Rabindranath Tagore, the Poet of All Poets.

We celebrate the great poet, philosopher, and social reformer Rabindranath Tagore’s birthday. Tagore visualized a modern, free India where people would think freely, and their minds would be without fear.

The Man Who Preached Emancipation for All

(A new series of articles, exclusively for Humanity College)
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Part 2

This is the beginning of Rabindranath Tagore week: this year, May 9 is his birthday. I am writing a series of new, original articles on the great poet, philosopher, educationist, and social reformer.

Contrary to his West-imposed image of a “mystic poet from the Orient” who wrote devotional songs and received a Nobel Prize for “Gitanjali,” Tagore was a major social reformer who preached universalism, and actively rejected prejudice, dogmatism, fanatic religion, and ultranationalism.

He also had differences of opinion with Mahatma Gandhi — especially on his vision to free India of the British clutches. Gandhi took the line of appeasement, and his Congress Party took the steam away from revolutionaries who fought the British aggressors for nearly a hundred years before Gandhi came on the Indian science. Tagore also spoke about nonviolence, but did not support Gandhi’s conservative vision. Tagore was truly a symbol of modernity and free thinking.

Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi had respect for each other, but they had differences of opinion too.
Gandhi visited Tagore at Vishwa Bharati, Shanti Niketan, Bengal.

But Gandhi and Tagore had respect for each other. However, they had differences. The primary difference in my opinion was that Gandhi was a traditionalist, who did not believe in a modern-concept gender equality, economic industrialization, and globalism. Tagore on the other hand was a strong believer of modernity, equal rights, and a border-less, universal human race. These are the principles on which Tagore built his university in Bengal — spending all his Nobel Prize money and personal assets. The university he built was named Vishwa Bharati — literally, the school of the world.

Vishwa Bharati University, located in Shanti Niketan (i.e., abode of peace), West Bengal is still functional. It runs on an exceptional way of teaching. Contrary to the British colonial educational system that indoctrinates students into following orders, teaching and learning methods at Vishwa Bharati are open-air, free-thinking, fair exchange, and non-punitive. In its golden days when Tagore was alive, noted educationists from across the world came on its faculty. They taught philosophy, foreign languages, art, music, science, and various hands-on skills. Tagore also built a satellite school nearby called Sri Niketan, a school that taught agriculture, pottery, textiles and such subjects — to help the local residents make a living.

Other than his world-renowned literature and music, Tagore wrote pioneering books on science and environment, and even ventured into making movies in the early years of films. He was one of most vocal environmentalists. He visited many countries including Soviet Union, and wrote about the major contributions of socialism. But Tagore did not believe in communism.

Especially in today’s pervasive social and political climate of hate, fear, violence, illiteracy and fascism, Tagore can answer our many questions. He actively preached against ultranationalism, religious bigotry, hate and violence, and conservative orthodoxy. Some of his major novels and plays highlight the above.

Rabindranath Tagore was a product of the now-forgotten “Bengal Renaissance” — a major historical phenomenon that took shape under the leadership of social reformer Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833), brilliant young teacher Henry Louis Vivian Derozio (1809-1831), and Tagore’s father Maharshi Debendra Nath Tagore (1817-1905). This school gave rise to a new generation of Bengalis and Indians who challenged orthodox, ultraconservative Hinduism and Islam, and even created a religio-cultural sect called Brahmoism.

(continued…)

My Tagore, My Spirituality

This is a departure from my normal blog routine. Here I write about Tagore music that is my inspiration, my spirituality, my healer. I hope you join me on this blissful journey.

"I look up to you as my life's North Star. No more am I lost in sea -- near or far." - Tagore

For those who appreciate Indian music, and particularly the Tagore school of music, I present a few of my recordings I did a few years ago (Name of CD: Preme, Praane, Gaane — In Love, Life and Song – Music2000, Kolkata, co-recorded with my sister Poorna). I present three of my recordings and one score sung by Poorna. I definitely know that if I post more of her songs, you’re not going to come back to hear mine. Therefore, I made a conscious, cunning choice to outnumber her.

Plus, she lives in Kolkata, is not nearly as Internet-savvy as I am, and it’s unlikely that she’s ever going to snoop to discover what her big brother is saying to her global, distinguished friends.

🙂

I plan to record a new CD later this year when I’m in India. I hope you have time to listen to my songs, put up with my humble effort, and let me know your thoughts. Don’t praise Poorna’s song too much; praise mine more. You don’t want to see your favorite blogmaster sad and depressed, do you?

Lightheartedness aside, Rabindranath Tagore’s songs give me my spirituality; they bring the Dr. Jekyll out of my mundane and troubling Mr. Hyde.

When I’m in deep pain, anguish and distress, Tagore songs hold my hand and walk me through the woods. For me, it is intense love and spirituality. I listen, I sing, I read, and I translate. I cry. I get in a trance. Honestly, it is quite incredible for an otherwise unremarkable and ordinary man like me.

For you, I’ve also translated these songs into English. Maybe, I take more pride in my Tagore translation than my inept, undereducated voice. (However, honestly, I take deep pride in Poorna’s music).

I’m going to post more translations soon. Promise.

http://soundcloud.com/partha-banerjee-nyc

http://soundcloud.com/partha-banerjee-nyc/chirasakha-poorna

Happy to report to you, new and old friends, worldwide.

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The poet of all poets already said it what I always wanted to say. And he said it a hundred years ago…so effortlessly. I translate Tagore songs in a unique way: I do a purposeful rhyme. Because I cannot ever translate his out-of-the-world tune, this is my forced alternative to his celestial magic. Weak and inadequate alternative, I know; but because his songs are always “old-fashioned”ly rhyming, and because I do not think a prose-form translation of his songs does justice to his heavenly sorcery with words, at least a rhyming translation would supplement for it to some extent. I leave it up to you to decide if my efforts are worthwhile or not.

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Song (1)

let me sit, please

would you, by your side

only for a little

and I shall will wait

to finish my chores

mundane, brittle.

true, if I miss

but lookin’ in your eyes

my heart won’t pause

in midst o’ my chores

will wander around

by oceans abound

bereft of cause.

spring’s arrived

at my flung-open bay

with fanfare, breeze

honeybees buzz

’bout ‘n around

lush garden and trees.

’tis time for us two

only me and you

I look in your eyes

you look in mine too

and ’tis time to sing a song

the submission song

from a heart to a heart

all quiet and long.
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Song (2)

Whatever you say, you say

It doesn’t affect me, no way

I choose to live life ‘most without a reason

My days and nights keep flying away.

Only this crazy wind, this crazy song

Blow over my mind, blow it all along

Today, this moment, this life with no clue

Scatter over the sky the beautiful blue.

My song then does it: it plays the right keys

It does it eventually deep down inside

I look ’round and among the ever-buzzing bees

And I search for the nectar in a relentless stride.

Whose vision is way out and up above there

Whose vision’s wide across the serendipitous blue

Surely it reaches up my own mortal eyes

Finally it finds its way, and lights them up too.
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Song (3)

Blessed is my life, Mother, I am born in this land
Blessed is my life, Mother, I’ve loved you so grand

Never want to know your riches like a queen
It only matters you bring me solace serene

Where saw a garden where flowers bloom so fragrant
Where was a heaven where moonshine’s more radiant

Dawn opened my eyes the first time seeing you
Dusk will close them in the end seeing you.

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Sincerely Writing,

Partha

Brooklyn, New York

Alak Roychaudhury, noted singer sitting on right, arranged our recordings.