Rabindranath was born in 7 May 1861 in Kolkata. His father Debendranath Tagore was a leading light in the Brahmo Samaj – a reforming Hindu organisation which sought to promote a monotheistic interpretation of the Upanishads and move away from the rigidity of Hindu Orthodoxy which they felt was holding back India. Debendranath Tagore also encouraged his family to learn English.
Rabindranath began writing from an early age, and impressed with his free flowing style and spontaneous compositions. He mostly rejected formal schooling; he spent much time being taught at home. In 1878 he travelled to England and sought to study law at University College, London, but he left before finishing the degree.
After returning to India, in 1901, Tagore moved to Shantiniketan to found an ashram which became his focal point for writing and his view on schooling. He chose the name for the ashram – Shantiniketan meaning ‘Abode of Peace’
Tagore was firm friends with Gandhi and admired him very much. But, despite this friendship he could be critical of his views. For example, he disagreed with Gandhi’s views on Swaraj protests and upbraided Gandhi when Gandhi claimed an earthquake was ‘divine retribution for the mistreatment of dalits in India.’ Yet despite the frequent divergence of opinions, they could admire each other.
In 1913, Tagore was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature for his work ‘Gitanjali’. This made his writings internationally known and his fame spread throughout the world. This gave Tagore the opportunity to travel extensively giving lectures and recitals in many different countries. He also became acquainted with many of the leading cultural contemporaries of the day; this included W.B.Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Romain Rolland, Robert Frost and Albert Einstein.
Tagore had a great love for nature and many of his poems invoke the simple beauties of the natural world. For Tagore, his religion could be found in the wonders and mysteries of nature – as much as in temples and sacred books.
Adapted for the Celebration of British Bangladeshi Culture by ChefOnline.co.uk, May 2015.