Devotio Humana: Rabindranath's Love Poems Revisited

Narasingha P. Sil


Rabindranath Tagore's (1861-1941) reputation as a rishi (saint), mahamanab (superman)[1], or gurudeb (divine mentor) has created a haze and a halo through which we can neither recognize the concrete human being of flesh and blood nor appreciate his emotional sensibilities in their proper perspectives. As such, a number of critics such as Ajitkumar Chakravarti, Srikumar Banerjee, Mohitlal Majumdar, or Charuchandra Banerjee either refused to consider the direct influence of the human experiences, especially his relationships with various women, on some of Rabindranath's greatest lyrical pieces, or considered any attempt to probe into them irrelevant, irreverent, or irresponsible.[2] However, the distinguished Tagore scholar Pramathanath Bishi provided an explanation for his claim that Rabindranath's poems and lyrics dealing with love lack human intimacy. A distinct signature of Tagore's love poems, Bishi goes on, is that they reveal sadness, disappointment, and compassion rather than passion, euphoria, or tumult of the heart.[3]

If we pay heed to Buddhadeva Bose and Sankha Ghosh's sensible suggestion to read Rabindranath's poetry qua poetry (kabitar uddeshe kabita)[4] and try not to analyze it either insisting on the contexts and causes of his works or ignoring their human and historical but emphasizing spiritual or philosophical dimensions, we would readily realize that he truly was what another great poet of his day, though hailing from an earlier generation, Walt Whitman of America (1819-92), wrote in a celebrated poem: "I am large, I contain multitudes."[5] Indeed, as Tagore has clearly stated, "human mind is deep and variegated ; swayed by multiple pulls and pressures it has to bend [and adjust]. That is the sign of its life, its humanity, and its protests against sterile immobility. One who does not face this ambivalence and weakness has a very narrow, hard, and dead mind. Our instinct, which we ridicule often, is the motor of life, it elevates us unto the infinite through pain and pleasure, sanctity and sin."[6] Yet, beneath all his contradictions and ambivalence in respect of a number of issues there is a strong undercurrent of Rabindranath's essential humanism that was nurtured by his native culture he inherited and the Western culture of his day he imbibed.[7] Nothing illustrates this problematic of Tagore's "myriad-minded"[8] genius more clearly and wonderfully than his poems dealing with love.

Admittedly, this paper does not pretend to posit an entirely novel interpretation of Tagore's poems and lyrics dealing with love. On the other hand, the following pages bring together insights of several distinguished studies in Bengali to highlight the profile of Rabindranath, the sensitive, sensuous, shy as well as a spiritual human being. Tagore's delicate and refined sensibilities dictated his poetic imagination and public discourse and his entire life was dedicated to celebrate the beautiful and the eternal and proclaim the triumph of human love sublimated in cosmic compassion and agape or divine love. In fact, the poet himself confessed to his own fluid understanding of love in a letter to Pramatha Chaudhuri, husband of Tagore's beloved niece Indira : "I can't tell for sure whether I am driven by [human] love with all its pleasures and pain deriving from union and separation [of lovers] or by an indefinite but inordinate longing for beauty."[9] As early as 1891, Rabindranath had written a poem on prem [love]: "E ye sakhi, hridayer prem--/Sukhduhkhabedanar adianta nahi yar,/Chiradainya, chirapurna hem./. . . bujha yai adho prem, adhkhana mon--/Samasta ke bujhechhe kakhan?" [This love of mine springs from the heart./It has limitless pangs and pleasures, always empty, always filled with pure gold./...It's easy to figure out a little love or a bit of the heart's desires,/But who could fathom the depth of love in its fullness and entirety?][10]


