Was married to Rabindranath Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore (Bengali: Rabīndranāth Ṭhākur, * May 7, 1861 in Kolkata; † August 7, 1941 ibid.) was a Bengali poet, philosopher, painter, composer, musician and Brahmo Samaj follower who received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913 and with it was the first Asian Nobel Prize winner.
Thakur revolutionized Bengali literature in a time known as the “Bengali Renaissance” with works such as Ghare baire (Eng. The home and the world) or Gitanjali and expanded Bengali art with a myriad of poems, short stories, letters, essays and pictures. As a committed cultural and social reformer as well as a polymath, he modernized the art of his homeland by deliberately attacking its strict structure and classic design language. Two of his songs are now the national anthems of Bangladesh and India: Amar Sonar Bangla and Jana Gana Mana. Thakur was referred to as Gurudeb, an honorary title that refers to Guru and Deva (God).
1.1 Family background
Rabindranath Thakur was born the youngest of fourteen children into a traditional Brahmin family. His grandfather Dwarkanath (1794-1846) enjoyed a high reputation in Bengal, as he not only lived splendidly according to his wealth, but also supported social, cultural and educational institutions. He was also personally involved in the Brahmo Samaj reform movement against outdated caste regulations. On his second trip to Europe, he died heavily in debt.
Unlike his grandfather, Rabindranath's father Debendranath (1817-1905) was considered closed and religious. He formulated the beliefs of Brahmo, which Ram Mohan Roy, a friend of Dwarkanath Thakur, brought into being, and became a central figure in this religious movement. As the eldest son, he was responsible for the repayment of debts after the death of his father; the family seat in Jorasanko, which now houses a university, was retained by the family and became the house where Rabindranath was born. Little is known about his mother Sarada Devi; she lived secluded in the women's quarters of the palace and her son could not develop a close relationship with her.
1.2 Childhood and adolescence
Rabindranath, called “Rabi” as a child, grew up in a lively, culturally inspiring environment, mainly under the influence of his older siblings and their families; His eldest brother Dwijendranath, a poet and philosopher, and the second oldest Satyendranath, Sanskrit scholar and first Indian nominated for the elite Indian Civil Service, had significant influence. His sister, the writer Swarna Kumari Devi, and his sister-in-law Kadambari were other caregivers.
Rabindranath started school when he was four years old; Both western and traditional Indian traditions played a role in his upbringing and training, but - unlike the children of many other Indian families - he was taught in his native Bengali. Thakur later described his school days as oppressive; Although the boy was highly creative, he found it difficult to adapt to the authoritarian learning environment of his time. After changing schools variously, he dropped out of training at the age of 14 without a degree.
His brother Jyotiridranath, whose liberal upbringing methods were more suited to the boy, had important influences on Rabindranath's artistic education. At the age of eight he wrote his first poems; Works that he wrote when he was 12 have already been published.
After his Upanayana ritual, an important Hindu rite of initiation, Rabindranath accompanied his father, who by now devoted himself almost exclusively to religion, on a longer journey. Deeply impressed by the natural beauties of Bengal - he had hardly left his close living environment in Kolkata - and for the first time in closer contact with his father, Rabindranath visited a small family estate near Bolpur, as well as the Golden Temple in Amritsar and the Himalayas. Debendranath taught his son Sanskrit, among other things, but otherwise gave him the freedom he had long missed.
After his return to Kolkata, Rabindranath did not stay long in the narrow educational corset; three years after dropping out of school, he was sent to England in 1878 with his brother Satyendranath to study law. He attended school in Brighton, then attended literature lectures at the University of London and participated in social life. However, he did not complete a degree; Therefore, after 17 months, the family called him back to India. His close contact with Western culture later influenced Rabindranath in his lyrical and musical works, he found new forms in which he interwoven the best of both worlds, for example in his first musical game The Genius of Valmiki (1881) he combined Irish folk songs with classical Indian music.
1.3 Family life and early literary work
To give his unsteady life a solid base, his family married him in 1883 to the 10-year-old Mrinalini Devi (1874-1902), with whom he had five children, two of whom died at an early age.
