Rabindranath Tagore — Poet, Philosopher, and Social Reformer

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The poet of all poets. The cultural identity of modern Bengal.

(A new, original series of articles — exclusively for Humanity College)

Part 1 
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Rabindranath Tagore (or, for a non-Indian audience, let’s make it simpler: Rabindra Nath Tagore) was born in the city of Calcutta (now called Kolkata) in 1861, and died in the same city in 1941.

A few years ago, many of us celebrated his 150th birthday. So, he is old. Very, very old.

Yet, he is new, modern, and contemporary. He is unbelievably relevant even today, in 2019. That is his brilliance. That is his genius.

I am not a big scholar, and do not know a lot of such names from various corners of the world — who can be put on the list of such rare personalities. With my limited knowledge and understanding, I can mention Charlie Chaplin, Picasso, Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, Victor Hugo, Tolstoy, Sartre, Bertrand Russell, or Mark Twain — who would perhaps feature such a list of genius literary, philosophical and artistic creators whose work is equally alive and pertinent in this millennium.

But I don’t know — can we name only one person who would be called a genius literary figure, as well as a genius philosopher, and a genius social reformer?

Honestly, other than Chaplin, I have not studied the personalities I’ve mentioned above. And I am sure I have missed some names that I should have mentioned. But I have studied Tagore somewhat extensively. With my limited ability, I have translated some of his poetry and songs, spoke and wrote about him at various media and forums (including Humanity College blog), and even dared to record some of his songs on a CD.

My family and I grew up in Kolkata, Bengal and India in an artistic and intellectual environment that was greatly influenced by Tagore and his followers. I know for the fact that millions of people both in India and Bangladesh have grown up in that cultural tradition.

In case you are not aware of it, national anthems of both India and Bangladesh are Tagore’s songs. But this is only a tiny measure of his influence on us.

(continued…)

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