August 7, 2015
Special Lunch and Afternoon at Jorasanko (Rabindranath Tagore’s House)
At Cossipore Garden House there was a peaceful environment. A couple of devotees questioned, “Why are we going back to the hotel? Can we stay here and then go to Jorasanko?” But most of the people wanted to go to hotel, eat lunch, and relax for a bit before we began the busy schedule of the afternoon.
When all pilgrims got down from the bus at the Hyatt, a surprise was waiting for them. They were told that today there was a special “Italian Lunch” for everyone and it was going to be hosted in the other restaurant La Cucina in the hotel. It was a surprise arranged by the CEO Aprana Didi of Club7. Everyone was happy to have Italian food in India. The youngsters were extremely delighted and they almost rushed to the restaurant. We had always had a great variety of dishes during our lunches, but this was a special treat.
The restaurant was soon filled with the joyful noise of youngsters as they enjoyed freshly cooked Italian dishes with an Indian touch. The dishes included appetizers like salads, Carprese, and Funghi trifoltai. The main dishes included various kinds of pastas and hot brick-oven pizzas served with minestrone soup and freshly made bread.
After the first serving—the various pastas were brought to our tables—people had to wait because they were specially preparing fresh dishes for us. But everyone felt that it was worth waiting for the freshly cooked Italian food.
The delicious deserts included Tiramisu and chocolate cakes, ice-creams, and melting chocolate tart served with homemade vanilla ice cream. We had a sumptuous feast!
After some rest, everyone got onto the three buses. Those who were familiar with Rabindranath Tagore’s life and his great contribution to literature, music, paintings, and other fields, were thrilled to see his house. Rabindranath Tagore is only person to have written national anthems for two countries for India and Bangladesh.
Since the big buses could not go to the gates of Jorasanko (Rabindranath Tagore’s house), everyone was dropped off at a far distance. We all started walking in organized groups, enjoying the city shops, people and the traffic. The youngsters had a good experience of what life was like in Kolkata.
After a long walk, we arrived at the Jorasanko gate. As soon as we entered the gate, we were surprised by the beauty of the building and its surrounding. There was a spacious green lawn in front of the building, thoughtfully planted trees and shrubs. At one place, construction work was going on. All of the groups wanted to have group photos in the front of the beautiful structure.
When we went close to the building, we saw Rabindranath Tagore’s statue surrounded with decorative plants. While thinking about the glory of the Tagore family and enjoying the aesthetic of the architecture around us, we entered the building through a gate.
Wow! We saw a huge open ground encircled by beautiful and impressive colonial style buildings. We were told that this was called “Thakur Dalan.” We were sure that several important gatherings with important people must have taken place here, including with British leaders. On one side there were steps and a large corridor, and on the other side there was a stage where various dramas had taken place in the past. It seemed like a good size open air theatre. In fact, this was known as “Permanent stage.”
An exciting thing happened when we were there. The organizers were playing Rabindra Sangeet on the speakers as a background music. All of a sudden the youngster’s faces were lit up and a few of them said loudly, “Oh! They are playing the song “Ekla Chalo Re…” In Vivekananda Vidyapith these students had learned this song and had presented it on a few occasions. They were excited and started singing with the tune.
In that excited mood, everyone wanted to take group photos. First, we took a group photo of the first groups that had arrived. Once all the groups were present, we took a memorable group photo in this very special place.
We were soon allowed to go and see the inside of the building.
Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take our cameras inside, but thanks to Deba Saha Uncle’s research, we have pictures of the inside of the building. Inside Jorasankho, we saw: various photographs of Rabindranath Tagore and his family members, a room where he was born, a room filled with gifts he had received from other countries, his paintings, and the room where he passed away. We learned that Rabindranath Tagore passed away on August 7th and we were in that room on August 7th! It was a divine coincidence. They had special function for this special day and we saw some of the preparation that was going on for this.
Rabindranath Tagore’s father, grandfather, and many family members were celebrities. We were able to see photographs of the family and were amazed to learn about their many achievements. The Tagore Family made great contributions to Indian Culture and to the world. We felt that we were touching history in that environment.
