Rabindranath Tagore (7 May 1861 – 7 August 1941) was a Bengali polymath who reshaped Bengali literature and music, as well as Indian art with Contextual Modernism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Author of Gitanjali and its “profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse”, he became the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913. Sometimes referred to as “the Bard of Bengal”, Tagore’s poetic songs were viewed as spiritual and mercurial; however, his “elegant prose and magical poetry” remain largely unknown outside Bengal.
A Pirali Brahmin from Calcutta with ancestral gentry roots in Jessore, Tagore wrote poetry as an eight-year-old. At the age of sixteen, he released his first substantial poems under the pseudonym Bh?nusi?ha (“Sun Lion”), which were seized upon by literary authorities as long-lost classics. By 1877 he graduated to his first short stories and dramas, published under his real name. As a humanist, universalist internationalist, and ardent anti-nationalist,he denounced the British Raj and advocated independence from Britain. As an exponent of the Bengal Renaissance, he advanced a vast canon that comprised paintings, sketches and doodles, hundreds of texts, and some two thousand songs; his legacy endures also in the institution he founded, Visva-Bharati University.
Tagore modernised Bengali art by spurning rigid classical forms and resisting linguistic strictures. His novels, stories, songs, dance-dramas, and essays spoke to topics political and personal. Gitanjali (Song Offerings), Gora (Fair-Faced) and Ghare-Baire (The Home and the World) are his best-known works, and his verse, short stories, and novels were acclaimed—or panned—for their lyricism, colloquialism, naturalism, and unnatural contemplation. His compositions were chosen by two nations as national anthems: India‘s Jana Gana Mana and Bangladesh‘s Amar Shonar Bangla. The Sri Lanka’s National Anthem was inspired by his work.
Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time.
Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.
He who wants to do good knocks at the gate. He who loves finds the gate open.
I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.
Let me light my lamp, says the star, And never debate if it will help to remove the darkness.
Let us not pray to be sheltered from dangers but to be fearless when facing them.
Love is the ultimate truth at the heart of creation.
The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.
The night kissed the fading day, with a whisper: I am death, your mother. From me you will get new birth.
Trees are Earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heaven.
You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.