Rabindranath Tagore aka ‘The Bard of Bengal’ is hailed as the best and most prolific writer in India. He was born on May 7, 1861, in Calcutta, British India. As a writer, he wrote under many pen names such as Gurudev, Kabiguru, and Biswakabi. Tagore was a polymath and produced significant contributions not only in literature but also in Indian music and art. Through his artistic works, he modernised art in India. He deviated from the classical forms and linguistic structure of traditional art.
Throughout his life, aside from his legacy to Indian culture and the world, he was honoured as well; one of the many accolades is being awarded as the first non-European winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913. One of his compositions became the national anthem of India, the Jana Gana Mana, and Bangladesh, the Amar Shonar Bangla.
Spirituality and Political Leanings
Many literary critics see Rabindranath Tagore as a mystical poet. He showed his love and pride in his native culture in incorporating their religious beliefs and ideas in his poetry. Throughout most of his work, the core values of Hinduism are present and central.
An example would be the universal idea that he sought to teach in his critically acclaimed work, the Gitanjali or “Song Offerings.” Within this work, he touched the reader’s mind with the significance of God as central to unity and harmony as well as the source of true knowledge, love, and happiness. However, aside from his spirituality he also left important political ideals in his countrymen. These views were apparent in his early works such as Manast. In his humanist and universalist leanings, he advocated independence from Britain and denounced the British Raj during his time. He was even known to oppose imperialism and support the Indian nationals.
Highly-Acclaimed and Popular Poems
The Gitanjali or “Song Offerings” was a collection of poems published by Rabindranath Tagore on August 14, 1910. It was this poetry collection that won him the Nobel Prize for Literature in the year 1913. Recognised as a cultural heritage, the collection is now a part of the UNESCO Collection of Representative Works.
The collection is composed of 157 poems where 102 of which were translated from his English poems. The main theme of his poetry is that of devotion, as influenced by his Hindu beliefs. The motto of the collection can be seen in the fifteenth poem in the collection: “I am here to sing thee songs.” His poetry style is very distinctive as he is influenced by hymns and music of the mystic bards of his culture. His other notable works in poetry include Manasi, Sanar Tori or “Golden Boat”, and Balaka or “Wild Geese”, a metaphor for migrating souls.
Aside from his poetry collection, Tagore is also hailed as a great songwriter. So much so that in India, there is such a thing as Rabindra Sangeet or “Tagore Songs.” He has composed 2,230 songs that are distinctive of Bengali music. The songs are trendy in both India and Bangladesh.