Rabindranath Tagore

Tagore, Sir Rabindranath

Sir Rabindranath Tagore (rəbĬn´drənät təgôr´, täkŏŏr´), 1861–1941, Indian author and guru, b. Calcutta (now Kolkata). Tagore came from a wealthy Bengali family. He went abroad in 1877 to study law in England but soon returned to India. For a time he managed his father's estates and became involved with the Indian nationalist movement, writing propaganda. His characteristic later style combines natural descriptions with religious and philosophical speculation. Tagore drew on the classical literature of India, especially the ancient Sanskrit scriptures and the writings of Kalidasa. His prodigious output includes approximately 50 dramas, 100 books of verse (much of which he set to music), 40 volumes of novels and shorter fiction, and books of essays and philosophy.

In his devotion to peace, Tagore denounced nationalism and violence. He sought to instill in human beings a sense of their unity; he was severely critical of the Indian caste system. His most important philosophical work is Sadhana: The Realization of Life (1913), which echoes the fundamental ideas inherent in sacred Hindu writings. His dramas are filled with lyricism and philosophy, while his poems deal with amorous, mystical, and fabulous themes. In India his appeal was nearly universal. A man of striking appearance, Tagore came to be regarded with the reverence due an ancient teacher. He wrote in Bengali but translated much of his work into English. It attracted attention in the West, and he was awarded the 1913 Nobel Prize in Literature, especially for his collection of poetry, Gitanjali (1912). His Janaganamana (Thou Art the Ruler of All Minds) was adopted as the Indian national anthem.

Tagore's best-known novels and poetry include The Gardener (1913), The Crescent Moon (1913), Songs of Kabir (1915), Cycle of Spring (1917), Fireflies (1928), and Sheaves (1932). Among his plays are The Post Office (1914), Chitra (1917), and Red Oleanders (1924). Philosophical works include Personality (1917), Nationalism (1917), The Home and the World (1919), The Religion of Man (1931), and Man (1932). In 1915 Tagore was knighted. His travels and lectures took him around the world. He was impressed with the capacity of the West for accomplishing its practical goals, but he deprecated what he considered its spiritual emptiness and waste. In 1922, Santiniketan (abode of peace), the school he had founded at Bolpur in 1901, was expanded into the internationally attended Visva-Bharati Univ. The curriculum stressed social reform, international unity, and rural reconstruction.


See his collected poems and plays (1951); A. Chakravarty, ed., A Tagore Reader (1961), and F. Alam and R. Chakravarty, ed., The Essential Tagore (2011); his memoirs (1917); biographies by K. Kripalani (1962) and K. Dutta and A. Robinson (1995); studies by S. K. Ghose (1961) and B. C. Chakravarty (1971).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Rabindranath Tagore: Selected full-text books and articles

Towards Universal Man By Rabindranath Tagore Asia Publishing House, 1961
Rabindranath Tagore: Universality and Tradition By Patrick Colm Hogan; Lalita Pandit Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2003
Toward Universal Religion: Voices of American and Indian Spirituality By Daniel Ross Chandler Greenwood Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "Rabindranath Tagore: Universal Man, Universal Religion"
Reading the Shape of the World: Toward an International Cultural Studies By Henry Schwarz; Richard Dienst Westview Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 12 "Homeboys: Nationalism, Colonialism and Gender in Rabindranath Tagore's The Home and the World"
Myths of Poesis, Hermeneusis, and Psychogenesis: Hoffmann, Tagore, and Gilman By Smith, Lansing Evans Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. 34, No. 2, Spring 1997
Binodini By Rabindranath Tagore; K. R. Kripalani East-West Center Press, 1964
FREE! Sacrifice and Other Plays By Rabindranath Tagore Macmillan, 1917
FREE! The Hungry Stones: And Other Stories By Rabindranath Tagore The Macmillan Company, 1916
Masterworks of Asian Literature in Comparative Perspective: A Guide for Teaching By Barbara Stoler Miller M.E. Sharpe, 1994
Librarian’s tip: "The Poems and Stories of Rabindranath Tagore" begins on p. 109
Decolonizing the Stage: Theatrical Syncretism and Post-Colonial Drama By Christopher B. Balme Clarendon Press, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Rabindranath Tagore begins on p. 26
The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future By Martha C. Nussbaum Belknap Press, 2007
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Tagore, Gandhi, Nehru"
Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference By Dipesh Chakrabarty Princeton University Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Rabindranath Tagore begins on p. 149
Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia By Sheldon Pollock University of California Press, 2003
Librarian’s tip: "Tagore and the Problem of the Modernity of the Literature" begins on p. 555
Sources of Indian Tradition By Theodore De Bary; Stephen N. Hay; Royal Weiler; Andrew Yarrow Columbia University Press, 1958
Librarian’s tip: Chap. XXVI "Tagore and Gandhi"
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