Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tagore- The Original Global Citizen

--Vishwa Manava [World Citizen ]

The only Indian to win the Nobel Prize for Literature for his ‘Geetanjali’ in 1913, Rabindranath Tagore was a multi-faceted genius. He was well-known all over the world as a writer and poet of extraordinary talents who commanded a wide readership around the world. As a philosopher and mystic, he was a pioneer to develop a synthesis of the Eastern and Western cultures. The popularity of Tagore as a writer and philosopher can be gauged from the fact that several of his masterpieces continue to be read across the world, even a century and a half after his birth. His play “The Post Office” was one of the most popular plays in the world before the Second World War. Apart from being a poet and a writer, Tagore was a painter of high quality and perception. In short, he was an artist with a poet’s eye.

Tagore was a composer of over 2,000 immortal songs of which he authored both the lyrics and tunes and through which he essentially founded his own brand of music called ‘Ravindra Sangeeth’. He is the only person to have created the National Anthems of two different countries—India’s ‘Jana Gana Mana’ and Bangladesh’s ‘Amar Sonar Bangla’, though both nations were born after his death in 1941. Even greater than these two anthems, we have his “ Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high”—an inspirational poem that could form the National Anthem of any country aspiring for freedom.

About a hundred years back Tagore was a global giant, much before the era of globalization dawned- -a fact which today’s Indians might find it difficult to imagine.
When he was to speak at New York’s 4.000 seated Carnegie Hall in 1930 [itself a rare enough honour, since the hall is usually reserved for concerts, not for orations], more than 20,000 people were turned away from the sold-out event. The event created a mass of humanity on the streets that blocked traffic for miles. No living writer had ever something comparable happen and what is more, Tagore was handsomely paid for his lecture which drew the jealousy of some American writers.

Though Tagore was essentially a literary artist, he was true nationalist. His voice was raised whenever grave injustices were committed. When an evil is perpetrated every citizen, irrespective of his position in the country, has an obligation to speak out his mind and act against it. Tagore, along with Gandhiji, was responsible for awakening the national spirit in India. All through his life he was as much against the cowardice of the weak as against the arrogance of the strong. In his patriotism there was no trace of hatred or bitterness. When the Sedition Bill was passed in 1898 and the great national leader Lokamanya Tilak was arrested, Tagore raised his voice against the repressive spirit policy of the British Government and took active part in raising funds for Tilak’s defence. When Bengal was partitioned in 1905 under the recommendation of Lord Curzon, creating a new province of East Bengal, he was deeply disturbed and poured out songs full of the spirit of nationalism. The main theme of his patriotic songs was: “There is no salvation for man if the power of the weak is not awakened at once, because the weapon of the powerful has exceeded its limits; the helplessness of the weak knows no bounds today; all opportunities and advantages are heaped on one side of the human society and helplessness reigns supreme on the other side”

On 13th April 1919, people were celebrating the festivity of Baishakhi [Punjabi New Year] in the walled garden in Amritsar, popularly known as Jalianwala Bagh. People had assembled in thousands to participate in the festivities when they were continuously fired upon by the British troops on orders of Brigadier R.H.Dyer, killing 379 persons and wounding more than 2,000 persons, mostly women and children. When these atrocities occurred, Tagore was deeply hurt and as a gesture of protest he returned his Knighthood to the British Government and wrote a letter to the Viceroy, Lord Chelmsford, which concluded with the words:’ The time has come when badges of honour make our shame glaring in their incongruous context of distinctions, by the side of those of my countrymen who, for their so-called insignificance, are liable to suffer a degradation not fit for human beings”.

Though he criticized the British rule and worked for the country’s liberation from British rule, Tagore had no hatred for the British. In a letter written to C.F.Andrews in 1921, Tagore wrote “With all our grievances against the English nation, I cannot help loving your country which has given me some of my dearest friends. I am intensely glad of this fact, for it is hateful to hate. The best people in all countries find their affinity with one another. The fuel displays its differences but the fire is one. When the fire comes before my vision in this country I recognize it as the same thing which lights our path in India and illuminates our house. Let us seek that fire and know that wherever the spirit of separation is supreme, there reigns darkness. Let me light my own lamp with love for the great humanity revealed in your country”.

During one year when people celebrated his birthday, he told them “Do not remind me of my age by celebrating my birthdays. I refuse to believe that age has anything to do with my life which knows nothing but the immortal youthfulness in which I am one with my Jivandevatha, the God of my life. Youth is not a period of life. It is a state of mind, a quality of emotions, a temper of the spirit. We do not grow old by living a certain number of years. We grow old if we lose our ideals and if we become immune to change. Years may wrinkle the skin; the soul is wrinkled if we give up love and loyalty. Whether we are twenty or seventy, we are young so long as we have in our heart the spirit of wonder, of curiosity, the challenge to life and joy in adventure. This is the meaning of the saying that we are as young as we feel”

With his long beard and his flowing white robe, Tagore epitomized the archetype of the Indian sage. His magisterial mind and his inspiring presence did a great deal to inspire admiration across the world. When the great British poet Wilfred Owen was to return to the war front to give his life in the futile First World War, he recited Tagore’s “When I Go From Hence” to his mother as his last goodbye. When he was so tragically killed, Owen’s mother found Tagore’s poem copied in her son’s own handwriting in his diary.

In fact Tagore had the vision to see Truth and the heart to love it

ARTICLE NO. 437---Rabindranath Tagore
Created:Friday, March 28, 2008 11:41 AM


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