Not written by me. Written by a friend of mine.( @therebel2007 )
Kaviguru Rabindranath Thakur, perhaps except history and literature buffs, no one has ever heard of his name outside the Indian Subcontinent. But, perhaps, his works are the most resonant and contemporary in our time even seven decades after his death.
Rabindranath, the son of Maharshi Debendranath Thakur and Sarada Devi, who was born on 7 May 1861 was the youngest of his siblings. The Thakur family was one of the most influential families in 19th Century Bengal. From Civil Service to Philosophy, the Thakurs had a big range of talent. They also hosted the publication of several literary magazines, cultural events, and recitals of Bengali poetry and Western Classical Music. Rabindranath grew up in this atmosphere of Bengali Renaissance - the era which was to heavily influence the following Indian Independence Movement.
Rabindranath, or “Rabi” as called by his kith & kin, never attended formal schooling, although all his other siblings did, but he was schooled at home. He lost his mother at an early age of 14. Since then, his sister-in-law Kadambari Devi became his anchor of emotion. He wrote his first poem when he was eight years old. He gained wide critical and regional acclaim at an age of 16 when he published his first set of major works, Bhanusingher Padabali.
He continued publishing poetry, novels, novellas, essays, short stories, dramas, and songs all his life. At the time of his death, he had a gigantic oeuvre of literature, he had composed over 2000 songs, over fifty volumes of poetry containing thousands of poems, eight novels, four novellas, scores of short stories, dozen dramas, and hundreds of essays in his whole life. His songs are collectively known as “Rabindra Sangeet'' and they are a major cultural phenomenon in the Indian Subcontinent - especially West Bengal and Bangladesh, even today. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913 for his volume of songs and poems, “Gitanjali”, which he translated to English in the name of “Song Offerings.” He was the first Asian and the first Indian to win a Nobel Prize and the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. He is the only lyricist to have not one, but two of his works as the National Anthem of two different countries - India and Bangladesh. And the Sri Lankan National Anthem was heavily influenced by his works. Although he usually wrote in Bengali, his works have also been translated to English by himself, his friend WB Yeats, and various other poets. He was also an artist and painter, with works that exhibited strange colour schemes and off-beat aesthetics.
Rabindranath was an ardent internationalist, progressive, humanist, anti-nationalist, anti-imperialist and anti-nationalist. He was knighted by the British Government, and he renounced his knighthood in 1919 in protest of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, which was estimated to be a genocide of 379-1000+ Sikh people who were peacefully protesting against the forceful arrest of Dr Kitchlu and Dr Satya Pal. Since his childhood, he despised the schooling system of that era, and from the funds he received from winning the Nobel Prize, he funded and taught in Santiniketan (The Abode of Peace), which was a University based on his ideals of education - done in open areas and grounds, and teachers giving students personal guidance in all matters. He was a huge supporter of the Indian National Movement till death, while also criticizing ultra-nationalist ideas, politics and parties.
Rabindranath has been honoured with titles throughout his life. His vast canon poems earned him the title of Kaviguru (The Master of Poets). He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1913. He was knighted by the British, which he later repudiated. He was an ardent believer of Mahatma Gandhi’s theory of non-violence and Gandhi was actually given the title of Mahatma (The Great Soul) by Rabindranath himself. In return, Gandhi gave the title of Gurudev (which is an honourable title in India given to an elderly and wise man) to Rabindranath. He is also known as Vishwakavi (The World Poet) for his internationalism and humanism. In his final speech on his 80th and final birth anniversary in Santiniketan, he warned against rising ultra-nationalism across the world and in his own country, and imperialism of the British Empire.
Rabindranath Thakur died on 7 August 1941, but he has been immortalized by his enormous canon of literature. His birthday as per the Bengali Calendar, 25th Baisakh, which usually falls around 7-10th May, is celebrated as Rabindra Jayanti in the Indian Subcontinent, and especially in Bangladesh and West Bengal even today. He is one of the foremost cultural icons of Bengal, even today. His internationalism and humanism earns him acclaim even today. He is the main figure to break down the classical strict structure and language of Bengali into more simple and flexible forms that are said to be the backbone of the Bengali language even today. He is said to be the equivalent of Shakespere in Bengal, often called as “the Bard of Bengal.” Truly, “the greatest poet India has ever produced.”