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Rabindranath TAGORE


Rabindranath TAGORE (1860-1940), Nobel Prize in literature 1913 for his anthology of poems titled Gitanjali, Song Offerings (a compilation of different collections containing only 53 of the original Bengali Gitānjalī) was the first Nobel laureate from outside Europe, representing India and thus the first Nobel Prize of the Far East.

Venerated as a Poet and Writer who excelled in different genres, he was in fact an Educator pioneering a new school system, a Thinker, a Reformer and Revolutionary  as well as a world Traveller; a Painter as well as a political Activist; a land Reformer just as much as a highly rated Messenger between East and West whose encounters with the Greats of all continents fuelled the much needed Dialog of Cultures and Civilizations. His interest in science had him meet with Einstein; lesser is known about his meeting with Heisenberg (1927), one of the founding fathers of quantum physics.

Two of his poems have become national anthems (for India and Bangladesh), and the school and university he founded (Visva-Bharati) are still reputed institutions.

Shortly before Gitanjali, Song Offerings was published in 1912, Tagore had, in 1910, published in Bengali/Bangla his 157 poems rich Gitānjalī – the basis of his award-winning text. A hundred years later, The Other Gitānjalī, by Rabindranath Tagore now is the first translation by an internationally renowned Bengali linguist and a Tagore specialist  a native poet-author translating directly from Bengali into English.

Romain Rolland (Nobel 1915) had commented: Tagore is for us the symbol of spirit, of light and harmony – the song of eternity rising up from the sea of unchained passions.

The Nobel committee had stated: … his rhythmically balanced style … «combines at once the feminine grace of poetry with the virile power of prose»


Tagore's poetic style, which proceeds from a lineage established by 15th- and 16th-century Vaishnava poets, ranges from classical formalism to the comic, visionary, and ecstatic. He was influenced by the atavistic mysticism of Vyasa and other rishi-authors of the Upanishads, the Bhakti-Sufi mystic Kabir, and Ramprasad Sen. Tagore's most innovative and mature poetry embodies his exposure to Bengali rural folk music, which included mystic Baul ballads such as those of the bard Lalon. These, rediscovered and repopularised by Tagore, resemble 19th-century Kartābhajā hymns that emphasise inward divinity and rebellion against bourgeois bhadralok religious and social orthodoxy.

During his Shelaidaha years, his poems took on a lyrical voice of the moner manush, the Bāuls' "man within the heart" and Tagore's "life force of his deep recesses", or meditating upon the jeevan devata - the demiurge or the "living God within". This figure connected with divinity through appeal to nature and the emotional interplay of human drama. Such tools saw use in his Bhānusiṃha poems chronicling the Radha-Krishna romance, which were repeatedly revised over the course of seventy years.