novels.
In 1916 the poet travelled to Japan. His companions on this tour were his two overseas admirers William Pearson and CF Andrews and the young artist Mukul De. In Kolkata, Rabindranath had already acquainted himself a little with the Japanese culture when he met the Japanese painter Okakura in the city. In his initial encounter with it he had been impressed by Japan's greatness. But now in Japan he was exposed to something completely different in the rampant nationalism that he saw in the country. This led him to write a series of speeches that he delivered in America and later compiled in Nationalism (1917). In addition, he lectured in America on topics such as the goals of education, self-identity, and on the larger world. These were published in the book titled Personality (1917).
The next major event in Rabindranath's life occurred in 1919 when he repudiated the knighthood that had been conferred on him by the British Government in 1915. On 13 April 1919 the British Police had fired on a demonstration in Punjab's Jallianwalabagh, where many Indians had assembled to protest against the passage of the Rowlatt Act. Hundreds of people were killed in this incident. Rabindranath wrote a letter to the Viceroy in protest and informed him of his decision to resign his knighthood.
One consequence of his American trip was that Rabindranath now recast his ideas about the school in Santiniketan in the light of his recent experience. Now Visva-Bharati acquired its complete shape. Rabindranath transformed the institution into a centre for higher learning. His aim was to establish a complete and comprehensive system of education that would combine Indian philosophy with the best of international education. Here he made provisions for the study of music and painting while arranging for more traditional forms of study and research. In 1921 the poet established the Visva-Bharati Board to run the institute according to specific guidelines. He eventually handed over its management to the government so that Visva-Bharati become a permanent institution. Rabindranath also established at this time a full-fledged organisation for agricultural and rural development called Sriniketan in the village of Shurul, two miles away from Santiniketan. Schemes for developing animal husbandry, weaving, agriculture, and cottage industries were undertaken by this organisation. In addition, projects to improve the lot of the villagers such as a village library, hospital, cooperative bank, tube-well irrigation, and an industrial estate were adopted. For Rabindranath one goal of Visva-Bharati was to adopt a broad outlook and the other was to promote universalism. It was because they were inspired by this vision that people like Pearson and the agricultural scientist Leonard Elmhurst came to Santiniketan to serve the institution. In this context, Elmhurst's financial contribution to Santiniketan is worth mentioning. Sriniketan was established and run because of generous and sustained funding provided by Elmhurst's wife, Dorothy Straight.
Taken together, Santiniketan asram and School and Visva-Bharati are the main embodiments of Rabindranath's educational philosophy. Of the three, the first is more purely spiritual; the second one is devoted to giving students an education and introducing them to a school of life, and the third is designed to establish a bridge between the east and the west through humanistic and useful study. In addition, he wanted to unite purposeful education with the pursuit of the ideal life. The education imposed by the British on India at this time was one that was divorced from the realities of life. To overcome this split, he had established Sriniketan. The poet managed to associate many educationists and scholars both from home and abroad with Santiniketan. Among them were Sylvain Levi, Moritz Winternitz, Vincent Lesny, Sten Konow, Carlo Formici, Giuseppe Tucci, Dr. Harry Timbers, etc. The poet also became an intimate friend of the world famous philosopher Romain Rolland.
The educational ideals of Santiniketan are a manifestation of Rabindranath's humanistic outlook on life. He has detailed the philosophy that lay behind the establishment of this institution in his essay, 'The Centre of Indian Culture'. He read this paper to gatherings at home and abroad. Wherever he went in India, he informed people about the institution that he had built and asked for the help of everyone he met. Some distinguished faculty members of Santiniketan tried to assist the poet in his efforts to develop it throughout their lives. Among them were Mohitlal Sen, Satishchandra Roy, Ajitkumar Chakravarty, Jagodanand Roy, Haricharan Bandyopadhyay, Bhupendranath Sanyal, Manoranjan Bandyopadhyay, Kunjabihari Ghosh, bidhushekhar shastri, and Kshitimohan Sen.
In 1920 the poet travelled to England once more and then moved on to France, Holland and Belgium before landing in America. Everywhere he lectured, he mentioned Santiniketan so that people would know about the institution. But his experience in America this time was not altogether a happy one. He also visited Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, and Sweden in this trip. In Europe he was feted like a king. The speeches he gave on this journey are collected in the volume titled Creative Unity (1922). In it are echoed his messages of the importance of the unity of mankind and of the necessity of having an international outlook.
Rabindranath returned to India from Europe in 1921. By this time the nationalist movement had taken a new turn in his country. Mahatama Gandhi had come to India then from South Africa to lead the movement. On 6 September 1921, Gandhi and Rabindranath had a historic meeting in Jorasanko. When in 1932 Gandhi was on a fast in a jail, Rabindranath composed the song that begins (in English translation) as 'When life is shrunk, come where compassion flows' to induce him to break his fast.
From the time he had begun travelling all over the world, Rabindranath had started to think about the problems it was facing. Wondering about ways of preventing humanity from getting embroiled in global conflicts, he began to indicate ways of doing so in his lectures. In between his travels he composed Palataka (1918) and Purabi (1925), two books of verse, and Muktadhara (1922), a play. In 1924 the poet travelled to the Far East and visited China and Japan. It was during this period that he composed his famous play raktakarabi (1924) which was originally published in prabasi. He had been unable to travel to Peru later that year to attend the centenary celebrations of the country's independence, having had to stop his journey in Argentina because of poor health. Here he met the erudite Spanish poet Victoria Ocampo. Ocampo offered to host the poet's stay in Buenos Aires and look after his welfare. Purabi is thus dedicated to her. From Argentina the poet returned to India via Italy. In 1926 and 1927 he set out for Europe. Having toured many countries of the continent, he eventually returned to India via Java. In Java he saw the remnants of ancient Indian civilization and wrote about them in his Java-Yatrir Patra.
