Tagore began his tryst with writing at the young age of eight when he began to pen poems. At the age of sixteen he published his poetry under the pseudonym Bhanushingho (Sun Lion). He also published his first short stories and dramas in 1877. In 1878 he attempted to study law in England, but gave it up to return home to pursue his career as a poet and writer. In the years after his return he achieved some success in his hometown Calcutta with his endeavours in writing stories, plays, and songs.
Outside Calcutta he was little known. However all that changed drastically when in 1912 he returned to England with his son at the age of 51. To keep himself occupied during the long sea journey to England he took to translating his latest work Geetanjali into English. On learning of his effort in translation, Rothenstein, his friend, insisted on seeing his works.
Rothenstein found the work so interesting that he immediately passed it onto W.B Yeats. fter that there was no stopping the man and his poetry, both of which were an instant sensation first in the London literary circles and soon thereafter in the entire world. When Rabindranath’s Geetanjali was published it offered the West a glimpse into not just the literary richness of the East but also the mysticism and sentimental beauty of the Indian culture. Within a year of his publishing Geetanjali he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.
It was the first time that a non-westerner was honoured with this prestigious award. Rabindranath Tagore was not just a writer, he was a genius. He went onto become a renowned poet, writer, playwright, novelist, composer, visual artist and a philosopher.
His command over language was incredible. He used it lyrically to write a wide range of topics in many different formats. He was not equally good in all but the fact that he was close to the very best is amply proved by the fact that he might look a shade weaker in a format only in comparison to himself being better in another format. As a philosopher he influenced an entire race of Indians. His influence during the freedom struggle cannot be discounted. He boldly wrote about the education system and followed it up with establishing a great University that still endures and is considered one of the best that India has.
Such is the greatness of his work that it is difficult to put your arms around this genius in one life time. Few musicians can boast of matching music to a set of lyrics. Rabindranath’s compositions are a mind- blowing combination of both. Rabindranath Tagore’s contributions to Indian literature are vast.
Two songs from his Rabindrasangeet canon are now national anthems.’ Amar Shonary Bangla’ is the national anthem of Bangladesh and ‘Jana Gana Mana’ is the national anthem of India. Rabindranath Tagore’s creative output remains unchallenged even today. The sheer variety, quality, quantity of his work is astonishing.
He was the first perhaps to bridge the divide between the west and the east. Truly this son of the soil made India proud.