Rabindranath toured northern India both alone and with his family and experienced a phase of high creative productivity. As a poet and dramatist, he was a pioneer of Bengali theatrical art; it was not until 1872 that the first public theater was founded in Kolkata. From 1881 to 1890 Rabindranath wrote nine dramas, all of which were performed. The female roles were all played by women (mostly from his own family) - a novelty and a taboo break in the Bengali society of his time.
Under the influence of his father, Thakur worked for the Brahmo movement from 1884; he wrote songs and essays in which he polemicized against child marriage, which was common at the time, and attacked the conservative Hinduism represented by the well-known poet Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay.
When Rabindranath's sister-in-law Kadambari committed suicide for unknown reasons in 1884, he was deeply affected. The death of one of his most important caregivers from early childhood influenced his work for many years and allowed him to mature poetically.
1.4 Reforms in village life: Shilaidah
After Rabindranath had prematurely broken off his second trip to England in 1890, he took over the management of the family estates in Shilaidah in northeast Bengal. Although he was on his way to becoming Bengali's leading poet, he had not yet had to contribute to a family livelihood. He took an active part in public life and in 1894 became Vice President of the Bengali Academy of Literature.
Rabindranath described village life in detailed and passionate letters; he discovered his own roots in rural, natural life. However, he did not fall into uncritical nostalgia, but began to use his strength for the development of the underdeveloped rural region. The achievements of his work at the time included the establishment of banks and cooperatives, schools, hospitals and transport routes.
In literary terms, Rabindranath developed the genre of the Bengali novella during this time and became its most important representative. In terms of content, previously unknown motifs flowed into the short prose: rural life and its poverty, but also life in the extended family, the fragile relationship between the sexes and social grievances. One of the stories is the well-known novella Der Postmeister, written in 1891. This epoch is generally shaped by the awakening Indian national feeling, so that the stories also contain criticism of the British colonial rulers.
At the turn of the century, he wrote the novella The Destroyed Nest (1901) and the novel Sand im Auge (1901), both of which deal with the apparently ideal world of the Indian extended family and shed light on their backgrounds in a socially critical manner. Despite his rich prose oeuvre of this time, Rabindranath created several volumes of poetry in parallel (e.g. Das Goldene Boot, 1894, and Die Wunderbare, 1896), whose works, like his prose, broke old conventions through their new language and form.
1.5 Education reforms, national movement: Shantiniketan
After his own negative experiences with the Indian school system, Rabindranath made the upbringing of his five children a personal task. He continued to train the private teachers who were hired for them and often taught himself.
Despite his opposition to child marriage in India, his two older daughters were married at the age of twelve and fourteen, a decision for which Rabindranath was later often criticized.
The family moved to the Shantiniketan family estate 150 kilometers northwest of Kolkata in 1901. For the second half of his life, the place in the barren landscape was to remain his place of residence. In December 1901 he founded a school in Shantiniketan, where his eldest son and four other children were taught.
His educational efforts were interrupted in 1901 by political unrest in Bengal. With the means of a writer, Rabindranath took part in the political movement; For example, he wrote a song of protest against the partition of Bengal by Lord Curzon, the viceroy of India, and led a demonstration. However, his engagement remained moderate and never became chauvinist or fundamentalist. After five years, Rabindranath withdrew to Shantiniketan and devoted himself again to his educational and literary work, which was interpreted by some as a "betrayal of the national cause".
At the beginning of the century, Rabindranath suffered from deaths in the immediate family at short intervals: in 1902 his wife Mrinalini died after 19 years of marriage, followed less than a year later by his second oldest daughter Renuka, who was ill with tuberculosis. His youngest son Samindranath died of cholera in 1907, and in 1905 Thakur had to say goodbye to his 87-year-old father.
Despite the political commitment, personal blows of fate and not least financial bottlenecks, a new kind of school emerged in Shantiniketan during this time, which emancipated itself from the British school system and was based on the Hindu Brahmacharya ideal: children lived - mostly outdoors - with their guru (teacher ) together and learned intuitively and through role models. Rabindranath found employees who supported him and lived himself in the community, which in 1908 consisted of 50 people, including the servants of Rabindranath's school books, which were created during this period, are still compulsory reading in Bengal to this day.
