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Rabindranath Tagore: A cult figure in Literature

A new Renaissance was born in our country with the birth of Rabindranath Tagore on 7th May, 1861. We have, other poets, but none that are his equal; we call this the epoch of Rabindranath. He is as great in music as in poetry, and his songs are sung from the west of India to as far as Burma, wherever Bengali is spoken. In the hundred years that have passed since Rabindranath Tagore was born, the face of India has undergone such radical changes as no optimist living in 1861 could have envisaged. In literature or art, it can truly be said that there was nothing he touched which he did not adorn. Plays, novels, stories – long and short, essays, reviews, poems, nursery rhymes, ballads, songs and paintings flowed from him until the world marvelled at his brilliance. 

Rabindranath Tagore is a ‘cult figure’ in the literary world as well as in every Bengali home. It is perhaps true to say that no man in the whole range of known history can rival his all-comprehending genius, equally splendid in thought, in creation and in action. Rabindranath was that rare phenomenon in the world of men – the integrated man with a mind of very wide perception. He took life as a whole, and in a most spontaneous and inevitable manner experienced it as a whole. He gave expression to it in its various aspects, through diverse media and the final expressions of his experience of and reaction to life he left for humanity as a possession forever.

Tagore was not merely a man of literature; he was much more. He was an observer of the life of men and women with its spontaneity and its problems, its joys and sorrows, its happiness and tragedies and its motives-patent or underlying. Rabindranath’s life was long, covering the last forty years of the nineteenth century and the first forty of the twentieth. His creative output, in its great variety, was prolific. In literature or art, it can truly be said that there was no form that he did not touch and there was nothing he touched which he did not adorn. Tagore is the voice of the nation’s dreams and longings, its sorrows and sufferings, the memories of its past and the visions of its pony, which needed a lash to move at all, has turned into a spirited charger that has to be held back from running out of hand.

Excellence and profusion is found in Shakespeare’s songs and sonnets, of the fragments of Sappho, of Villon and Pushkin, Shelley and Heine, but this reckless abundance, this scattering of all the world’s riches on the wayside for any casual traveller to come along and pick up, is unique to Tagore. His lyrics are as beautiful as they are numerous; their profusion is amazing, and the perfection of each little poem even more so. Here indeed is God’s plenty. He has been able to sustain the lyric fervour over sixty years. He began to stir us with songs when he was sixteen, and at eighty he has not quite finished. We all grow older with the passage of time, while every year that passes makes Tagore younger. When he was about forty, he wrote the lovely poems of Kshanika, between sixty and seventy (roughly speaking) he reaped the most magnificent harvest of songs since the Gitanjali-Gitimalya- Gitali cycle. Even in his very latest books of poems there is a shade of feeling, a tone of thought he had not exploited before. future, its attitudes and its ideals.

Tagore is one of the makers of modern Indian mind and civilization. He is a renaissance figure with variety, abundance and dynamism in his character. His life and activities form a parable of the play of the finite and the Infinite; a life, full of events, ups and downs, Tagore claims to be a part and parcel of the earth. Since the birth of Rabindranath Tagore, the face of India has undergone such radical changes as no optimist living in 1861 could have envisaged. But even more remarkable are the changes that have taken place in the mind and spirit of modern India of which the transformation in outward appearance is a partial reflection. A shy, frightened 

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