(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.