It feels right to draw inspiration, from an
Indian whose contribution to literature,
music and Indian art is beyond parallel –
Rabindranath Tagore [1861 – 1941]. Known
as Gurudev, this ‘Bard of Bengal’ was a poet,
musician and artist. The first non-European
to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. His
compositions are the national anthems of
two nations – India and Bangladesh and the
inspiration for the third – Sri Lanka.
The youngest of thirteen children, he was
home tutored by his brother -be it
swimming, trekking, gymnastics, judo or
wrestling. He learned drawing, anatomy,
geography, history, literature, mathematics,
Sanskrit, and English as well.
Tagore disliked formal education. He travelled widely with his father and
read biographies, astronomy, modern science, and Sanskrit. He was
greatly influenced by the poetry of Kālidāsa and the melodious Gurbani
and Nanakbani sung at Golden Temple.
Tagore wrote poetry at 8. At 16, he released his first poems under the
name Bhānusiṃha (“Sun Lion”). He debuted in the short-story genre in
bengali with “Bhikharini” (“The Beggar Woman”) published under his real
name. After returning from England without a degree, Tagore regularly
published poems, stories, and novels.
Known mostly for his poetry, Tagore wrote novels, essays, short stories,
travelogues, dramas, and thousands of songs which covered political and
personal topics. They were drawn from life in the villages, where he
explored local sentiments and emotions with sensitivity and depth. He
reflected on his surroundings and on modern ideas. His works are
frequently noted for their rhythmic, optimistic, and lyrical nature. Tagore
was a prolific composer with around 2,230 songs to his credit. His songs
are known as Rabindra Sangit.
Gitanjali , Gora and Ghare-Baire and the Manasi poems are his best-
known works. Internationally, Gitanjali is Tagore’s best-known collection
of poetry, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1913. Tagore was
the second non-European to win the Prize.
Tagore founded Santiniketan an ashram and an experimental school and
Visva- Bharati University.
He was awarded a knighthood by King George V, but Tagore renounced it
after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
Surrounded by several painters Rabindranath had always wanted to
paint. Writing and music, playwriting and acting came to him naturally
and without training. He tried repeatedly to master painting, but it
At sixty, Tagore took up drawing and painting. Successful exhibitions of
his many works were held in Paris and throughout Europe. He was likely
red-green colour blind, resulting in works that exhibited strange colour
schemes and off-beat aesthetics. Tagore was influenced by numerous
styles and also had an artist’s eye for his own handwriting, often
embellishing his manuscripts with simple artistic patterns. Tagore
modernised Bengali art by disapproving of rigid classical forms.