After visiting all the rooms, we came outside of the building and saw a car that was used by Rabindranath Tagore and his family. It was interesting to see the model of the car.
We were all happy with this visit. We all joyfully started walking to our buses and were ready for the next thing on our itinerary–a bus tour of a part of Kolkata, guided mainly by Deba Saha Uncle and the Club7 guides.
(Thanks to Arundhathi Johri and Kanna Pichappan for writing the original report, Deba Saha Uncle for providing the necessary information including photos needed to write this post and Nisha Parikh for editing.)
Biography of Rabindranath Tagore
Upon my request, Deba Saha Uncle was kind enough to write the following brief biography of Rabindranath Tagore and his notable work:
Rabindranath Tagore or Rabīndranāth Ṭhākur [in Bengali] was a Bengali poet, novelist, essayist, short-story writer, lyricist, composer, singer, actor, playwright, playwright for dance, inventor of a new dance style, inventor of new Tālas (rhythmic cycle of beats) for Indian drums, painter, patriot, philosopher, educationist, critic, humanitarian, social and religious reformer as well as constructive worker.
Rabindranath was born on 7 May 1861 in Jorasanko (Tagore House), Calcutta, India. He was the fourteenth child born to Debendranath Tagore and Sarada Devi. He was nicknamed ‘Rabi’. Tagore was just 14 years old when his mother died. Tagore’s grandfather Dwarkanath Tagore was a social reformer and wealthy landowner. The Tagores were a progressive family; their home served as a hub of social activity and culture. They often hosted theatrical and musical performances in their mansion. Many of the Tagore children became respected authors, poets, musicians, and civil servants. His father, Devendranath, traveled widely during his career and was a proponent of the Brahma Samaj faith, a social and religious movement also known as the Bengal Renaissance. Rabindranath had also embraced its philosophy.
After failing to flourish in the conventional school system, Rabindranath obtained his early education with tutors at home where he studied a wide array of subjects including: art, history, science, mathematics, Bengali, Sanskrit, and English, Hindu Scriptures Upanishads, Romantic poetry like that of Shelley, and classical poetry, notably that of Kālidāsa..
At a very early age, Tagore was writing his own poetry. He wrote his first play, ‘Pritthvīrāj Parājay’ at the age of 12 and first poem, ‘Abhilāsh’ at the age of 13. At the age of 17, he moved to Brighton, East Sussex, England, to study Law. He attended University College of London for some time, following which he started studying the works of Shakespeare. He returned to Bengal with no degree; however, after two years from his return he wrote one of his most acclaimed poems, ‘Nirjharer Swapnabhanga’ [The Fountain Awakened from its Dream]. Some poems, popularly known as ‘Bhānusimha Thākurer Padābali’ were published anonymously or under his pen name, “Bhānusimha” (Sun Lion), but he was soon a regular contributor to various magazines.
At the age of twenty-two, on 9 December 1883, Tagore married Bhabatarini (later known as Mrinalini) Devi, with whom he had five children: three daughters Madhurilata (eldest), Renuka, and Mira (youngest), and two sons Rathindranath (eldest) and Samindranath (youngest). However, within a span of 5 years (1902-1907) he lost his wife (1902), daughter Renuka (1903) and son Samindranath (1907). His deep sadness was reflected in the compostion of Gītāñjali (1910) in Bengali.
As a patriot, he composed the music and lyrics for India’s national anthem “Jana-Gana-Mana” (Thou Art the Ruler of All Minds) and when Bangladesh became independent in 1971 they chose Tagore’s song “Āmār Sonār Bānglā” [My Golden Bengal] as its national anthem. Thus he is the only poet to have composed national anthems for two nations. The book, Gītāñjali, Song Offerings (1912) in English contains Tagore’s English prose translations of religious poems from several of his Bengali verse collections, including Gītāñjali in Bengali. The book was introduced to the West, and was hailed by W.B. Yeats and André Gide and it won him the Nobel Prize in 1913 in literature. Thus he became the first non-European Nobel laureate.
