The object of this series is to record, for the present and future generations, the story of the struggles and achievements of the eminent sons and daughters of India who have been mainly instrumental in our national renaissance and the attainment of independence. Except in a few cases, such authoritative biographics have not been available. The biographies are planned as handy volumes written by knowledgeable people and giving a brief account, in simple words, of the life and activities of the eminent leaders and of their times. They are not intended either to be comprehensive studies or to replace the more elaborate biographies.
Rabindranath Tagore was the first Asian to be awarded with the Nobel prize. As a poet, writer and a philosopher, he became the voice of India's spiritual heritage and a living institution. Though mainly known as a poet, Tagore was multifaceted and left an indelible impression on different branches of art, such as novels, short stories, dramas, articles, essays and paintings. His songs popularly known as Rabindra Sangeet have an eternal appeal. He was a social reformer, patriot and above all, a great humanitarian.
AMONG the builders of modern India, Rabindranath Tagore admittedly enjoys a place of eminence. His numerous contributions again have a distinctive quality of their own. They cover mainly the spiritual and cultural fields but are not confined to them and overflow into other fields as well. His contributions as a creative writer are too well known to be mentioned in detail. In the cultural field, he distinguished himself as an outstanding composer who created a new school of music named after him; as the champion of the traditional dances of India which he revived and in the process built up a new school of dancing; and lastly, as a person who turned in old age a painter who attracted warm appreciation from connoisseurs abroad.
His achievements which extend to other fields are no less remarkable. As an educationist, he introduced new ideas and in carrying out experiments with them, built up a unique educational institution, namely, the Visva Bharati. As a compassionate humanist, he made new experiments in rural reconstruction for the amelioration of the condition of the rural people. In this matter he anticipated the Community Development Programme later initiated by the Planning Commission. Though averse to political activities, Tagore's sensitive mind could not resist reacting to serious political developments in our country. This explains why he involved himself so deeply in the anti-partition movement initiated in Bengal in 1905 and relinquished knighthood after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919. It was with reference to the anti-partition movement that he introduced the Rakhibandhan ceremony and composed a collection of patriotic songs which still continue to sustain and nurture our patriotic feelings.
Tagore's character is thus very complex and has many facets. It is this complexity that makes the task of his biographer somewhat difficult. An effort has been made in this biographical narrative to cover the different aspects of his character and contributions to our heritage by linking his achievements with the events of his colourful life. It is hoped that the matter presented within the limitations of the present series will be found sufficiently comprehensive and give an adequate idea of the life of this great man.
I consider it a privilege to be invited to make a contribution to this biographical series on a subject which is very dear to my heart.
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