The Home and the World
- "I am willing to serve my country, but my worship I reserve for Right which is far greater than my country. To worship my country as a god is to bring a curse upon it."
- "If some wanderer, leaving home, come here to watch the night and with bowed head listen to the murmur of the darkness, who is there to whisper the secrets of life into his ears if I, shutting my doors, should try to free myself from mortal bonds?"
A Bengali polymath, Rabindranath Tagore was a poet, painter, and novelist best known for being the first non-European to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature (in 1913 AD for 'Gitanjali'). He was born in May 1861 as the youngest son of Debendranath Tagore, a leader of the religious sect Brahmo Samaj, which sought to revive the monistic basis of Hinduism as pronounced in the 'Upanishads.' Tagore was educated, as so many great authors were, at home; at eight, he was writing religious poetry. At 17 he was sent to England to complete his education (his father wanted him to be a barrister), but did not finish and instead returned to India. There he managed the family’s extensive estates, began agitating for social reform, founded an experimental school, and briefly participated in the Indian nationalist movement. And he kept writing poetry, published in Bengal in limited editions beginning in 1882.
His first volume of translated poetry – 'Sandhya Sangit' – made him a sensation in the West. For the next three decades, Rabindranath would churn out dozens of stories and poems, all quickly translated into European languages and popular worldwide. In fact, his fame became so “luminous” that he embarked on paid lecture tours across Europe, Asia, and the Americas.
Following the Nobel Prize, Tagore was knighted by the British Empire in 1915; but he resigned it as a result of the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre. In his later years, besides poetry and stories, he turned his hand to song writing, musical dramas, dance dramas, essays, travelogues, and two autobiographies. Plagued by illness for his last five years, Rabindranath dictated his final poem the day before he died in August 1941.