Rabindranath Tagore: Reshaping Indian Philosophy and Literature


Though his birthday is quite far (it is in the month of May), we thought we would still give you a little sneak-peek into the life and lore of the legendary Rabindranath Tagore. We mean, why not? He was a legend. And teachers simply love throwing an assignment on him. It is one of their hot topics.

No matter which class you are in, chances are you will be asked to write upon him at least once in school. Especially around the summery and warm month of May.

But that is not the only reason you should know about Rabindranath Tagore.
The man was, and is, a national treasure. The only Nobel Laureate in Literature from our great nation of India. A feat so incredible, no one has been able to match it yet. And India has some pretty impressive writers!
However, that is not the only thing to his credit. This modern day icon was a great philosopher too. And he greatly influenced the way our leaders thought and acted. And to think he had humble origins despite having the kind of impact that just cannot be measured!

So let us get to know him a little bit better, and see how shaped both Indian literature and the philosophy of our nation at large. We bet you will have a lot of fun reading this! His life and views are pretty enlightening.

Who is Rabindranath Tagore?

If you are reading this for your kid’s sake, there is a good chance they will ask you “who is Rabindranath Tagore”.

Well, only one of the greatest authors and poets in our history!
Born on May 7th, 1961 in the erstwhile Calcutta (now Kolkata), Tagore had 12 siblings! And he was the youngest one of them all. Youngest of 13 kids!
His family was so powerful back then that they became an integral part of the Bengal Renaissance. Which just goes to show the kind of influences young Rabindranath may have had to become who he was.

Add to that his education and upbringing and he was ripe for doing great things. Recitals of Indian and Western classical music were frequently performed in his house. His family also hosted the publication of several literary magazines. In fact, all of his siblings too were talented in some way or the other. Some of them were playwrights, some officers. It was a motley crew of the who’s who of eminent Bengali society back then.
As for Tagore, he showed signs of being a great writer, illustrator and composer quite early on. Skills he continued to sharpen throughout his school years. Including when he went to study in England.

If you want to know more, you can pick up a Rabindranath Tagore biography to read. Author Uma Dasgupta wrote a great one back in 2004. And if a Rabindranath Tagore biography is not your cup of tea, Mr. Tagore wrote My Life in My Words, which is an autobiography straight from the horse’s mouth.

The greatest books of the greatest author and his impact on literature

Okay enough about Rabindranath Tagore’s life. Let us talk about his books now!
Did you know he was the first writer to use colloquial Bengali in his writings? He wanted to move away from archaic literary language to make literature more accessible for the masses. And he began this movement by composing Manasi, which was the first collection of his poems. It was published in 1890, by the way.

He followed this up with a symbolic play, which was full of philosophical themes. This was called Chitra and it was published in 1895. He next went on to compose an anthology of his lyrics, which was called Sonar Tari. This too was published in 1895.

His success in literature was quite widespread. People loved what he wrote so much that by the time he turned 40, everyone knew him. He became a household name. And then the Gitanjali happened. His greatest work which got him the Nobel Prize in 1913.

Published in 1910, Gitanjali is pure poetry. A soulful collection of poems that cover the themes of love and devotion, Gitanjali was translated into English too. It was that popular. Can you guess what it was called in English?
There are two titles. One is Song Offerings, and the other is Singing Angel. We strongly recommend you check it out. Rabindranath Tagore’s books are like a time capsule. They take you back to simpler times yet prove to be starkly relevant to the current era. Which brings us to the next section of this blog.

Rabindranath Tagore’s reshaping of Indian philosophy;

Almost all of his work, be it literary or factual, have the ring of philosophy in them. You cannot read a Tagore book without being touched by his thoughts and ideas. He was a revolutionary in his own ways. And a visionary too.

The themes of ethics, philosophy and religion feature quite often in his books. Think of The Religion of Man. He wrote this book simply to enlighten people of his views on religion, spirituality, God and how all of them relate to humans, to us.

He was a firm believer of universal humanism. He had a lot of sympathy for people less privileged than him and that shows in his writings. He often wrote about the marginalised sections of society. Which at that time were women and the poor folk. It was a good thing he brought these topics under the spotlight. As we told you before, he was insanely popular. So a famous writer covering such topics meant that more and more people could reflect on their actions and maybe change.
Plus, he also often emphasised on returning to nature. Of reconnecting with it. Of using it to harness one’s creativity, which Tagore believed was the highest purpose of humankind.

Tagore’s philosophical influence was also felt in the realm of education. He did not like the dry, mechanical education system that was prevalent back then. He was more about developing creativity and moral awareness in students. And to achieve that he started the now globally recognised institution of Shantiniketan. A place where he combined the best of traditional and Western influences to create a cosmopolitan culture.

And that is it! That is what you absolutely need to know about Rabindranath Tagore. Of course you are free to learn more. And so are your kids! They should be learning the right things from the best. And we at Eurokids have worked pretty hard to create the best curriculum for preschool kids. You can know all about it simply by visiting us. Any one of our branches nearest to you will do!