Tag Archive: Tagore


Inside the Tagore home

  Inside the Tagore home – The Hindu.

 Excerpt :-

In North Kolkata, big gates lead into Rabindranath Tagore’s ancestral home, Jorasanko. Staircases lead up to wide verandas that skirt rooms with high ceilings, cold black and white marble floors and arched doorways with green louvered shutters. They all overlook a courtyard downstairs. Once, the big rooms were filled with men in their crinkly dhotis and kurtas holding animated discussions and debates on art, literature and politics. In the abarodh or the women’s quarters, mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and daughters-in-law held sway.

Like Tara of Gone with the Wind , or Manderly of Rebecca , Jorasanko drips atmosphere. The great house was packed to the rafters with people, yet there was always loneliness, fear and despair. Within its walls lurked insanity, abuse, infidelity and politics. Aruna Chakravarti gathers all these details and turns out a novel in which she recreates the world of 18th century Bengal, especially the privileged yet cloistered world of women.

Chakravarti’s heroes are the Tagore women. They step into Jorasanko as child brides knowing they will leave it only when they die. Yet, confined as they are, they influence, instigate and shape their famous husbands and each other. As the Tagore men plunge into the heart of the Bengal Renaissance, the women also grapple with the changes. While some of them slide into bewildered despair as the sacrosanct rules of the abarodh shift and slacken, others grab the opportunity to step out of their husbands’ shadows and become women of importance in their own right. But they are no gilded lilies, and Chakravarti describes them warts and all.

Of course, there are the milestone moments of Rabindranath Tagore’s life — his muse and his sister-in-law the melancholic Kadambari; his first composition; his relationship with his father, his struggle with western education; his marriage to Mrinalini…

Jorasanko spans the years between 1859 and 1902 and is a haunting narrative. It speaks of a luxurious lifestyle, but it also raises questions about the status of women, even those married to the Tagores. The Tagore women were complex. The bous or daughters-in-law, whose days were spent between their boudoirs and the kitchens were not above intrigue and politics. Some of them were devious and spiteful. They were also strong-willed and stubborn, like Digambari who refused to accept Western ways, even if her husband flirted with them; Jogmaya who took on the men and split the Tagore family; Jnanadanandini who entered Jorasanko as a child bride but who dared to step out and set up an independent household with her husband and children. She also set a fashion trend and showed the Bengali women a new way of wearing the sari! And, of course, Swarnakumari, acknowledged as a pioneer of women’s writing in India.

Then there were those who suffered. Some silently, others like Tripura vocally, and others like Kadambari who unable to bear the terrible loneliness and pain preferred to die.


She didn’t belong here; had never belonged here. She had left her parents at the age of seven and made this house her home. She had embraced her husband’s family and given it all she had. She had thought it was hers. But it wasn’t… No one would shed a genuine tear if she died tomorrow.

 

Simple and sublime |

The Hindu. – excerpt :

(T)his book fathoms all.”

The book that eminent modern British poet W.B. Yeats referred to when it was published in 1912 went on to win for its author Rabindranath Tagore (then 51) the Nobel Prize in literature the next year. Gitanjali: Song Offerings thus became the first and, as it happens, the only literary work by an Indian to have won the revered prize. Significantly, this was also the first instance of the Swedish Academy awarding the prize to an Asian.

………………… The first instance of this tremendous impact is seen in Yeats’ reaction. He was among the earliest European admirers of Tagore and also wrote an excellent ‘Introduction’ to Gitanjali . The reason why this ‘Introduction’ became famous in literary history is the book’s powerful impression on Yeats and the candour with which he expressed it: “I have carried the manuscript of this translation about with me for days, reading it in railway trains or on the top of omnibuses, and in restaurants, and I had often had to close it, lest some stranger would see how much it moved me”. It is a measure of the emotional potency of the verses that they could, even in translation, produce such a profound affect on a mind already acquainted with fine literature.

Gitanjali remains to this day among the most popular books in modern India. What explains either the book’s staggering impact on its first readers in the West or its abiding popularity? Is not the highest excellence in art supposed to be inimical to wide currency? Is not a book of “religious” poems of a decidedly “idealistic” inclination not likely to find favour with the masses? Yes, but Gitanjali is a glorious exception. For, this book illustrates those rare instances when the highest excellence in art reside in matter that is also the simplest and the most profoundly human. Tagore’s admirer Yeats, the Nobel jury of 1913, and his readers across Europe were all struck by this genuine greatness that was simple and sublime at the same time.