Tagore introduced new prose and verse forms and the use of colloquial language into Bengali literature, thereby freeing it from traditional models based on classical Sanskrit. However, he was not just a mere poet or writer, he was the harbinger of an era of literature which elevated him to the stature of the cultural ambassador of India.
In 1901, Tagore founded an experimental school in rural West Bengal at Śhāntiniketan (“Abode of Peace”), on part of the family estate lands near Bolpur, West Bengal. Here he sought to blend the best in the Indian and Western traditions based on the ashrama model with pioneering emphasis on learning in a harmonious and natural setting. He felt that a well-rounded education, using all the five senses and not relying on memorizing by rote, was the better way to teach children. He settled permanently at the school, which became Viśva-Bhārati, an open air university in 1921. It has claimed many notable figures among its alumni including Indira Gandhi (past prime minister of India), Amartya Sen (Nobel laureate in Economics, 1998), etc.
In 1915, Tagore was awarded a knighthood by the British Crown but he repudiated it in 1919 as protest against the Jalianwala Bagh (Amritsar) massacre which took place in Punjab, India. During the massacre British troops barbarically and cowardly killed some ~1000 Indian innocent demonstrators, including women and children, who were protesting colonial laws.
As a traveler of the world, both literally and poetically, Rabindranath turned out to be a global citizen. He travelled more than 30 countries, over all the continents except Australia. In 1920s and 1930s he travelled extensively in different countries of Europe, North and South America as well as Asia and delivered lectures in universities and public meeting on education. In 1924 Rabindranath first went to China, and then to Japan. While in Japan he delivered an anti-imperialist address in Tokyo. The Poet was also invited by the Peruvian Government but he fell ill in Argentina while on his way to Peru. There he earned the friendship of the Argentine writer, Victoria Ocampo and enjoyed her hospitality for three months. In 1926, Rabindranath went to Italy on an invitation from Mussolini. Afterwards, the poet completed a tour through Central Europe. He met many illustrious figures including Albert Einstein, Robert Frost, Thomas Mann, H.G. Wells, etc. Then he visited Greece, Turkey and Egypt and came back to India. The Poet then travelled the South-East Asian parts such as Singapore, Malay, Java etc. in a bid to know better the heritage of what is traditionally looked upon as outer India. In 1930, the Poet was invited to Oxford in England to deliver the Hibbert lecture. Next he went to Germany, and then to Russia, via Switzerland. His 1932 trip to Iraq and Iran happened to be his last ever trip to foreign countries.
Rabindranath was an admirer of Mahatma Gandhi and was the one who gave him the name “Mahatma”. Together with Gandhiji, he thought of the welfare of the people of India.
In 1940, Oxford University awarded him with a Doctorate of Literature in a special ceremony arranged at Śhāntiniketan.
During the last five years of his life, he did manage to keep writing in spite of much physical suffering. Many have said he produced his finest work then. Rabindranath Tagore died on 7 August 1941 at the family estate Jorasanko, where he was born.
Rabindranath Tagore’s Notable Works:
Tagore wrote successfully in all literary genres. His poems are virtually untranslatable, as are his songs, popularly known as Rabindrasangeet among all classes of Bengali society.
- Poetry: Among his fifty and odd volumes of poetry collections, notably are
- Kabi Kahini (1878 ) [Tale of a Poet, his first book of poems]
- Nirjharer Swapnabhanga (1882) [The Fountain Awakened from its Dream]
- Bhānusiṃha Ṭhākurer Paḍāvalī (1884) (Songs of Bhānusiṃha Ṭhākur)
- Mānasi (1890) [The Ideal One],
- Sonār Tarī (1894) [The Golden Boat],
- Smaran [In Memoriam] (one year after the death of Tagore’s wife)
- Naivedya (1901)
- Kheya (1906)
- Gitānjali (1910) (consisting of 157 poems) [Song Offerings],
- Gitimālya (1914) [Wreath of Songs],
- Balāka (1916) [The Flight of Cranes].
- Lyrics and Music compositions (Rabindrasangeet) : Tagore composed 2,230 songs.
- Tāla (rhythmic cycle of beats) composed by Tagore:
- Ardha Jhaptaal (5 beats, 2/3)
- Jhampak (5 beats, 3/2)
- Shasthi (6 beats 2/4)
- Rupakra (8 beats 3/2/3)
- Navataal (9 beats 3/2/2/2)
- Ekadashi (11 beats, 3/2/2/4)
- Navapancha (18 beats, 2/4/4/4/4)
- Plays (major):
- Valmiki Pratibha (1881) [The Genius of Valmiki]
- Visarjan (1890) [The Sacrifice]
- Raja (1910) [The King of the Dark Chamber]
- Dak Ghar (1912) [The Post Office]
- Achalayatan (1912) [The Immovable]
- Muktadhara (1922) [The Waterfall]
- Raktakaravi (1926) [Red Oleanders]
- Dance Drama (musical drama) or known as Rabindra Nritya Natya (major):
- Tasher Desh (The country of cards)
- Chitrāṅgadā (1892; Chitra)
- Chandalika (The untouchable)
- Mayar Khela (A game of illusions)
- Shapmochan (The redeemed curse)
- Jivansmriti (1912) [My Reminiscences]
- Chhelebela (1940) [My Boyhood Days]
- Novels (notable):
- Nashtanirh (1901) [The Broken Nest]
- Gora (1910) [Fair-Faced]
- Ghare-Baire (1916) [The Home and the World]
- Chaturanga (1916)
- Chokher Bali [Grain of sand]
- Yogayog (1929) [Crosscurrents]
- Shesher Kabita (1928) [The last poem]
- Short stories in Bengali (the book Galpaguchchha, 3 volume has collection of 84 stories), the notable include:
- Bhikharini (1877) [The Beggar Woman]
- Kabuliwallah (The fruit seller from Kabul)
- Kshudita Pashan (1895) [The Hungry Stones]
- Atithi (1895) [The Runaway]
- Haimanti (1914) [Of Autumn]
- English short stories (notable):
- The Parrot’s training
- Essays (Bengali), the notable are:
- Mahatma Gandhi
- Essays (English), the most notable are:
- Creative Unity (1922)
- Nationalism (1991)
- Sadhana: The Realisation of Life (1913)
- Other works (notable):
- IIngraji Sahaj Shisksha Pratham o Dwitiya Bhag (Bengali)
- Sahaj Path Pratham o Dwitiya Bhag (Bengali)
- Oupanishad Bramha (Bengali)
- Mantra Abhishek (Bengali)
- Thought Relics (1921, English)
- Travel diaries (notable)
- Java-Jatrir Patra
- Japan Jatri
- Europe Jatrir Diary
- Paschim Jatrir Diary
- English rendition of his works (do not generally correspond to particular volumes in the original Bengali):
- Fruit-Gathering (1916)
- The Fugitive (1921)
- The Gardener (1913)
- Gitanjali: Song Offerings (1912) (in spite of its title, it contains poems from other works besides its namesake)
- Glimpses of Bengal (1991) [Selected from the Letters of Sir Rabindranath Tagore (1885-1895]
- The Home and the World (1985)
- I Won’t Let you Go: Selected Poems (1991)
- My Boyhood Days (1943)
- Chitra (1914)
- My Reminiscences (1991)
- The Post Office (1996)
- Selected Letters (1997)
- Selected Poems (1994)
- Selected Short Stories (1991)
- The Crescent Moon (1913)
- The Cycle of Spring (1919)
- Fireflies (1928)
- The Hungry Stones (1916)
- The King of the Dark Chamber (1914)
- Letters from an Expatriate in Europe (2012)
- The Lover of God (2003)
- Mashi (1918)
- Songs of Kabir (1915)
- The Spirit of Japan (1916)
- Stories from Tagore (1918)
- Stray Birds (1916)
- Vocation (1913)
- Drawings and Paintings: In the late 1920s, at nearly 70 years of age, Tagore took up painting and produced numerous drawings and paintings that won him a place among India’s foremost contemporary artists.
- Film direction: The only film directed by Rabindranath Tagore:
- Natir Puja (1932)
Rabindranath Tagore’s signature: