What Experts Say on – Rabindranath Tagore

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What Experts Say on – Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore

Amitav Ghosh (born 11 July 1956) is an Indian writer and the winner of the 54th Jnanpith award, India’s highest literary honor, best known for his work in English fiction. Ghosh's ambitious novels use complex narrative strategies to probe the nature of national and personal identity, particularly of the people of India and Southeast Asia. Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta in 1956. He studied in Dehradun, New Delhi, Alexandria, and Oxford and his first job was at the Indian Express newspaper in New Delhi. He earned a doctorate in Oxford before he wrote his first novel, The Circle of Reason, which was published in 1986.

The Guru of Indian poets, Rabindranath Tagore was born in Calcutta on 7th May 1861. The Tagore family had a long tradition of culture and yet was not close to the new winds coming from the west to India at that time. And what is more, the family was ready to provide its children everything that was congenial to the flowering of their inherent talents. Rabindranath Tagore ran away from a traditional school during his early teens and had his education seen to and supervised by his father. He was sent to England in 1878 for further education under Henry Morley at London University College. At the threshold of his youth, he had already been initiated into Indian classical literature, and Indian and western music and had begun to write verse. In his making as a poet, Tagore was greatly influenced by the inspirations of Brahmo Samaj. His books of poems, dramas, short stories, and novels in Bengali soon gave him a distinctive place in that literature.

Tagore was not only a good litterateur but also a good painter. In his time each painting of his life was very individualistic. He had given tunes to his songs and having a style and a nuance of their own, they form now a separate category in Indian music called Rabindra Sangeet.


Initially, a raconteur, his compendium ‘Letters from a Sojourner in London’ which was based on his life and times in London was published in book form in 1881. During the same year, he wrote the play ‘Valmiki Prativa’ and it was a rare stage appearance when Tagore appeared in the title role. Tagore’s genius entered a new phase when he composed the poems of ‘Manasi’, the musical play ‘Mayur Khela’, and the drama ‘Raja Rani’. He was the editor of the monthly magazine ‘Sadhana’. He ultimately published his works Sonar Tari’ and ‘Panchabhuta’ in the same journal.



The next important work and landmark in Tagore’s poetic career are Manasi (1890). The poet steps out of adolescence into manhood. The poet’s romantic imagination now flames into a blaze of light. The lyrics are marked by conflicts and tensions, and these tensions enrich the texture and give the work its chief significance. Manasi is the poetry of elemental conflicts. If the entrancing image of beauty, on the one hand, and the call of man, on the other, form the central stream, another stream only less ample runs parallel to it. Indeed, in his pursuit of ideal love, in his concepts of Nature and of man, in his poetry of scathing satire on the contemporary social scene, Tagore’s mind is lacerated by conflicts, and breathing in a tumult of passion unexcelled in romantic poetry. The conflicts themselves create tension that enriches his poetry, and their perception of us is itself a vivifying experience. Love, Nature, Beauty, and Man as “symbolizing the life infinite in the universe,” are its chief themes. The diction is luxuriant, both in imagery and vocabulary. There is subtlety but no obscurity.

Sonar Tori (1894):-

The Golden Boat marks another phase or peak. The magic of its rippling verse, the melting delicacy of its limited, but subtly repeated imagery, is unsurpassed. It creates an autonomous universe, a verbal icon before our very eyes. The lyrics of the collection are exquisite in their beauty and melody. This Great Awakening, as the poet calls it, was the first momentous event in the poet’s spiritual life. “Nature suddenly threw away her veil and led the entranced youth to her inmost sanctuary. And with endless wonder, the poet first discovered the hero ravishingly beautifully was nature, how enthralling her majesty. An entranced soul stood all alone in wonder before the waked loveliness of Nature’s charm. And in the process, there stepped out, in all her splendor, a being of imperial beauty whom the poet would love as no man loved a woman. It was a confrontation of a soul with another soul, vast and intangible, and letter after letter of Chinna Patra speaks of that soulful communion.

Chitra (1896):-

The conflicts and longings of the earlier work re-appear in the lyrics of this collection. The aesthetic and religious undertones of the lyrics mark a new stage in Tagore’s development. According to E. Thompson, “It is one of the summits of his work unsurpassed and un-suppressible in its kind”. The most important poem in this collection is Urvashi in which the poet’s vision of ideal Beauty finds incarnation in the ancient Hindu mythological figure of Urvashi. Edward Thompson says, “Urvashi is perhaps the greatest lyric in all Bengali literature and probably the most unalloyed and perfect worship of Beauty which the world’s literature contains.” In the figure of Urvarshi the finest romantic and classical arts meet and blend. The poem possesses perfection and felicity of loveliness.


Another collection of lyrics came out in 1896. The new phase of Tagore’s poetic work started with Chaitali, whose few poems were written in the early phase of his spiritual quest. Chaitali is the late rice gathered in the month of Chaitra. The book of this name shows the poet gathering up the fragments that remain so that nothing be lost. He is gleaning in fields that have given magnificent harvests. There is an autumnal atmosphere in the book. It is one of the most prophetic things that has ever come out of the human spirit. It looks back, in a mood of tranquil reminiscence, knowing the day’s work well done, and forward, with serene anticipation. It is written almost entirely in Rabindranath’s sonnet, that flowing, peaceful form of seven rhymed couplets. Its poems are a succession of pictures. “A girl with a buffalo, a baby and a kid, a prostitute, the ferry playing between villages, folk going forth to their labor at dawn.

