BORN: May 7, 1861, Calcutta, India
DIED: August 7, 1941, Calcutta, India
IDENTIFICATION: Prolific Indian writer who is renowned for his humanist ideals and vision of global unity.
SIGNIFICANCE: Famed throughout the Indian subcontinent as simply “Rabindranath,” Tagore was the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize in literature. His writings—criticism, epigrams, essays, lectures, letters, novels, plays, short stories, and songs—would fill some 30 volumes if collected. In his novels and short stories Tagore combined elements of documentary realism with images of the natural world to comment on the social issues of his time, themes he also explored in essays and plays. His poetry employs new forms of verse and wordplay to express a spiritual belief in the harmony of all living things. Tagore's use of the Bengali language throughout virtually his entire body of work, however, remains his most enduring gift to the Indian literary tradition.