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Tagore, Rabindranath


Bengali poet; b. Calcutta, India, May 7, 1861; d. there, Aug. 7, 1941. He was the 13th child of Maharshi Debēndranāth and grandson of Prince Dwārkanāth Tagore. He was educated at the Bengali Academy and St. Xavier's College, Calcutta, where he early responded to the influence of Sanskrit literature, Vaishnava religious love poetry, and English romantic poetry. He visited England (1878), and attended lectures at London University. On returning to India (1880), he engaged in ceaseless literary work in Bengali. He married Mrinalini (1883); her death in 1902, coupled with other bereavements, led him to God and ushered in the great creative period of his life. During a visit to England (1912), he arranged for the publication of Gitanjali, a version of some of his Bengali songs (mainly of a devotional character); its great success and the award of the Nobel prize for Literature in 1913 facilitated the English publication of other volumes of poetry (e.g., The Gardener, The Crescent Moon, and Fruit-Gathering ), plays (e.g., Chitra, The Post Office, and The King of the Dark Chamber ), and novels (The Home and the World and Gora ). After World War I, he traveled widely and lectured frequently; and founded the Visvabharati (University) at Shantiniketan as a center where an international community could live a life of creative harmony. Under the inspiration of Mahatma gan dhi, he wrote the play Mukta-Dhāra (1922) affirming the primacy of spiritual values in a world of advancing technology; and after witnessing the passion play at Oberammergau and prophetically seeing in Gandhi a possible martyr, he composed The Child (1931). He painted and continued writing almost to the very end of his life.

Tagore, a master of both verse and prose, was the greatest of modern Bengali writers, and one of the great literary figures of his time. He was preeminently the poet of love; nature, man, and God blended in his vision. He was no systematic thinker, but all he wrote or said carries the stamp of courage and integrity, as may be seen in a selection of his most significant work, Towards Universal Man (1961). To his admirers he was verily the "Gurudev," the great teacher.

Bibliography: Collected Poems and Plays (New York 1956); The Religion of Man (London 1931, Boston 1961); Wings of Death, tr. a. bose (London 1960); A Tagore Reader, ed. a. chakravarty (New York 1961). k. r. kripalani, Rabindranath Tagore: A Biography (New York 1962). d. w. atkinson, "Rabindranath Tagore: the Poet and the Absolute," Studies in Religion/Sciences religieuses 13 no. 2 (1984) 193205. d. r. tuck, "Rabindranath Tagore: Religion as a Constant Struggle for Balance in the Religion of Man," in Religion in modern India (New Delhi 1981) 247276. j. h. watson, "Religious beliefs of Rabindranath Tagore" Expository Times 84 (1973) 373377.

[k. r. srinivasa iyengar]

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