A consummate artistry of form that seems effortless is here integrated with substance that speaks powerfully to most fundamental and the loftiest elements in human nature. With equal grace the book expresses the emotions of life’s every mood through poems that render, for example, the joys of children at play, the serenity of the boatman playing a lute on a boat in the river, the longings of the heart, the moods of the seasons and the agony of grief. The book partakes of the universally and essentially human and touches all that is above the worldly and the ephemeral in us. Reading these poems, we feel like saying with the poet: “When I go from hence, let this be my parting word/that what I have seen is unsurpassable” ( Gitanjali , 96).

All the myriad notes struck by the book resonate with a devoted love for the Creator, the poems being images of the poet’s heart turning to God with “praise, prayer and profound devotion”. But such is its elemental power that even a non-believer is moved by the pure love of life embodied in them: the reverence, the simplicity, and the naturalness expressed in the appreciation of life in all its moods breaks the barrier of scepticism and fills us with what Yeats identifies as an “insidious sweetness”.

Yeats likens the poet’s voice to St. Francis and to William Blake. It is akin also, we may note, to that of G.M. Hopkins, who resembles Tagore in his fervent admiration in life of God’s “grandeur” and “glory” (cf. God’s Grandeur and Pied Beauty by Hopkins). Yet while the English poet professed the austerity of a Christian saint and was ridden with guilt for being a lover of God’s world, Gitanjali gives no inkling of any such feeling. It is instinct only with innocence and spontaneity that co-exist easily with profound thought and devotion.

As we “fight and make money and fill our head with politics”, and die a little each day Gitanjali promises to renew life in us and to give us the quiet peace of the soul that modern living has made difficult to attain.

 

articles

http://www.hindu.com/mag/2011/04/24/stories/2011042450270600.htm

http://www.hindu.com/mag/2011/05/01/stories/2011050150120400.htm  – excerpts –

The forest cover is fast depleting and several species have become extinct and many more are threatened. The main reason is human greed furthered by machine. The culture of wealth at any cost and by any means has invaded forest land, the home of biodiversity as well as minerals.     Tagore saw this greed phenomenon clearly and wished that we draw lessons from forests. In Tapovan, he writes about the “culture that has arisen from the forest has been influenced by the diverse processes of renewal of life”. In the conflict between greed and compassion, conquest and cooperation, nature alone would “impart peace of the eternal to human emotions”.                In a poem entitled “The Sunset of the Century” written on the last day of the 19 {+t} {+h} century, Tagore observed: ‘the last sun of the century sets amidst the blood-red clouds of the West and the whirlwind of hatred’. The mood on the last day of the 20 {+t} {+h} century, however, was one of hope. Many viewed the termination of the Cold War as the end of major conflicts in global politics and emergence of a harmonious world. This was short-lived. The attack on the United States of America on September 11, 2001 established that religiously motivated violence is going to pose a major threat to world peace.

Rabindranath Tagore was opposed to every kind of religious fundamentalism and cultural separatism. He writes :

‘While God waits for his temple to be built of love men bring stones’.

The building of temple of love remains mankind’s unfinished agenda.

Tagore was never lacking in judgment or resolution in siding with the forces of peace and harmony, spirituality and freedom against religious discrimination, nationalistic arrogance, terrorism, and social discrimination. He wanted Indians to learn about how other people lived, what they believed in and so on, while remaining interested and involved in their own culture and heritage.

Rabindranath Tagore believed that true democracy and freedom alone would lead to realisation of the full potentialities of human beings. It was in this context, that he emphasised freedom of the mind. A poem in Gitanjali catches this ethos admirably:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;

Where knowledge is free;

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;

Where words comes out from depth of truth;

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit…

Tagore wanted education to be an instrument of realisation of human potentialities. He raised Visva-Bharati as an international university aimed at assisting students realise the true character of our interlinked humanity and deeper unities of our civilisation in the West and the East. Could we not build a better world by teaching love and not hatred?