Rabindranath Tagore: A Biography of India’s Literary Giant

Rabindranath Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore ( 7 May 1861 – 7 August 1941 ) was a visionary artist, writer, and social reformer who reshaped Bengali literature and music, as well as Indian art, with his unique style of “Contextual Modernism”.

His works, including “Gitanjali” and “The Home and the World”, are celebrated for their lyrical beauty, emotional depth, and philosophical insights.

He was a staunch humanist, universalist, and ardent critic of nationalism who advocated for independence from British Raj. His influence on Indian art and culture remains profound, and his contributions to the world of literature and art continue to inspire and captivate audiences to this day.

Early Life

R.N Tagore’s early life was full of interesting twists and turns, which shaped him into the iconic figure he is today.

Born in Calcutta in the Jorasanko mansion, he was the youngest of thirteen siblings. Despite the large family, he was raised by servants and maids due to his father’s extensive travels and his mother’s early passing.

However, this did not deter him from being a child prodigy. At the age of eight, he started penning down poems, and by sixteen, he had started publishing poems under the pseudonym Bhanusimha.

Rabindranath Tagore was an inspiration seeker and drew inspiration from various sources, including classical poetry and his siblings. His brother Dwijendranath was a poet and philosopher, and his sister Swarnakumari was a well-known novelist.

Tagore’s education was unique as he was home-schooled and trained by his siblings in various subjects ranging from gymnastics and martial arts to literature and history.

In 1873, he accompanied his father on a tour of the country, which lasted many months. During this journey, he accumulated knowledge on several subjects and had a life-changing experience in Amritsar, where he learned about Sikhism.

He later used this experience to pen down several poems and articles on the religion. Thus, R.N Tagore’s early life was a mix of unique experiences that paved the way for his eventual success as a poet, writer, and philosopher


Rabindranath Tagore’s education journey was rather unconventional. He started with a traditional education at a public school in Brighton, England in 1878, with the aim of becoming a barrister.

However, his stay in England was not as smooth as planned, as he struggled to connect with formal education and dropped out of University College in London without a degree.

Despite this setback, he immersed himself in English, Irish and Scottish literature and music, exploring works of Shakespeare on his own.

After gaining a deeper understanding of the English language and its cultural expressions, he returned to India and married Mrinalini Devi, who was just 10 years old at the time.

Throughout his life, Rabindranath Tagore continued to educate himself through various means, drawing inspiration from his own experiences and interactions with the world around him.


Rabindranath Tagore’s career was multifaceted and diverse, spanning across various fields. He was not just a renowned poet, but also a philosopher, musician, painter, playwright, and educationist.

Tagore’s literary career began at an early age, and he went on to become one of the most significant figures in Bengali literature. He wrote poems, novels, short stories, and plays, many of which dealt with social issues and the human condition.

Apart from his literary achievements, Tagore was also a skilled musician, having composed over 2,000 songs, which are still popular today. He was a proficient painter as well, and his paintings were exhibited in various parts of the world.

In addition to his artistic pursuits, Tagore was deeply interested in education and founded the Visva-Bharati University in Santiniketan, which aimed to combine the best of Indian and Western educational systems.

He believed in the importance of holistic education, which would develop a person’s physical, intellectual, and spiritual faculties.

Tagore was also actively involved in India’s freedom struggle and used his writing and public speeches to raise awareness about India’s struggle for independence from British rule. He was a staunch advocate of non-violent resistance and believed in the power of peaceful protests and civil disobedience.

In recognition of his many contributions, Tagore was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913, becoming the first non-European to receive the honor. His legacy continues to inspire generations of artists, thinkers, and activists.

Literary Work

Rabindranath Tagore was a prolific writer, penning numerous poems, novels, and short stories throughout his life. He began writing at a young age, and his desire to produce even more literary works only grew stronger after experiencing the loss of his wife and children.

Tagore’s short stories often reflected the environment in which he grew up, and he made it a point to address social issues and the struggles of the poor in his writing.

