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Rabindranath Tagore’s multi-dimensional personality

Rabindranath Tagore was a towering personality in Bengal. Anyone who became familiar with this large and flourishing tradition will be impressed by the power of Tagore’s presence in Bangladesh and in India. His poetry as well as his novels, short stories and essays are very widely read and the songs he composed reverberate around the East part of India and throughout Bangladesh.


Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath’s grandfather Dwarkanath was well-known for his command of Arabic and Persian and Rabindranath grew up in a family atmosphere in which a deep knowledge of Sanskrit and ancient Hindu Texts was combined with an understanding of Islamic traditions as well as Persian literature.

Most of his work was written at Santiniketan (Abode of Peace), the small town that grew around the school he founded in Bengal in 1901, and he not only conceived there an imaginative and innovative system of Education, but through his writings and his influence on students and teachers, he was able to use the school as a Base from which he could take a major part in India’s social, political and cultural movements. Rabindranath Tagore was not only an immensely versatile poet, but he was also a great short story writer, Novelist, Playwright, essayist and a composer of songs as well as a talented Painter whom pictures with their mixtures of representation and abstractions are only now beginning to receive the acclaim that they have been long deserved. His essays moreover, ranged over literature, politics, culture, social change, religious beliefs, philosophical analysis, international relations and much etc.

Since Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi were two leading Indian thinkers in the 20th century, many commentators have tried to compare their ideas. On learning of Rabindranath’s death Jawaharlal Nehru, then incarcerated in a British jail in India, wrote in his Prison Diary on August 7,1941: “Gandhi and Tagore – two types entirely different from each other, and yet both of them typical of India, both in the long live of India’s great men.... it is not so much because of any single virtue, but because of the tout ensemble, that I felt that among the world’s great men today Gandhi and Tagore were supreme as human beings. What good fortune for me to have come into close contact with them.” Tagore greatly admired Gandhi, but he had many disagreements with him in a variety of subjects including Nationalism, Patriotism, the importance of cultural exchange, the role of rationality, of science and the nature of Economic and Social development.

In fact, Rabindranath Tagore knew that he could not have given India the political leadership that Gandhi provided and he was never stingy in his praise for what Gandhi did for the Nation.

It was in fact, Tagore who popularized the term “Mahatma” - a great soul. When disproportionate severity of punishment inflicted upon the unfortunate people by the Britishers and the methods of carrying out and the universal agony of indignation roused in the hearts of the people has been ignored by the rulers – possibly congratulating themselves for imparting what they imagine as salutary lessons, I for my part want 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 a degradation not fit far human beings”.

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