Ojaank IAS Academy




Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore: The Universal Man of Modern India

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जोदि तोर डाक शुने केयो ना आशे।

तोबे एकला चौलो रे।।

These lines of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore are as relevant today as they were earlier. Because in the present noisy world, which in the age of wars, violence, explosion of information technology, screaming half-truths and mistrust give a message to one to believe in oneself.

Born on 7 May 1861 in Calcutta, Gurudev is a person born in modern India who contributed in the field of literature, painting, music, dance and education. It is the basis of building modern India.

Born as the fourteenth child of Devendra Nath Thakur and Mata Sharda Devi, Rabindranath Tagore’s family, though belonging to the landlord and upper class, had to face many challenges in life.

In childhood, he was brought up by the servants, that is why it had a lot of side effects on his child, along with this he felt many things in the traditional education system, that is why he had lost faith in the education system that binds the person.
Due to this, he laid the foundation of Shantiniketan in 1901, which was the first education center of its kind in India, it was a wonderful amalgamation of western and eastern culture. Here Indian philosophy and literature were taught along with the science and technology of the West. Later on, ‘Vishva Bharati’ established in 1921 became the center of Gurudev’s dreams.

Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi had a very close relationship with each other being close friends. When Tagore was given the title of ‘Gurudev’ by Gandhiji, Tagore honored Gandhiji with the title of ‘Mahatma’, but despite this there was a difference of opinion between these two great men of India on many issues.

For example, Gandhiji was a fierce critic of western civilization and education. They used to call him ‘man who is corrupt and useless’. The same Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore was a supporter of the fact that for the upliftment of India it is necessary that ‘Eastern and Western civilization and education should be merged’.

Similarly Rabindranath Tagore’s views were different on the ideas of nationalism of the time. He actively participated in the Swadeshi movement, when the Jallianwala Bagh massacre took place, Gurudev wrote a letter to Chelmsford and announced to give up the title of ‘Knight’ given by the British Emperor in 1915.

But Tagore was a staunch critic of the modern form of nationalism. Because he had seen with his own eyes the crimes committed by modern nations. There were constant atrocities being committed by Japan. Western countries were oppressing other countries in the name of nationalism and national pride. There was widespread bloodshed in the name of nationalism in the First World War. That is why Gurudev said that “I cannot at all put nationalism above the values of humanity.” Thus Tagore was a supporter of internationalism.

Tagore also had a difference of opinion with Gandhiji on this issue. Gandhiji believed that ’till we do not achieve Swaraj as a nation, we cannot even talk of internationalism’.

The same Tagore believed that ‘love of one’s country is a different thing, but for this there is no need to consider any other country as an enemy.’ For Tagore, freedom was not limited to political freedom only, but people would get real freedom when they free themselves from mental slavery.

Rabindranath Tagore is the only poet in the world who has written the national anthems of two countries, ‘Jana Gana Mana’ of India and ‘Amar Sonar Bangla’ of Bangladesh. At the same time, his impression is also visible on the national anthem of Sri Lanka.

From the very beginning it was propagated that he wrote this anthem in honor of the British Emperor George V. But this is purely a rumor as Gurudev himself denied it. Gurudev wrote in 1939, “I consider it my disgrace to even answer such people. I can never imagine the same for George V or others.”

Nityapriya Ghosh writes in his book ‘Rabindranath Tagore A Pictorial Biography’ “A friend of Rabindranath had requested Emperor George V to write a song in his honor on the occasion of Delhi Durbar. Rejecting that request, Tagore asked an English king. No, but this song was written in honor of the power that rules the hearts of all people.”

The words derived from the pen of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore still give a feeling of vitality. His novels Gora, Nastnir, Chokherbali etc. show the changes and conflicts taking place in the society during the freedom movement.

Gurudev’s best work Gitanjali, which got the Nobel Prize, became famous not only in India but in the world as a wonderful work. Gurudev writes in his autobiography ‘My Life in My Words’, “After reaching London, I gave these poems to the English painter William Rothenstein, whom I had met in Calcutta in 1911.”

Rothenstein gave those poems to the famous poet WB Yeats to read. Yeats read those poems one evening among the poets he knew. The people present there were moved by the thoughts of Gitanjali. They decided to get this collection of poems published by the ‘Indian Society of London’. Yeats wrote the foreword to these poems of Gitanjali. Yeats wrote that “he had become so obsessed with Gitanjali that he continued to read it for a few days.”

Gurudev traveled from Japan to Iran, Italy, France, America etc. He spread Indian art, culture, painting and ideas. He became the first Asian person who was awarded the Nobel Prize.

Therefore, the contribution of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore in the making of modern India is incomparable.

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