A small insight into the life of India's most beloved polymath
In his quest to make literature a link between the human soul and the divine, Rabindranath Tagore single-handedly reshaped the Indian literature by freeing it from the traditional fetters. This mystic poet blended spirituality and romance with such effortlessness and simplicity that he remained, and still remains, an enigma to the world of litterateurs and general masses.
He was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize. Nobel committee claimed to acknowledge his sheer brilliance “because of his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West".
The British Government crowned him with the Knight Title (which he later returned as a protest against the Jallianwala Bagh massacre)
He was conferred acknowledgments and recognitions by various Governments by issuing awards, issuing postal stamps, opening Institutions, Health Centers, and many Seva Centres and what not all over the world.
He composed National anthems of two countries –India and Bangladesh. In addition to this, the Sri-Lankan national anthem is also based on a Bengali song originally written by Tagore.
Rabindranath Tagore, though best known as a phenomenal poet, was a man of many talents – painter, philosopher and philosopher. But what made him so special that he has been heralded, in fact, worshipped as a genius par excellence since times immemorial? The reason, I believe, is not just the endless awards and recognitions. He chose to rise beyond the realms of the society and expand his horizons in his quest for truth and yet, he never abandoned his benevolence, humility and earthiness is what makes him who he is in our hearts today.
He started writing and the age of 8 and went on to write over three thousand literature works in his lifetime. His works are not meant to be caged in the pages of a book but to be let loose into the air so that every living being breathes it in; breathe it in and revel in the beauty of it until it transcends all dimensions and teaches you how to be the best version of you.
Wiithout any formal guidance in painting, Tagore started painting mostly after the age of 60. His poetic consciousness combined with his sensibility for art and culture led him to create magic on canvas. He explored various art genres like modern western, primitive and child art, without any inhibitions. He knew the power of creative freedom.
After his extensive travelling, he put together his ruminations about Nationalism in a book. His views can probably be best summarized by this following paragraph: “And yet I will persist in believing that there is such a thing as the harmony of completeness in humanity, where poverty does not take away his riches, where defeat may lead him to victory, death to immortality, and where in the compensation of Eternal Justice those who are the last may yet have their insult transmuted into a golden triumph. Let our life be simple in its outer aspect and rich in its inner gain. Let our civilization take its firm stand upon its basis of social co-operation and not upon that of economic exploitation and conflict.”
When he met Einstein and together they pondered over the complexities of the relationship between religion and science, of the simplicity of the higher Truth and of the idea of humanity in itself, they brought together spirituality and science. Tagore is believed to have said, “Matter is composed of protons and electrons, with gaps between them; but matter may seem to be solid. Similarly humanity is composed of individuals, yet they have their interconnection of human relationship, which gives living unity to man’s world.”
In the end, I would wish to conclude with one of my most famous jewels by Tagore:
“On the seashore of endless worlds children meet.
The infinite sky is motionless overhead and the restless water is boisterous. On the seashore of endless worlds the children meet with shouts and dances.
They build their houses with sand, and they play with empty shells. With withered leaves they weave their boats and smilingly float them on the vast deep. Children have their play on the seashore of worlds.
They know not how to swim, they know not how to cast nets. Pearl-fishers dive for pearls, merchants sail in their ships, while children gather pebbles and scatter them again. They seek not for hidden treasures, they know not how to cast nets.
The sea surges up with laughter, and pale gleams the smile of the sea-beach. Death-dealing waves sing meaningless ballads to the children, even like a mother while rocking her baby’s cradle. The sea plays with children, and pale gleams the smile of the sea-beach.
On the seashore of endless worlds children meet. Tempest roams in the pathless sky, ships are wrecked in the trackless water, death is abroad and children play. On the seashore of endless worlds is the great meeting of children.”
― Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali