Tagore introduced new prose and verse forms and the
use of colloquial language into Bengali literature,
thereby freeing it from traditional models based on
He was highly influential in introducing Indian culture to the
West and vice versa, and he is generally regarded as the
outstanding creative artist of early 20th-century India.
In 1913 he became the first non-
European to receive the Nobel
Prize for Literature.
The son of the religious reformer
DebendranathTagore, he early
began to write verses, and, after
incomplete studies in England in
the late 1870s, he returned to
In 1891Tagore went to East Bengal (now in Bangladesh) to
manage his family’s estates at Shilaidah and Shazadpur for
There he often stayed
in a houseboat on the
Padma River (the
main channel of the
Ganges River), in
close contact with
village folk, and his
sympathy for them
became the keynote
of much of his later
In 1901Tagore founded an experimental school in rural West
Bengal at Shantiniketan (“Abode of Peace”), where he sought
to blend the best in the Indian andWestern traditions.
He settled permanently at the school, which became
Visva-Bharati University in 1921.
Years of sadness arising from the
deaths of his wife and two
children between 1902 and 1907
are reflected in his later poetry,
which was introduced to theWest
in Gitanjali (Song Offerings)
■ “The sleep that flits on baby's eyes - does anybody know from where it
comes?Yes, there is a rumour that it has its dwelling where, in the fairy
village among shadows of the forest dimly lit with glow-worms, there hang
two timid buds of enchantment. From there it comes to kiss baby's eyes.
The smile that flickers on baby's lips when he sleeps - does anybody know
where it was born?Yes, there is a rumour that a young pale beam of a
crescent moon touched the edge of a vanishing autumn cloud, and there
the smile was first born in the dream of a dew-washed morning - the smile
that flickers on baby's lips when he sleeps.
The sweet, soft freshness that blooms on baby's limbs - does anybody know
where it was hidden so long?Yes, when the mother was a young girl it lay
pervading her heart in tender and silent mystery of love - the sweet, soft
freshness that has bloomed on baby's limbs.”
■ Gitanjali (Song Offerings
This book, containingTagore’s English prose translations of
religious poems from several of his Bengali verse collections,
including Gitanjali (1910), was hailed byW.B.Yeats andAndré
Gide and won him the Nobel Prize in 1913.
Tagore was awarded a
knighthood in 1915, but he
rejected it in 1919 as a protest
the Amritsar (Jallianwalla Bagh)
From 1912Tagore spent long periods out of India, lecturing and reading
from his work in Europe, the Americas, and East Asia and becoming an
eloquent spokesperson for the cause of Indian independence.
In the late 1920s,
when he was in his
up painting and
that won him a
As well, 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.