He also tackled difficult topics such as the negative aspects of Hindu marriages and other traditions prevalent in India at the time. Some of his notable short stories include “Kabuliwala,” “Kshudita Pashan,” “Atottju,” “Haimanti,” and “Musalmanir Golpo,” among many others.

While Tagore’s novels are considered by some to be underappreciated, they are noteworthy for their unique narrative style, which can be challenging for contemporary readers. His novels often addressed pressing social issues, including the dangers of nationalism.

In “Shesher Kobita,” for example, the story is told through poetry and rhythmic passages, with a satirical element in which the characters take jabs at a fictitious poet named Rabindranath Tagore. Other notable novels of his include “Noukadubi,” “Gora,” “Chaturanga,” “Ghare Baire,” and “Jogajog.”

Tagore’s poetry drew inspiration from ancient poets like Kabir and Ramprasad Sen, and his style is often compared to the classical poets of the 15th and 16th centuries. He infused his own unique writing style, which gained him recognition not only for his own works but also for the works of ancient Indian poets.

In 1893, he even penned a poem that addressed a future poet, urging them to remember Tagore and his works while reading the poem. Some of his best-known works include “Balaka,” “Purobi,” “Sonar Tori,” and “Gitanjali.”

Last Days of Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore spent his final years in his beloved abode, but they were not without difficulties. The last four years of his life were marked by prolonged illness, causing him immense suffering. His condition worsened to the extent that he went into a comatose state in 1937.

After enduring his afflictions with great courage and strength, he passed away peacefully on August 7, 1941, in the same Jorasanko mansion where he spent his childhood and grew into a multifaceted artist – a novelist, poet, musician, and painter.


Rabindranath Tagore was a prolific writer, poet, musician, and artist who left an indelible mark on the cultural landscape of India and the world. His contributions and achievements are numerous and include the following:

Nobel Prize: In 1913, Tagore became the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature for his collection of poems, “Gitanjali.”

Literary Works: He wrote over 2000 poems, 2,000 songs, 8 novels, 40 volumes of essays and short stories, and numerous plays during his lifetime. His works continue to inspire and influence people across the globe.

Education: Tagore established Visva-Bharati University in 1921, which aimed to combine the best of Indian and Western education. The university has since become a leading institution of higher learning in India.

Music: Tagore was an accomplished musician who composed over 2,000 songs, many of which are still popular in India and Bangladesh.

Internationalism: He was a vocal advocate of internationalism and worked to promote cultural exchange and understanding between nations.

Tagore’s achievements and contributions to literature, education, music, art, social reform, and internationalism have left an enduring legacy that continues to inspire people around the world.


“If you cry because the sun has gone out of your life, your tears will prevent you from seeing the stars.”

Rabindranath Tagore

“The most important lesson that man can learn from life, is not that there is pain in this world, but that it is possible for him to transmute it into joy”

Rabindranath Tagore

“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.”

Rabindranath Tagore

“The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence. “

Rabindranath Tagore

“Love is the only reality and it is not a mere sentiment. It is the ultimate truth that lies at the heart of creation. “

Rabindranath Tagore


1861: Rabindranath Tagore is born on May 7th in Calcutta, India.

1878: Tagore travels to England for formal education but returns to India without completing his degree.

1883: Rabindranath Tagore begins to write poetry and publishes his first poems.

1891: Tagore writes his first short story, Bhikharini.

1901: The English Gitanjali is published, which is a collection of Tagore’s Bengali poems translated into English.

1912: Rabindranath Tagore establishes an experimental school, Visva-Bharati, which later becomes Visva-Bharati University.

1913: Tagore is awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, becoming the first non-European to receive this prestigious award.

1915: Rabindranath Tagore is knighted by the British Crown but later renounces the title in 1919 as a protest against the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.

1921: Tagore embarks on a lecture tour in Europe and the United States.

1932: Rabindranath Tagore completes the poem cycle of Gitanjali, which is a collection of 103 poems.

1941: Tagore passes away on August 7th in Calcutta, India at the age of 80.

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