Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
When I heard these lines for the first time being recited in a recitation competition I was so inspired that I had to know who wrote them. I found out that it was by Gurudev (Esteemed Teacher) Rabindranath Tagore.
Rabindranath Tagore was a Bengali writer was born on 7th May 1861 in a wealthy family in Calcutta. He was the youngest son of Debendranath Tagore, a leader of the Brahmo Samaj, which was a new religious sect in nineteenth-century Bengal. Known mostly for his poetry, Rabindranath Tagore wrote many novels, essays, short stories, travelogues, dramas, and thousands of songs. Of Tagore's prose, his short stories are perhaps most highly regarded; he is indeed credited with originating the Bengali-language version of the genre.
At the age of seventeen he was sent to England for formal schooling but he did not finish his studies there and returned back to India. After a brief stay in England, he pursued his career as a writer, playwright, songwriter, poet, philosopher and educator. In 1874, his first published poem Abhilaash (Desire) was published anonymously in a magazine called Tattobodhini. At age sixteen, he released his first substantial poems Kabi Kahini (tale of a poet) under the pseudonym Bhanusingha ("Sun Lion"). During his stay in England, he wrote two musical plays - Valmiki Prativa (The Genius of Valmiki) and Kalmrigaya (The Fatal Hunt). The national anthem of India, the ‘Jana Gana Mana’ is also Rabindranath Tagore’s composition. The famous dance/musical drama – Chitrangadais also written by him. Gitanjali (Song Offerings), Gora (Fair-Faced), and Ghare-Baire (The Home and the World) are his best-known works.
Then Tagore’s life took a turn and in 1912, he journeyed to Europe for the second time. On the way over to England he began translating, for the first time, his latest selections of poems, Gitanjali, into English. There William Rothenstien arranged a reading where W.B. Yeats read Tagore's poems in front of a distinguished audience comprising of Ezra Pound, May Sinclair, Ernest Rhys etc. this led to the India Society of London publishing Gitanjali containing 103 translated poems of Tagore. Thereafter, both the poetry and the man were an instant sensation, first in London literary circles, and soon thereafter in the entire world. His spiritual presence was awesome. His words evoked great beauty. Nobody had ever read anything like it. A glimpse of the mysticism and sentimental beauty of Indian culture were revealed to the West for the first time. Less than a year later, in 1913, Rabindranath received the Nobel Prize for literature. He was the not only the first Indian but the first non-westerner to be so honoured. On 26th December, University of Calcutta conferred on him the honorary degree of “Doctorate Of Literature ". He used the funds from his writing, lecturing and the prize money to expand the school he had founded in 1901 known as Vishwa Bharati. The British Crown granted Tagore a knighthood too.
When not travelling he remained at his family home outside of Calcutta, where he remained very active as a spiritual and social-political force. Although a good friend of Gandhiji, Tagore stayed out of politics. He was opposed to nationalism and miltiarism as a matter of principle, and instead promoted spiritual values and the creation of a new world culture founded in multi-culturalism, diversity and tolerance. In 1919, he renounced his Knighthood in protest of the massacre at Jallianwalabagh in Punjab.
In 1920 he went to Gandhiji's Sabarmati Ashram and thereafter he travelled to many places from Europe to America.. The variety, quality and quantity of his creative output are unbelievable. Aside from words and drama, his other great love was music. He was educated and quite knowledgeable of Western culture, especially Western poetry and Science. This made him a remarkable person, one of the first of our planet to combine East and West, and ancient and modern knowledge. His conversations with Albert Einstein and H.G. Wells about quantum mechanics and chaos show the brilliance of this great man. He exemplifies all the ideals important to us of Goodness, Meaningful Work, and World Culture. to say the least.
Do I need to say why he is my true hero?
Face Photo-John Rothenstein Hampstead, 1912, ookaboo.com; Photo 2 (bottom left)-Pencil Sketch by Sameeksha, India; Photo 3 (right)-Pencil Sketch by Rohit, India