1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Tagore, Rabindranath

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TAGORE, RABINDRANATH (1861-       ), Indian poet and author, was a member of a well-known Bengali family noted for its activities in literature, art and religious reform as well as for its public benefactions. In 1921 the head of the orthodox Hindu branch was Maharaja Bahadur Sir Prodyot Coomar Tagore (b. 1873), a great-nephew of Prosunno Coomar, who was the first Indian to be nominated to the Viceroy's Legislative Council and founded the Tagore law professorship in the university of Calcutta. The grandfather of Rabindranath was Dwarkanath, “merchant, philanthropist and reformer,” who was known to his contemporaries as “Prince Tagore.” He visited England in 1842 and again in 1845, sat to D'Orsay for his portrait, and, dying of fever in London in 1846, was buried at Kensal Green. In conjunction with Raja Rammohan Roy he initiated the movement of religious reform which took shape as the Adi Brahmo Somaj. This work was continued by his son Maharshi Devendranath, of whose seven sons, Dwijendranath, the eldest, devoted himself to the study of philosophy; Satyendranath, the second, was the first Indian to enter the covenanted civil service and served for 35 years in the Bombay Presidency; and Jyotirendranath, the third, was an accomplished musician. Their cousins, Abanindranath (b. 1871), Gogonendranath and Narendranath, became distinguished artists. Rabindranath, the youngest son, was sent to England to study law, but soon returned. In 1901 he established the famous Shantiniketan, or abode of peace, at Bolpur, a village 93 m. from Calcutta. Originally organized as an asram, or retreat, by the Maharshi, it was developed by Rabindranath into a school conducted on unconventional lines, and he aimed at enlarging it into an international university which should comprehend the whole range of eastern culture. His outlook upon the west was thus summarized by him in a letter published in the Indian press at the close of 1919: “The bulk of English people can never be in a normal state of mind with regard to us, our situation being unnatural, and I am impelled to think that it is best for us to do our own work quietly in our own surroundings.” Gandhi's policy of non-coöperation was, however, severely condemned by him as perverted nationalism, “which was making of India a prison,” in a letter addressed to the principal of his school at Bolpur in June 1921. He paid frequent visits to Europe, Japan and the United States (where his son Rathindranath became a student in the university of California), and carried through several lecturing tours. His reputation as a writer among his own countrymen was early assured, and the 30 poetical and 28 prose works composed by him in Bengali are now regarded as classics. The English public first became interested in his works in 1912, and his fame rapidly spread. In 1913 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature and utilized the whole amount, £8,000, for the upkeep of the school at Bolpur. He was given the degree of Doctor of Letters in the university of Calcutta and accepted a knighthood in 1915, but addressed a letter to the Viceroy in 1919, resigning the title as a protest against the methods adopted for the repression of disturbances in the Punjab.

His more important books, of which English translations have been published, are the poems Gitanjali (Song Offerings) (1913), The Crescent Moon (1913), The Gardener (1913), Songs of Kabir (1915), Fruit Gathering (1916), Stray Birds (1917), The Lover's Gift and the Crossing (1918); the plays Chitra (1914), The King of the Dark Chamber (1914), The Post Office (1914), The Cycle of Spring (1917), Sacrifice (1917), and other plays; the novels, The Home and the World (1919), The Wreck (1921); as well as a volume of letters, Glimpses of Bengal (1921), and the short stories Hungry Stones (1916) and Mashi (1918); and republished lectures, Sadhana, or the Realization of Life (1913), Nationalism (1917), Personality (1917). He also published his Reminiscences (1917).

See W. W. Pearson, Shantiniketan (1917); article in Hindusthanee Student (March 14 1921).

(H. E. A. C.)