Little known facts about Tagore.

September 14, 2017 § Leave a comment

This anthology of twenty-five papers, aptly titled as ‘Celebrating Tagore’, is an outcome of a seminar and conference held in 2000 and 2004, both organized by Prof.Rama Datta, in Kolkatta and in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The articles are contributed by a few Tagore scholars and also by many Tagore admirers in other fields of academic discipline.
They are popular essays projecting Tagore as a littérateur, philosopher, educationalist, humanist and a citizen of the world.
It is surprising to know that in his literary career spanning six decades and more, Tagore had written only 100+ short stories and that some of them got published posthumously in 1961, when his birth centenary was celebrated. He had also given plots for short stories for others to write such as, ‘Devi’ by Prabhat Mukhopadhyay, which became famous, when Satyajit Ray filmed it in 1960. Analysing the short stories written by Tagore, Sumitra Mitra Reddy says that the poet once appeared to have quipped to one of his literary friends,’ You people were born too late. Twenty years earlier I would have given you many more plots. I used to think I could distribute them like candies’.

Tagore is known the world over as one of the greatest poets of his period through his immortal work ‘Gitanjali’(1910)that fetched him the Nobel Prize in 1913. One interesting aspect of the English version of ‘ Gitanjali’ was that it had only 103 songs, whereas, the Bengali original contained 157 poems and out of the 103 in English, only 53 came from the earlier Bengali work. The rest of them were from his other books of poetry. Samir Kumar Gupta, while bringing out this interesting detail, perhaps, wants to establish Tagore’s total comprehension of the Western reader’s taste, to whom the English rendering was addressed. In his article, ‘Spirituality in Tagore’s Gitanjali’, he argues that ‘Tagore’s concept of bhakti was somewhat different from the Vaishnava cult’, inasmuch as, Tagore laid stress on ‘service to mankind’. The learned Professor may not be altogether right in this regard, as the bottom line of the Vaishnava philosophy preached and practised by Saint Ramanuja( 1017-1137)and his predecessors was’ Kainkarya’( service to the fellow human beings) and as such, one can say that Tagore had imbibed what was the best in the vaishnava cult besides his deep understanding of the other religions and philosophies.

Tagore had a complete grasp of the philosophies of the West and East that helped him evolve his own individual approach to religion that he spelt out in his Hibbert speech ’The Religion of Man’, delivered at Oxford in 1931.Bhabotosh Dutta compares Tagore’s views with Auguste Comte’s (1797-1858) school of positivism and Richard Hall , in his paper, traces the meeting ground between Tagore and William James(1842-1010), the
American psychologist and philosopher in their thoughts and ideals.

Gregory P.Rich raises interesting questions in regard to Tagore’s concept of God and Evil. Tagore, true to his Hindu heritage, did not believe in absolute Evil. According to him, confrontation with evil went a long way in building up a strong character to fight and overcome it ultimately. This also helped one to realize his identity with God. Rich asks ‘if God is all Good, why should he create such a situation at all in which evil should exist that man has to struggle against it, creating misery and unhappiness for him and for others?’

Fred Davis article ‘Two Griefs Observed’, compares Tagore’s sadness over the death of his sister-in-law(elder brother’s wfe), Kadambari, his childhood playmate, soul-mate and admirer and Lewis’s grief over the death of his wife Joy, whom he married after she was found to have cancer, In both cases, it was pure love, Platonic at its best.

Most of the essays provide a good reading and some of them bring out the little known facts in Tagore’s life.


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