First Nobel Laureate of Asia

In 1913, Tagore won Nobel Prize in Literature, he was the first Nobel prize winner from Asia. He is the proud of undivided subcontinent. Quotes of Rabindranath Tagore are very famous in India till date as he was first Indian Nobel prize winner. King George V awarded Tagore with 1915 Birthday Honors which the later abandoned after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919 and wrote a letter for the same to Lord Chelmsford, the then British Viceroy of India. 

Rabindranath Tagore was born as Rabindranath Thakur on May 7, 1861, to Debendranath Tagore and Sarada Devi in Calcutta, Bengal Presidency, British India (present-day Kolkata, Capital of West Bengal, India). His father was a leader of the Brahmo Samaj, which was a new religious sect in nineteenth-century Bengal and which attempted a revival of the ultimate monistic basis of Hinduism as laid down in the Upanishads. He was the youngest son of his parents.

At the age of seventeen in 1878, Rabindranath was enrolled at a public school in Britain because his father wanted him to see a barrister. Tagore read law at University College, London, but opted out again to study independently. He read Shakespeare’s plays Coriolanus, and Antony and Cleopatra, and the Religio Medici of Thomas Browne which highly impressed him. In 1880, Tagore returned to Bengal without any degree and started publishing poems, stories, and novels. Although he didn’t receive any recognition at the national level but became famous in Bengal.

Personal Life, Achievement and Notable Works of Rabindranath Tagore

In 1883, Tagore married Mrinalini Devi (who was 10 years old at that time) and the couple had 5 children (2 died in early childhood). In 1890, Tagore started managing his ancestral estates in Shelaidaha (present-day in Bangladesh) and his wife joined him in 1898 with their children. In 1890, Tagore released one of his best poems ‘Manasi’. During 1891-1895, Tagore wrote more than half of the stories of ‘Galpaguchchha’. 

In 1901, Rabindranath Tagore moved to Santiniketan where he found ‘The Mandir’ which was an experimental school having trees, gardens, and a library. Tagore’s wife and 2 children died at Santiniketan and Tagore lost his father in 1905. Tagore received monthly payments from Maharaja of Tripura (as part of his inheritance), sales of his family’s jewelry, his seaside bungalow in Puri, and a derisory 2,000 rupees in book royalties. In 1901, Tagore published ‘Naivedya’ and in 1906, he published ‘Kheya’. 

In 1921, Tagore along with Leonard Elmhirst (agricultural economist), set up the ‘Institute for Rural Reconstruction’ which was later renamed ‘Shriniketan’ in Surul. Tagore started receiving donations from Indians and around the world to free the Indian villages from the shackles of helplessness and ignorance by strengthening their knowledge. In 1930, Tagore lectured against ‘abnormal caste consciousness’ and ‘untouchability’. He campaigned against these issues, penned several poems, and finally managed to open the doors of Guruvayoor Temple to Dalits. In 1924, Tagore visited Tsinghua University of China after getting Nobel Prize.

In May 1932, Rabindranath Tagore visited the Bedouin encampment where the tribal chief stats that as per Prophet Muhammad true Muslim is one by whose words and deeds not the least of his brother-men may ever come to any harm. In 1934, Bihar was hit by an earthquake and killed thousands of people which Gandhi hailed as Karma. Tagore was of a different view and rebuked Gandhi for his implications. Tagore mourned the poverty of Calcutta and the decline of Benga which he penned in a hundred-line poem. In 1932, Tagore published his poem works- Punashcha, Shes Saptak in 1935, and Patraout in 1936. In 1914, Tagore published his prose-songs and dance drama works in Chitra, Shyama in 1939, and Chandalika in 1938. Tagore published three novels– Dui Bon in 1933, Malancha, and Char Adhyay in 1934.’ Rabindranath Tagore after inclining towards science wrote stories- Se in 1937, Tin Sangi in 1940, and Galpasalpa in 1941. From time to time he participated in the Indian nationalist movement, though in his own non-sentimental and visionary way; and Gandhi, the political father of modern India, was his devoted friend. Tagore was knighted by the ruling British Government in 1915, but within a few years, he resigned the honor as a protest against British policies in India.

Dramas of Rabindranath Tagore

At the age of 20, Tagore wrote his first original dramatic piece ‘Valmiki Pratibha’. In 1890, Tagore wrote ‘Visarjan’, one of his finest dramas. In 1912, Tagore wrote ‘Dak Ghar’ where the child Amal defying his stuffy and puerile confines by ultimately fall asleep. Tagore defined death as ‘spiritual freedom from the world of hoarded wealth and certified creeds’. Tagore’s other play was ‘Chandalika’ the story of an untouchable girl and described how Ananda (disciple of Gautama Buddha), asks a tribal girl for water.

Art work of Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore at the age of sixty years started drawing and painting. After the encouragement by artists of France, Tagore’s work made a debut appearance in Paris. It is said that Tagore was red-green colorblind and his artworks reflect strange color schemes. In 1900, Tagore wrote to Jagadishchandra Bose about his drawings. Tagore withdrew from painting as he was using eraser more than the pencil and was dissatisfied with his artwork. Currently, Tagore’s 102 works are listed by India’s National Gallery of Modern Art lists in its collections. 

Poems of Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore composed nearly 2,230 songs which are known as ‘Rabindrasangit’. Tagore was highly influenced by the thumri style of Hindustani music. In 1971, Rabindranath Tagore wrote a poem ‘ Amar Sonar Bangla'(National Anthem of Bangladesh), to protest the Partition of Bengal in 1905 on communal lines. The Bengal partition cut off the Muslim majority East Bengal from the Hindu majority West Bengal. Tagore wrote ‘Jana Gana Mana’ (National Anthem of India) which was first composed as ‘Bharat Bhagyo Bidhata’. In 1911, ‘Jana Gana Mana’ was first at Calcutta (present-day Kolkata) session of Indian National Congress and was adopted as the National Anthem of India in 1950. ‘Sri Lanka Matha’ is the National Anthem of Sri Lanka and was inspired by Tagore’s work. Sitar maestro Vilayat Khan and sarodiyas Buddhadev Dasgupta and Amjad Ali Khan are all inspired by Rabindranath Tagore’s work. 

In the end, we conclude it with his famous quote in which he explained the philosophy of success.

You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water”.

Note: This article is a part of series of Asian Science Letter about history of Science in Asia. After the series of Asian Nobel prize winners, We’ll Introduce great Asian scientists of their times to promote science. Any suggestions or guest blogs are welcome.


Dr Arif Jamil 

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The opinions expressed in our published works are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions of Asian Science Letters or its Editors. Information contained in our published works have been obtained by Asian Science Letters from authors believed to be reliable in their field.

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