“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.” – Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore (nicknamed Rabi) was born the youngest of thirteen children on May 7, 1861 in the Jorasanko mansion in Calcutta to Debendranath Tagore and Sarada Devi. He was a Bengali polymath that helped reshape Bengali literature and music, as well as Indian art with Contextual Modernism. He would become the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. He also introduced new prose and verse forms and the use of colloquial language into Bengali literature, thereby freeing it from traditional models based on classical Sanskrit. He was highly influential in introducing the best of Indian culture to the West.
Tagore started writing poetry at eight-years-old. At age sixteen, he released his first substantial poems under the pseudonym Bhānusiṃha (“Sun Lion”). By 1877 he was writing short stories and dramas. As an exponent of the Bengal Renaissance, he advanced a vast canon that comprised paintings, sketches and doodles, hundreds of texts, and some two thousand songs; his legacy endures also in the institution he founded, Visva-Bharati University.
He modernised Bengali art by spurning rigid classical forms and resisting linguistic strictures. Gitanjali (Song Offerings), Gora(Fair-Faced) and Ghare-Baire (The Home and the World) are his best-known works, and his verse, short stories, and novels were acclaimed—or panned—for their lyricism, colloquialism, naturalism, and unnatural contemplation. His compositions were chosen by two nations as national anthems: India’s Jana Gana Mana and Bangladesh’s Amar Shonar Bangla.
His last five years were marked by chronic pain and two long periods of illness. These began when Tagore lost consciousness in late 1937; he remained comatose and near death for a time although to some degree he recovered however this was followed in late 1940 by a similar spell. He would never recover and on August 7, 1941 passed away at the age of eighty years old. He will always be regarded as the greatest poet India has produced.
“I have become my own version of an optimist. If I can’t make it through one door, I’ll go through another door – or I’ll make a door. Something terrific will come no matter how dark the present.” -Tagore