Rabindranath Tagore [1861-1941]
Rabindranath TagoreGurudev Rabindranath Tagore was a creative epoch in whose wake great legions of inspired writers, poets, singers, musicians, linguists, historians, artists and philosophers emerged in India. Tagore, despite the fact that he wrote mainly in Bengali, was the voice of India. The extent of his influence on Bengali culture was so vast that no meaningful account is possible in the space of an article. The prohibitive and virtually impossible task of presenting Tagore’s supreme mastery in any other medium outside Bengali remains a major stumbling block. To accomplish this, access to the translations and interpretations of Tagore’s work should be broadened and not held back. Tagore’s genius, as well as, his human limitations in the areas of his life and works must be critically evaluated and not stashed away in a forgotten iron safe of presumed perfectionism.
Tagore had early success as a writer in his native Bengal. With his translations of some of his poems he became rapidly known in the West. In fact his fame attained a luminous height, taking him across continents on lecture tours and tours of friendship. For the world he became the voice of India's spiritual heritage; and for India, especially for Bengal, he became a great living institution.
Although Tagore wrote successfully in all literary genres, he was first of all a poet. Among his fifty and odd volumes of poetry are Manasi (1890) [The Ideal One], Sonar Tari (1894) [The Golden Boat], Gitanjali (1910) [Song Offerings], Gitimalya (1914) [Wreath of Songs], and Balaka (1916) [The Flight of Cranes]. The English renderings of his poetry, which include The Gardener (1913), Fruit-Gathering (1916), and The Fugitive (1921), do not generally correspond to particular volumes in the original Bengali; and in spite of its title, Gitanjali: Song Offerings (1912), the most acclaimed of them, contains poems from other works besides its namesake. Tagore's major plays are Raja (1910) [The King of the Dark Chamber], Dakghar (1912) [The Post Office], Achalayatan (1912) [The Immovable], Muktadhara (1922) [The Waterfall], and Raktakaravi (1926) [Red Oleanders]. He is the author of several volumes of short stories and a number of novels, among them Gora (1910), Ghare-Baire (1916) [The Home and the World], and Yogayog (1929) [Crosscurrents]. Besides these, he wrote musical dramas, dance dramas, essays of all types, travel diaries, and two autobiographies, one in his middle years and the other shortly before his death in 1941. Tagore also left numerous drawings and paintings, and songs for which he wrote the music himself.