Rabindranath Tagore Biography
Rabindranath Tagore was the Indian philosopher and master of the creative arts whose pen, brush and music was to touch the hearts and minds of a curious world steeped in more questions than answers about the mysteries of the east. His musical contribution has bequeathed the national anthems for both India and Bangladesh whilst his lyrics are sung to the tune of the Sri Lanka national anthem.
Tagore's artistic nature for painting started late in life but his creative instinct was quickly apparent and his works were shown in galleries across the globe. Today most of his artwork is deemed a national art treasure making them non-exportable out of India.
Tagore came from a well to do family in Calcutta and his early works were mostly written in his native Bengali and were very well received across India. Encouraged by this he decided to translate his most famous work the "Gitanjali" into English and in 1912 embarked on a whirlwind journey to England that would change his life forever and see him standing shoulder to shoulder with the literary giants of the world.
Tagore asked the painter William Rothenstein to read his poems and although the artist was suitably impressed he requested a second opinion from the Irish writer William Butler Yeats who upon first reading was astounded by what he read. He felt a stimulation so inspiring he made it his mission to champion the cause of the new found poet from the east and his praise went into a hyperbolic overdrive in the literary and journalistic circles he frequented.
With Yeats' help his works were published by MacMillan and he stole the hearts and minds of the press who were charmed by his eloquence, enchanted by his presence and interpreted his flowing white hair, beard and robes as something mystical from the east.
Within one year he was holding the coveted Nobel Prize for Literature in his hand and in doing so he became the first non-European to win this prestigious award. Within two years the influence of Tagore was global with Gitanjali being translated into dozens of languages spanning every continent that would eventually see him visiting in excess of 30 countries eager to listen to the words of this remarkable man.
In 1930 two great thinkers came together when Tagore met Albert Einstein and the two participated in a recorded intellectual discourse on science, truth and the universe. It was riveting stuff that made the front pages around the world as a mutual respect built up between the physicist and the philosopher.
It was not just poetry he excelled at for he was a true polymath who mastered many creative disciplines throughout his lifetime. He now stands as a true son of Indian soil who proudly put his country's name on the world map of creative literature. As you would expect from such a wise philosopher he was good for a one liner also, so here is my compilation of 24 of the best Rabindranath Tagore quotes
Quotes About Rabindranath Tagore
Mahatma Gandhi was quoted in a discourse with Tagore:
"The Poet has been unnecessarily alarmed at the negative aspect of Non-cooperation. We had lost the power of saying ‘no’. It had become disloyal, almost sacrilegious to say ‘no’ to the Government... Non-cooperation is the nation’s notice that it is no longer satisfied to be in tutelage... And if India is ever to attain the Swaraj of the Poet’s dream, she will do so only by Non-violent Non-cooperation"
Jawaharlal Nehru made this comparison:
"No two persons could probably differ so much as Gandhi and Tagore. The surprising thing is that both of these men with so much in common and drawing inspiration from the same wells of wisdom and thought and culture, should differ from each other so greatly!... I think of the richness of India’s age-long cultural genius, which can throw up in the same generation two such master-types, typical of her in every way, yet representing different aspects of her many-sided personality"
The author Vandana Shiva was impressed to say:
"Tagore saw unity with nature as the highest stage of human evolution"
The philosopher Amartya Sen felt the missing essence after translation:
"Anyone who knows Tagore's poems in their original Bengali cannot feel satisfied with any of the translations. Even the translations of his prose works suffer ... the charms have vanished in translation"
William Butler Yeats famously described his work thus:
"These prose translations have stirred my blood as nothing has for years - These lyrics display in their thought a world I have dreamed of all my life long. The work of a supreme culture"
The Israeli President Shimon Peres revealed two sources of inspiration:
"Many of us were educated on the literature of India when we fell in love we read Rabindranath Tagore and when we matured we tried to understand Gandhi"
The author George Bernard Shaw reluctantly had to decline an invitation to visit Tagore:
"Unfortunately I am not really visiting India; but the ship in which I am going round the world to get a little rest and do a little work has to put in at Bombay and Colombo to replenish her tanks; and on such occasions I step ashore for a few hours and wander about the streets and such temples as are open to European untouchables .... My only regret is that I shall be unable to visit you. My consolation is that the present situation in India will not bear being talked about. I understand it only too well"