By: Barnali Bose, Editor-ICN World
KOLKATA: A rich amalgamation of poetic excellence, musical grandeur, empathetic humanism heightened by nationalistic fervour- such are the qualities that define Rabindranath Thakur, anglicised Tagore and reverently addressed as Bishsho Kobi or Gurudev.
Tagore was born on May 7 or 25th Boishak,1861 in the Jorasanko mansion that prided in being home to one of the most affluent and intellectually enriched families of the time in Calcutta.
To quote him,“I was brought up in an atmosphere of aspiration, aspiration for expansion of the human spirit. We, in our home, sought freedom of power in our language,freedom of imagination in our literature,freedom of soul in our religious creeds and freedom of mind in our social environment.”
This spirit was well reflected in the family’s following of the progressive ideals of the Brahmo Samaj, founded by Ram Mohan Roy. In 1911, Tagore acquired the leadership of the Adi Brahmo Samaj.
Rabindranath Tagore was a key figure in the Bengal Renaissance. From verses, short stories, novels, plays, dance dramas, essays and over 2500 songs to his credit, Tagore’s all-encompassing magic is inimitable. Besides Jana Gana Mana, he composed Amar Shonar Bangla for Bangladesh.
Tagore’s belief that true education results from man’s tryst with his environment culminated into the foundation of Visva Bharati University at Shantiniketan in Bengal.
After the infamous Jallianwala Bagh massacre, Tagore, called the ‘Great Sentinel’ of modern India by Mahatma Gandhi, surrendered his knighthood, a much- coveted title, then.
He wrote to the then Viceroy Lord Chelmsford: “The time has come when badges of honour make our shame glaring in the incongruous context of humiliation, and I for my part, wish to stand, shorn, of all special distinctions, by the side of those of my countrymen who, for their so called insignificance, are liable to suffer degradation not fit for human beings.” His hand-written letter, I had the privilege to see on display at Victoria Memorial in Kolkata.
Rabindranath Tagore received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. Tagore’s Gitanjali or Song Offerings is a collection of 157 English prose poems , which are his own English translations of his Bengali poems first published in November 1912 by the Indian Society of London.
The Irish poet, William Butler Yeats in his preface to the Gitanjali wrote: “These verses … as the generations pass, travellers will hum them on the highway and men rowing upon the rivers. Lovers, while they await one another, shall find, in murmuring them, this love of God a magic gulf wherein their own more bitter passion may bathe and renew its youth..”
Here is a short poem from Gitanjali:
When I go from hence,
let this be my parting word,
that what I have seen is unsurpassable.
I have tasted of the hidden honey of this lotus
that expands on the ocean of light,
and thus I am blessed—let this be my parting word.
In this playhouse of infinite forms
I have had my play
and here have I caught sight of him who is formless.
My whole body and my limbs
have thrilled with his touch
who is beyond touch;
and if the end comes here, let it come—let this be my parting word
Robi Thakur breathed his last on 7th August or 22nd ‘Shrabon’,1941.
His last wish was, to be remembered for the sweet melody of his songs.Most humbly, I have endeavoured to interpret Kobi Guru’s thoughts in English.
He said, “I have loved people in this earthly life . My love for them, I have woven in my string of songs. If they remember me, they will, for my songs.”