Rabindaranth Tagore Known As ‘Gurudev’

Rabindaranth Tagore Known As ‘Gurudev’ was of the most significant figures of the twentieth century. He was a widely acclaimed wordsmith in India. He was known as ‘Gurudev’ or the poet of poets.

Rabindaranth Thakur (Tagore) was born on May 7, 1861 in Kolkata, India Debendranath Tagore and Sarada Devi. He was the youngest of thirteen children and fondly referred to as ‘Rabi’. He lost his mother at a very young age. His father was a philosopher and the founder of the Bengali religious group called Brahmo Samaj’.

He was mostly home-schooled by his father. At the age of seventeen, he was sent to England where he got his formal schooling.

Tagore moved to Brighton, England for his higher studies. There he studied law. He also attended University College, London for a short period. He was exposed to the world of theater, music and literature.

He started to read Shakespeare’s works. But Tagore returned to Bengal without a formal degree.

When Tagore was eleven, he frequently traveled around India with his father. During this time, he took an interest in poetry. He read a lot of Kalidasa’s works, who was a classical Sanskrit poet. Tagore also studied works of other famous writers. Their writing inspired Tagore to pursue his own writing career. In 1877, he composed a long poem in the Maithili style.       

His goal was to blend Bengali and European traditions in his literacy pieces. In 1882, he wrote one of his most famous poems, Nirijharer Swapnabhanga.

In 1890, his collection of poems, Manasi was published. The poems displayed his exceptional writing skills. He combined social and political satire that was critical of his fellow Bengalis. Tagore had an early breakthrough as a writer in his native place, Bengal.

1891-1895 were Tagore’s most fruitful years as a writer. He released the three-volume long Galpaquchcchha. It was a collection of eighty short stories, which covered topics like poverty, caste-system, illiteracy, marriage and the lives of rural Bengali People.

In 1901, he moved to Shantiniketan, where most of his major works were written, and founded an ashram named ‘Shantiniketan’ meaning “abode of Peace’. A few years later, he published Kheya. He wrote many great novels including Gora (1910). Gora is considered as one of the greatest works in Bengali literature. To expand his popularity in the West, he traveled to England for the third time and took his translated works with him.

Tagore began to present his works and soon it caught the interest of some notable writers of the time like William Butler Yeats, Ezra Pound, Robert Bridges, Ernest Rhys and Thomas Struge Moore.

Tagore’s significant works included Gitanjali Song Offerings (1912), which was translated into England and published in England, receiving a very positive response. With the success of his book, Tagore’s popularity grew internationally. The central themes of his works revolved around life and society, which were very universal themes.

Tagore was a great patriot and had immense love for his country. He received Knighthood in 1915, which he left in 1919 after the Jallianwallah Bagh incident. Even Gandhiji called Tagore his Gurudev and considered him the master of love and peace and culture. Tagore had mutual admiration for Gandhi and gave him the title ‘Mahatma’.   

Tagore composed around 2000 songs in Rabindra Sangeet. He was the only poet who created national anthems for two nations. He wrote the national anthem for India- Jana Gana Mana, and for Bangladesh- Aammar Sonnar Bangla. In the late 1920s, Tagore took an interest in painting and art.

He also showcased his works in many successful exhibitions throughout Europe. He became India’s leading contemporary artist. Tagore received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913.

In 1883, Tagore got married to Mrinalini Devi and fathered five children. He died on 7th August, 1941 at the age of 80 at his ancestral home in Calcutta.