On May 7th, world celebrates 160th birth anniversary of first Asian lyricist Rabindranath Tagore. Born as Robindronath Thakur in the year 1861 in the Jorasanko mansion in Calcutta (Kolkata), was the youngest son Debendranath Tagore and Sarada Devi. On this day, Bengalis across nation and world, celebrate ceremoniously humongous Tagore’s birthday as “Pachishe Boishakh” because he was born on 25th day of the Bengali month of Boishakh.

Rabindranath Tagore was an Indian polymath – poet, writer, playwright, composer, philosopher, social reformer and painter making him a great contributor to the Bengali and English literature. Tagore being an aesthetic thinker with his idealistic thoughts, reformed the Indian literature with Contextual Modernism.

Early Life

Rabindranath Tagore was the youngest amongst his 13 other siblings. He was nursed and taken care by his servants, due to early death of his mother.

Tagore loathed formal classroom schooling and preferred to roam the manor or nearby Bolpur and Panihati, therefore his education from local Presidency College lasted a day span.

He was driven to writing form by his brother Jyotirindranath’s wife Kadambari Devi, who was a dear friend and powerful influence on him, Her abrupt suicide in 1884, soon after he married to Mrinalini Devi, left him profoundly distraught for years.

Knowing Prominent Personalities

Rabindranath Tagore met some famous personalities like Benito Mussolini in Rome during his visit to Italy. Tagore conferred the title of Mahatma on Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in the year 1915, for his strong admiration of Gandhi’s leadership.

Tagore and Albert Einstein met four times between 1931 and 1931. Not only did they revere each other, but they also shared common interest of music and curiosity for general things. Tagore wrote on his first time meeting with Einstein “There was nothing stiff about him – there was no intellectual aloofness. He seemed to me a man who valued human relationship and he showed toward me a real interest and understanding,” as per New York times report.

Contribution to Literature

Rabindranath Tagore wrote 2,230 songs, which are known as ‘Rabindrasangit / Rabindra Sangeet’; most of which—poems or parts of novels, stories, or plays alike—were lyricised.

He was the only person to compose national anthem for 3 nations, including India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Most people are aware of his national anthem for India and Bangladesh i.e., ‘Jana Gana Mana’ and ‘Amar Sonar Bangla’ respectively. But only a few know that Sri Lanka’s national anthem is also composed by Tagore in 1938, written in Bengali script, which was translated into Sinhalese and adopted as the national anthem in 1951.

Tagore was honoured with Nobel Literature Prize in 1913, for his work on Gitanjali, a book of acclaimed collection of his poems. With the prize money from Nobel Prize, Gurudev established his own Visva-Bharati University in 1921 at Santiniketan in Birbhum district of West Bengal in attempt to challenge and change the conventional classroom education.

Renouncing his Knighthood

Two years later, after Rabindranath Tagore received his Nobel Prize for Literature, the latter was awarded knighthood in 1915. He renounced the title on May 31, 1919, to protest against the Jallianwala Bagh massacre on April 13. In his open letter to the viceroy, he wrote “The time has come when the badge of honour makes our shame glaring in their incongruous text of humiliation, and I, for my part, wish to stand shorn of all special distinctions, by the side of those of my countrymen who, for their so-called insignificance are liable to suffer degradation not fit for human beings.”

Influence and Legacy

Tagore was and is notable throughout much of Europe, North America, and East Asia. Every year, many events are held pay homage to Tagore: Kabipranam is the annual Tagore Festival held in Urbana, Illinois USA; Rabindra Path Parikrama walking pilgrimages from Kolkata to Santiniketan; and recitals of his poetry, are an important event to celebrate his anniversaries.

Here’s an relevant quote of Rabindranath Tagore to keep one motivated; ‘If you cry because the sun has gone out of your life, your tears will prevent you from seeing the stars.’