Viswakavi (World Poet) Rabindranath was born on May 9, 1861 in Bengal. His father Maharihi Devendranath Tagore was a rich man and an aristocrat and his mother was Sarada Devi. He was the eighth son and fourteenth child of his parents. Rabindranath Tagore was not sent to any school. He was educated at home by a tutor. Rabindranath was not happy, getting educated within the four walls. He was a curious and creative child. Even as a boy he felt that nature is a mystery and he should unravel the secrets of nature, through education.
Though he was educated at home, he studied many subjects and there was a method in his studies. He would get up early. After physical education he would study Mathematics, History, Geography, Bengali and Sanskrit. In the afternoon, he learnt drawing, English and play games. On Sundays he would learn music and conduct experiments in science. Reading plays was of special interest to him. He was happy to read plays of Kalidas and Shakespeare. He had a special interest in Bengali, which was his mother-tongue.
For further studies, he was sent to a public school at London, where he became a student of Prof. Henry Morley whose lectures influenced Rabindranath to take interest in English literature. He developed interest in English culture, traditions and literature. While studying in England, he wrote a poem “Broken Heart” (Bhagna Hriday). After 18 months in England, he returned to India without taking any degree.
Rabindranath started writing poetry in Bengali. His poem “Sandya Geet” (Song of Dusk) was appreciated by many, including Sri Bankimchandra Chatterji, who wrote the National song “vandemataram”. He later wrote in Bengali a number of devotional songs “Nivgarer”, “Prabhat Sangeet” etc.
“Gitanjali” is a well-known collection of his poems. Gitanjali contains his various noble thoughts common to the vast humanity, viz. pessimism, love, satisfaction, dignity of labour etc. for this book “Gitanjali” Rabindranath Tagore was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1931. Rabindranath Tagore was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913. Rabindranath Tagore was the first Indian to get a Nobel Prize and the British Government conferred on him knighthood and gave the title of “Sir”.
He had great interest in village reconstruction, India culture, music and dance. He was himself a good singer and he composed a new form of music called “Rabindra Sangeet”. He had special interest in Kathak and Bali dances. He wrote a number of plays. Some of them are (1) Valmiki Pratibha (2) Post Office (3) Naure’s Revenge (4) Katha Devayaem (5) Saradotsav (6) Muktadara (7) Nater Puja etc., and (8) Gora. Gora deals with the theme of friendship between persons belonging to tow different religions.
Rabindranath started a school at Bolpur, a village 112km. north of Kolkata. This school developed into Shantiniketan. Students come to Shantiniketan from many countries. It specializes in arts, crafts, music and dance besides rural reconstruction.
He established Viswabharathi University near Santiniketan in 1921. It is now a university of the Central Government.
Rabindranath Tagore was also a good artist. He started to learn painting at the age of 60. He drew more than 2000 pictures, which were exhibited in many countries. He also travelled extensively throughout the world.
What makes Rabindranath Tagore special for Indians is “Jana gana mana” and it is our National Anthem. Rabindranath Tagore wrote it when he visited Madanapalli in Andhra Pradesh on the eve of the Rishi Valley School Anniversary at the invitation of Dr. Arundale, the Principal. Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru had the greatest respect for Rabindranath Tagore. Though Tagore did not participate in politics headlong, he was a great natioinalist. Many of his writings express his nationalistic spirit. For this, he got into trouble with the British rulers. He was a great philosopher and a teacher. He was called “Gurudev” by all. He breathed his last on August 7, 1941, leaving his thoughts and ideas for all to follow.