Rabindranath Tagore was a man of many talents. What he is best known for is his penmanship, composing novels, plays, and even the Indian national anthem! His poetry gained him the most fame though, and has been translated in many languages. Tagore knew Einstein, was a close friend of Gandhi and a great philosopher.
He was born in 1861 in Calcutta, the son of Debendranath Tagore, who was a leader of the Brahmo Samaj. The Brahmo Samaj was a new religious sect, attempting to revive the old Hindu teachings of the Upanishads. His father had hopes of Tagore becoming a barrister, he was sent to England at the age of 17 to formalize his education; he did not stop his studies there however. He was always learning; “you can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water”.
Tagore managed his family estates, and also started an experimental school with Upanishadic ideals. Being friends with Gandhi, he also participated in the Indian nationalist movement, though he did this in his own way, and only from time to time. In Tagore’s later years he was knighted by the British Government, but soon after threw the title away in protest to British policies in India. “Facts are many but the truth is one.”
As Tagore’s writing became more popular he toured from country to country. To westerners he was the spiritual voice of India; to Indians he was a living institution. Tagore was, in fact, the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature (1913). This was for his beautiful collection of poems, entitled The Gitanjali. He was hugely influential in India, regarded as the creative artist of the modern Indian subcontinent. Through words, he changed the landscape of Indian culture, “clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add colour to my sunset sky.” Tagore was also an artist, and left behind many drawings and paintings.
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