For Bengalis, Tagore still the man for all seasons

By Mithun Dasgupta, IANS,

Kolkata : Poet-philosopher Rabindranath Tagore, who churned out a huge body of songs, stories, plays, paintings and more, still inspires millions of Bengalis, who feel his presence in the smallest things of life.

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Be it Hindu-Muslim relations, women’s emancipation, exploitation of nature, development of the village, or his contribution to modern art, Bengal’s thinkers and commoners alike marvel at how the man remains relevant even today as his 150th birth anniversary dawns May 9.

“We listen to Rabindra Sangeet throughout the day. His poems are recited. Dramas written by him are played regularly. Rabindranath is still very much alive in the minds of people,” renowned Bengali writer and poet Sunil Gangopadhyay told IANS.

“The paintings, which Rabindranath created in his old age, reveal his modern mind. Many poems created by him are included in the syllabi of schools and colleges. Many of his dramas are still very relevant,” said the Sahitya Akademi president.

Tagore was born in 1861 and lived till the age of 80. He wrote nearly 3,000 songs, set up an experimental school at Santiniketan, and went on to win the Nobel prize in 1913 for his compilation “Gitanjali”.

A huge influence on generations of Bengalis, they reverentially call him “Gurudev” even today.

Eminent exponent of Tagore songs Dwijen Mukhopadhyay said, “Rabindranath will remain relevant after another hundred years. The whole world thinks about his great creations regularly,” said the singer, who was awarded the Padma Bhushan this year.

Bengali writer Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay echoed the thought.

“Tagore’s songs, poems and short stories will never be old. Especially stories of the compilation ‘Galpa Guchcha’, will have a long life. His short stories are still very relevant. When I go through them, I visualise Bengal’s villages,” said Mukhopadhyay.

“My favourite is Tagore’s famous drama ‘Raktakarabi’,” he said.

In “Raktakarabi”, Tagore speaks about the exploitation of nature and human resources, of the mind, of science, to develop an almost mechanised bureaucracy.

Famous painter Jogen Chowdhury called Tagore India’s first modern painter.

“Many of us do not have the capacity to comprehend Tagore and his creations. We have not prepared ourselves to fully comprehend him. Tagore spoke about all spheres of our life. He also spoke about the development of the village, emancipation of women, education structure and Hindu-Muslim relations.”

He said as a painter, Tagore made a definite contribution to modern art.

“Tagore was India’s first modern painter,” he said.

“We still find moral support from Tagore’s creations in our moments of crisis. We still draw support from his works. Even now I can relate to his dramas. When I read ‘Sobbhyotar Sankat’ (Crisis of Civilisation), I wonder why we do not think on these lines,” said popular singer Shrikanta Acharya.

He said Tagore created his own musical language.

“He incorporated Indian classical and folk into his songs. There is classicism and universality in his songs…those are not time-bound.

“The thrill of Tagore songs is not there in those by his contemporaries like Atulprasad Sen, Dwijendralal Roy and Kazi Nazrul Islam. Their songs became time-bound.”

Social worker Basudev Bhui said the world should follow Tagore’s ideals on education.

“Every moment Rabindranath is a source of inspiration to us…he is like a lighthouse. We adored writer Rabindranath, poet Rabindranath and even painter Rabindranath, but we have not yet accepted his thoughts on education.

“That the process of education imparted to the children should not be divorced from nature is very much relevant today,” said Bhui.

The common man draws inspiration from his thoughts.

“Tagore believed in development of the village through the cooperative system and in harmonious relations between Hindus and Muslims. ‘Rakhi Bandhan Utsav’, initiated by him long time ago, should be followed even now for bettering relations between the two communities,” said Saugata Patra, a state government officer.

(Mithun Dasgupta can be contacted at [email protected])