Katha O Kahini (1900):-

is an exploration of various myths and legends. It recaptures the diversity as well as the underlying unity of India. It relates stories of heroism, sacrifice, and spiritual grandeur. The stories to which he turned were not Bengali ones, but chiefly Sikh and Maratha. It is a collection of stories as varied in theme as they are rich in dramatic power.

Kahini (1900):-

Tagore’s romantic imagination now explores from various angles, ultimate human values which triumph over the orthodox and the conventional. Several old Hindu myths and legends are used for this purpose.

Nadya (1901):-

It is religious and metaphysical in tone. It records the resolution of the poet’s discords and tensions. The poems of Naibedya have a marmoreal quality, its rounded finish and polished smoothness but also, Occasionally, its hardness, its coolness – both heightened by the chaste stately diction, the solemn image, and the cloistered sonnet form which all lend a dignity, even majesty, unknown before. A clear blue sky of harmony spreads over the earlier poems – more hymns and gnomic poetry than lyrics.

Gitanjali (1910) :-

The trio Gitanjali (1912) in English, Gitamalya (1914) and Gitali (1914) followed Kheya. The English translation of Gitanjali brought Nobel Prize and world fame to the poet. The poetry is a desperate attempt to express man’s relation to his fellow men, to Nature, and God. Gitanjali is verily the recordation of the vicissitudes in the drama of the human soul in its progress from finite to the infinite. And this progress is necessarily conceived as a battle, as a journey, and as a continuing sacrifice, culminating in a total offering of all one is (atmasamarpan) so that by losing all one may gain all.       Here Tagore seems to reveal important but simple truths through the medium of poetry. Life is a battle, a journey, and a search, and a progressive sacrifice. Such is the dynamic of spiritual struggle and realization. These poems are religious and mystic but their appeal is nevertheless universal. This work is great from the point of view of technique also. Words are simple, with felicity of diction, the delicacy of expression, and sublimity of theme. A spirit of joy in living, as well as of humility, marks these poems. There are influences of Vaishnava poetry. The poems echo the devotion of Kabir, bhakti of Meera, and ecstasy of love of Radha Krishna. W.B. Yeats and other great scholars appreciate his work “Four threads run through the rich texture of these works for they are concerned with God and the human soul, God and Nature, Nature and the soul, and the individual soul and humanity.” These four themes mingle and overlap, and the result is devotional poetry such as the world had never seen before. That is why Gitanjali took the whole world by storm and captured the mind of scholars and the hearts of writers of the da

Purabi (1925):-

This is another crowning achievement, Tagore’s thoughts turn once again to the mystery and wonder of God and His Creation. Purabi records the poet’s meditations on religious and metaphysical themes. Its dominant note is one of wonder and wistfulness. Some of the lyrics in this collection are particularly delicate and graceful. Arich’s reminiscent mood, a serene acceptance of life’s experiences are, remarkably graceful, jostle with verse austere and sublime.

Mahua (1929):-

Mahua is the name of a tree that yields flowers with a very heady fragrance. The collection abounds with nature images of strange, haunting beauty. They are an exploration into the mysterious cosmic force that is love – a force as vast and imponderable, and as creative as Nature’s forces. The two worlds meet and merge and the poems are aglow with that vital affinity. Indeed there is hardly a power where nature images exquisitely vivid, detailed, and evocative – are not an integral element of the thought and emotion of love. The idiom of that thought or emotion has now become intensely mystical. Round the theme of love more a radiant, creative light than, a theme – are constantly woven the dark, intangible of nature in a fashion that defies analysis.


Banabani celebrates the beauty and magic of the forest. As he wrote himself “Those trees are the harp of infinite…Through them breathes the elemental music through their branches and leaves dance a grand, simple rhythm. If we but listen soulfully, the message of deliverance reaches our heart-deliverance on the shores of that vast ocean of life on whose surface beauty ripples in endless color in whose depths reign peace, beneficence, and the one. No lust nor longing clings to that infinite play of beauty; only, there sways a supreme force in endless joy.” Tagore gifted to India her national anthem, a prose paraphrase of which he read at Over Town Hall as part of his world-famous essay ‘My Interpretation of India’s History. The national anthem was composed for the Brahmo Samaja anniversary in 1912. The inspiration and patriotic spirit generated by this song were considerable and immeasurable. The song generated a sense of national unity during the days of freedom struggle which made India stronger than ever before. That poem made one of the makers of modern India. He was a seer and national builder. He was given importance for the revival of Hinduism. Tagore was a great poet. In 1874 his first poem ‘Abhilash’ was published in ‘Tattobodhini Patrika’. During his life, his entire writings include 1000 poems, 2000 songs, and a large number of short stories. In 1912, Tagore sailed for England, where the translation of the ‘Gitanjali’ (song offerings) created a literary sensation among British poets. Gitanjali established Tagore as a world poet. In 1913, Tagore’s Gitanjali was nominated and selected by the Swedish Academy for the Nobel Prize for literature.


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