Context: National Gallery of Modern Art will organise the Virtual Tour titled “Gurudev – Journey of the Maestro through his visual vocabulary” to commemorate the 159th birth anniversary of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore(7th May). 

About Rabindranath Tagore:

  • Rabindranath Tagore - a poet, novelist and painter best known for being the first Indian to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913, for his novel 'Geetanjali'.  
  • Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), popularly known as ‘Gurudev’, was fascinated by the worlds of literature, art, music and dance at an early age. 
  • He also wrote the National Anthems of India and Bangladesh. 
  • He left his imprint on art and played a role in transforming its practices and ushering into modernism.

Tagore’s contribution to the Indian national movement: 

He generally denounced British imperialism and spoke out against it in some of his writings.

  • Partition of Bengal: 
    • Outraged by the British proposal to partition Bengal, Gurudev  argued that instead of partitioning Bengal, what was needed was a self-help based reorganization of Bengal. 
    • He wrote the song Banglar Mati Banglar Jol - Soil of Bengal, Water of Bengal - to unite the Bengali population after the Bengal partition in 1905. 
    • He also wrote the famed ‘Amar Sonar Bangla’ which helped ignite a feeling of nationalism amongst people. 
    • He started the Rakhi Utsav where people from Hindu and Muslim communities tied colourful threads on each other’s wrists. 

In 1911, the two parts of Bengal were reunited.

  • His belief of Nationalism:
    • Although he supported nationalism, Tagore did not support the element in Gandhi’s Non Cooperation Movement called the Swadeshi movement which was an economic strategy to boycott British products, and improve production in India. 
    • According to Tagore, this strategy will help India to champion over power and wealth but not soul and conscience. 
    • The cornerstone of Tagore’s beliefs and work is the idea that anti-colonialism cannot simply be achieved by rejecting all things British, but should consist of incorporating all the best aspects of western culture into the best of Indian culture.
    • Despite voicing his negative opinions about the nature of nationalism, Tagore wrote many songs praising the Indian independence movement. 
    • While Tagore had greater sympathy with the Extremists led by Balgangadhar Tilak, Aurobindo Ghosh and others, he was looking for an alternative leadership under the younger generation
    • He never reconciled with terrorist extremism. In spite of all his staunch criticism of imperialist rule he never approved of two things - namely, romantic adventurism and violence born of intolerance.  Tagore also rejected violence from the British as well and renounced the knighthood that had been given to him by Lord Hardinge in 1915 in protest of the violent Jallianwala Bagh massacre
  • His concept of Freedom:
    • One of the most important ideas that Tagore contributed is that “freedom” does not simply mean political freedom from the British. 
    • True freedom means the ability to be truthful and honest with oneself otherwise autonomy loses all of its worth. 
    • Therefore, the concept of nationhood and freedom from British rule was his all pervasive emphasis on the removal of the gross inequities India’s society suffered.
  • Relevance in current time:
    • Tagore was essentially a universal humanist who believed in the essence of human unity. 
    • He saw no contradiction between this universalism and India’s nation-hood and the fulfilment of its own destiny. Tagore’s Shantiniketan was an effort in bringing about a confluence of his universal dreams.
    • Tagore’s alternative vision of peace, harmony and the spiritual unity of humankind seems more relevant now than ever.