Rabindranath visited Canada in 1929. Here he delivered a famous lecture titled The Philosophy of Leisure. From Canada he went to Japan for the third time. Between 1926 and 1930 he published a number of famous works. Among them are volumes of verse such as Mahuya, the novels Yogayog and Sheser Kavita, the plays Tapati and Shes Raksa, and the musical drama Rturabga. In addition, he wrote numerous essays and speeches that he was invited to read in all sorts of assemblies and events. As the president of the Indian Philosophical Congress he gave a lecture on the humanist creed of the Bauls of Bangladesh, titling it The Philosophy of Our People. In 1930 he was invited to Oxford to deliver the Hibbert lectures, a lecture series where leading thinkers of the world were invited to be speakers. The title of the Hibbert lecture he presented at Oxford's Manchester College on 19 May is 'The Religion of Man'. The lecture earned him a place among the leading thinkers of his age.
At the age of sixty Rabindranath started to paint. It all began from his doodling and the way he used to cross out things in drafting his writings. His paintings pleased art lovers in Paris, England, Germany, Denmark, and other countries. Around this time, he went to Russia. Looking at the socialist revolution in Russia after the First World War and the actions undertaken by the country then the poet was highly impressed. His experience of the trip is recorded in his Russiar Chithi (1931). He then toured America and eventually returned home in January 1931. Rabindranath took two more overseas trips afterwards, one of them to Iran and Iraq in 1932, and the other one to Ceylon in 1934.
The University of Calcutta honored Rabindranath in a number of ways throughout his life. In 1921 he was the first recipient of the 'Jagattarini Padak' awarded by the university. In 1932, he delivered the 'Kamala Lecture' here on the 'Religion of Man'. He also accepted the appointment of a professor in the university and gave a few lectures in this capacity. In 1938 he made history by delivering the convocation address of the university in Bengali.
Till the last years of his life Rabindranath continued to compose countless poems, songs, dance dramas, critical essays, novels and prose pieces. In the work he did in the last decade of his literary career, he showed the impact of the new age in literature. At this time he composed fifteen volumes of verse. Among them Punashcha (1932), Shes Saptak (1935), Patraput (1936) and Shyamali (1936) are basically prose poems. Now there was a profound change too in the poet's mentality. The poet became more conscious about adopting a scientific outlook and seemed to have become more detached from worldly concerns. The poems increasingly became more spare and meditative. He appeared to be thinking more and more about death. These preoccupations are reflected in the volume titled Prantik (1938). But his imagination also took in the world of men and women, that of fairy tales, and seemed bent on the pursuit of the inner being as in the songs of the mystical Baul singers of Bengal. He also went back to his childhood memories as well as the pain of the oppressed and of ordinary people. He continued, too, with his literary experiments and dedicated himself to the creation of new forms. For example, he now wrote some prose songs. He composed some wonderful dance dramas such as Chitrangada (1936), Shyama (1939), and Chandalika (1938). Images of nature are given musical form in Nataraj (1926), Navin (1931), and Shravangatha (1934). The novels that he wrote in the last decades of his life are Dui Bon (1933), Malavcha (1934), and Char Adhyay (1934).
As he came to the end of his life Rabindranath began thinking about many complex scientific issues. The fruit of his interest in such issues is the collection of essays Visva-Parichay (1937). The poet had been fascinated by scientific studies from his childhood. He now wrote quite a few essays on biology, physics, and astronomy. His interest in science had been further stimulated in the first part of his life because of his intimacy with the eminent Bengali scientist Jagadishchandra Bose. His poetry reflects his awareness of the latest developments in science and philosophy. While in Europe he had the occasion to discuss scientific issues with Einstein. His nature poetry articulates his awareness of the scientific laws at work behind the creation of the universe. In the stories collected in Se (1937), Tin Sabgi (1940), and Galpasalpa (1941), he devised excellent narratives centreed on the exploits of science and scientists.
Before his death, however, Rabindranath, truly a poet with an international perspective, witnessed the grave crisis of values in the world manifested in the Second World War. Nevertheless, Rabindranath continued to believe in the greatness of mankind. His faith in humanity is reflected in the volume Kalantar (1937) and Sabhyatar Sabkat (1941). The latter embodies his final message for humanity and is based on a speech he read in the last birthday anniversary organised for him when he had completed his eightieth year. In 1940 the poet had become seriously ill while on a visit to Kalimpong. From then on his health declined steadily. He died on 7 August 1941 (22 Shravan 1348) in the Jorasanko Tagore's home.
Rabindranath was a poet of inexhaustible vitality, immense humanism, and a writer enthralled by nature's timeless beauty. He saw death as a stopping station on the way to eternity. Life and death and the world itself were manifested to him as one. That is why he had composed the following lines in a song that encapsulates his philosophy of life: 'Full of sorrow, full of death, and the pain of separation/Still bliss, happiness, and delight keep emerging within us. [Shahida Akhter]
Bibliography Sri Sukumar Sen, Rabindranath Thakur, Eastern Publishers, Kolkata, 4th ed, 1969; Purnananda Chattopadhyay, Rabindranath ebang Rabindranath, Ananda Publishers Pvt Ltd, Kolkata, 1981; Rabindra Parichay, Visva-Bharati Granthanbibhag, Kolkata, 1982; Rabindra Rachanabali, 1-27 Vols, Visva-Bharati Granthanbibhag, Kolkata, 1974-1983; Santiniketan 1901-1951, Visva-Bharati, 1971.