Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) was the youngest son of Debendranath
Tagore, 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 educated at home; and although at seventeen
he was sent to England for formal schooling, he did not finish his studies there.
In his mature years, in addition to his many-sided literary activities, he managed
the family estates, a project which brought him into close touch with common humanity
and increased his interest in social reforms. He also started an experimental school
at Shantiniketan where he tried his Upanishadic ideals of education. 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 honour as a protest against British policies in India.
Tagore had early success as a writer in his native Bengal. With his translations
of some of his poems he became rapidly known in the West. In fact his fame attained
a luminous height, taking him across continents on lecture tours and tours of friendship.
For the world he became the voice of India's spiritual heritage; and for India,
especially for Bengal, he became a great living institution.
Although Tagore wrote successfully in all literary genres, he was first of all a
poet. Among his fifty and odd volumes of poetry are Manasi (1890) [The Ideal One],
Sonar Tari (1894) [The Golden Boat], Gitanjali (1910) [Song Offerings], Gitimalya
(1914) [Wreath of Songs], and Balaka (1916) [The Flight of Cranes]. The English
renderings of his poetry, which include The Gardener (1913), Fruit-Gathering (1916),
and The Fugitive (1921), do not generally correspond to particular volumes in the
original Bengali; and in spite of its title, Gitanjali: Song Offerings (1912), the
most acclaimed of them, contains poems from other works besides its namesake. Tagore's
major plays are Raja (1910) [The King of the Dark Chamber], Dakghar (1912) [The
Post Office], Achalayatan (1912) [The Immovable], Muktadhara (1922) [The Waterfall],
and Raktakaravi (1926) [Red Oleanders]. He is the author of several volumes of short
stories and a number of novels, among them Gora (1910), Ghare-Baire (1916) [The
Home and the World], and Yogayog (1929) [Crosscurrents]. Besides these, he wrote
musical dramas, dance dramas, essays of all types, travel diaries, and two autobiographies,
one in his middle years and the other shortly before his death in 1941. Tagore also
left numerous drawings and paintings, and songs for which he wrote the music himself.
Rabindranath Tagore died on August 7, 1941.
From Nobel Lectures, Literature 1901-1967, Editor Horst Frenz, Elsevier Publishing
Company, Amsterdam, 1969
Acknowledgement: This autobiography/biography was written at the time of
the award and first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited
and republished in Nobel Lectures. For more details, visit the Tagore's biography
page in Nobelprize.Org.