1.6 Travel abroad and the Nobel Prize
In 1912 the poet and his son Rathindranath embarked on a 16-month trip to England and the USA, which was to bring his poor health recovery and inspiration. Before and during the trip he translated some of his poems into English - up to this time his work was almost completely unknown in Europe. In London, father and son met a number of well-known artists and intellectuals, including William Butler Yeats, Ezra Pound, George Bernhard Shaw and Ernest Rhys. Yeats edited Thakur's poems and, together with Rabindranath's host William Rothenstein, a painter, and Arthur Fox Strangways, edited the volume of poems Gitanjali by the India Society (also published by Macmillan in 1913). Rabindranath's 103 translations for this volume did not adhere to the verse form of the original, but are written in rhythmic prose and are often very freely based on the original. The imagery, completely unknown to European readers, deeply impressed those who first listened to his poems in England.
Two further volumes of poetry followed in quick succession in 1913, partly translated by Rabindranath himself, partly translated by Bengali employees and authorized by him. The reception of his works in Europe was, however, clichéd; Rabindranath was seen as a “mystical saint from the east”, which he never was or wanted to be in his homeland - on the contrary, he had always taken a critical stance towards traditional Hinduism. However, he did not dissociate himself very vehemently from the role that was assigned to him in Europe.
After a six-month stay in the USA, where he mainly recovered and gave some lectures, Rabindranath returned to England in April 1913 before returning to India in October 1913. There he learned in mid-November that he had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for the volume of poetry Gitanjali:
"Because of the deep and lofty relationship as well as the beauty and freshness of his poems, which in a brilliant way incorporates his poetic work into the beautiful literature of the West, even in his peculiar English garb"
After the announcement, Rabindranath was enthusiastically celebrated in his homeland despite all previous criticism - but the new fame soon weighed on the poet:
“The enormous whirlwind of public excitement [...] is appalling. It's almost as bad as tying a tin can to a dog's tail so that it has nowhere to go without making noise and gathering crowds. "
1.7 Worldwide fame and travel
From 1914 to 1921 there were over 20 books with Rabindranath's works in English; into other European languages was translated not from Bengali, but from English. An eight-volume German-language edition was published by Kurt Wolff Verlag in the 1920s.
The growing fame in Asia and Europe motivated Rabindranath to expand his ashram educational ideal to Vishva-Bharati, an educational institution that aimed to meet and merge different - initially only Asian - cultures.
On a total of nine lecture tours through Asia, Europe and America, he pleaded for a synthesis of the positive elements of Eastern and Western thought. In Asia, his focus was on the formation of a new self-confidence through the “spiritual power” inherent in people, which he contrasted with the “material West”, as well as the unity of the Asian peoples. On his travels through Europe and America he promoted his new school in Shantiniketan and also collected money for its maintenance. In 1921 classes could begin.
"The most significant of all facts of the present age is that the East and the West have met."
In the same year the poet also visited Germany - the first of a total of three trips (1921, 1926 and 1930), on which he also met Karl Buschhüter, the Oelbermann brothers and Gustav Wyneken at Waldeck Castle in the Hunsrück (Nerother Wandervogel). While the audience in Germany met him with great enthusiasm and his lectures were always very well attended, he received little to no positive response from German colleagues such as Thomas Mann or Rilke; Rilke, for example, refused to translate Rabindranath's works into German. In 1930 he met Albert Einstein twice.
In 1915 he received a title of nobility from King George V, which he returned in 1919 in protest against a British massacre in Amritsar. His stay in England in 1921 was therefore rather characterized by indifference and aloofness.
1.8 Late work, illness, death
Despite the extensive travels and Rabindranath's obligations in Shantiniketan, numerous works were created in the decades after the Nobel Prize, including two great novels (Four Parts, Home and Outside, 1916) as well as dramas and poems.
At the age of 67, Rabindranath discovered drawing for himself - expressionist works were created that also met with incomprehension in his environment.
Even when the time of the great world trips lay behind him, Rabindranath still frequently traveled with his students across India to collect donations for his school. The volumes of poetry from his last years are still considered important today.
Two serious illnesses (1937 and 1940) already gave rise to fears for his life; The poet described his experiences during this period in volumes of poetry published in 1938-1941. The Second World War removed him from European culture, but his last speech said:
“But it is a sin to lose faith in man; I will save this belief to the last. "
After a failed operation in July 1941, Rabindranath died on August 7, 1941 in the house where he was born and was cremated that same evening on the banks of the Ganges with the participation of thousands of people.
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