Any discussion of Rabindranath's concept of erotic love, that is prem, must be prefaced by and predicated on his understanding of human love as well as his outlook on the feminine. Jagadish Bhattacharya has discussed in detail the Hindu cultural influences of the Tagore family (even though Brahmo) and the Western intellectual influences of Renaissance Bengal where Rabindranath was born and brought up. The young poet at once internalized the parakiya prem [love without lust or niskam prem] of the Vaishnab sahajiyas represented by the fourteenth-century poet Chandidas as well as the eros of Plato (427-347 B.C.) via the corpus of Tagore's predecessor in England the "natural Platonist" Percy B. Shelley (1792-1822), the love of Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) expressed for Beatrice Portinari (1266-90) in La Vita Nuova, or that of Francesco Petrarca (1304-74) expressed for Laura de Noves (1308-48) in Canzoniere.[11] Rabindranath himself admitted to his attraction for the poet John Keats (1795-1821) in an essay in 1895: "Of all the English poets known to me, I feel an especial intimacy with Keats ... [whose] language is marked by a sincere aesthetic delight."[12]

Buddhadeva Bose argues persuasively that Tagore's collection of poems in Manasi constitutes the primary locus or an "atomic world" ("anubishwa") of the poet's lyrical ouevres and their leitmotif is love. Bose argues further that the object of Tagore's love poems in Manasi [Woman of Imagination, 1890] is not a concrete identifiable individual but an indefinite fluid entity. At best, as Bose concludes, "most of [Tagore's] poems beginning with Manasi down to Gitanjali [Song Offerings, 1906-10] are ambivalent or multivalent in that their subject matter love cannot be said to be love in human or divine sense with any certainty."[13] According to another distinguished Tagore scholar, Kshudiram Das, Rabindranath's literary genius consists, fundamentally, in his assimilation of visible real life (jiban) with the idealized or imagined unseen (arup) that transcends the sensate world. This synthesis is a reflection of the poet's successful amalgam of the sensuous Western literary tradition and the introspective meditative tradition of his native culture.[14] While Das perhaps comes closer to truth, he tends to overlook the human experiences that inspired some of the poet's outstanding creations in a major way. In the final analysis we must recognize the vast inclusive expanse of his Weltanschauung that comprehends a multiplicity of perspectives and trajectories defying any straitjacketed categories.


It must also be noted that Rabindranath's upbringing in a spartan, though never overly puritan, Brahmo family might have conditioned him against any outward expression of emotional outbursts or sexuality. He never experienced any parental indulgence as a child being neither the eldest nor the youngest. His movements inside as well as outside the home were restricted. Admittedly, he was not neglected but, in keeping with the usual practice of his day, as a child he was kept away from the adult world under the control of the household servants, especially the two redoubtable veterans Brajeshwar and Shyam. From his boyhood, Rabindranath learnt to live a simple but disciplined life. "It could be said that luxury was conspicuous by its absence in our childhood," Tagore recalled later.[15] He wrote elsewhere: "I was a lonely child, I had no friends to play with. But I had the great big visible world to keep me company."[16] He had been a sparse eater, though he did take part in physical exercise on a daily basis. He, however, disliked attending school as he must have found the atmosphere there boring and choking. At the same time, he was subjected to a strict regimen of studies and musical lessons at home under private tutors.[17]

His evolution into adulthood occurred under such a controlled environment. The Brahmo etiquette of his family permitted free mixing between male and female members under certain parameters that were neither wholly patriarchal nor entirely egalitarian in terms of genders. Even as a mature young man Tagore manifested his uneasiness in female company. Admiring his young England-educated nephew Surendranath's spontaneous socialization with young women (besh ritimata paka styley alap), the thirty-two year old poet confessed: "Even at 32 I am unable to converse with women in such an easy, self-assured, and elegant manner. I stumble while walking, fumble while talking, and I am at a loss as to where to place hands or what to do with my long legs; while thus preoccupied with them I fail to continue conversations [with women] satisfactorily. In a crowded room [dimly] lit by three candles it becomes impossible for a clumsy and cowardly creature like me to get myself close to a young woman like iron to a magnet."[18]

No wonder the young Rabindranath failed to summon a typical masculine response to the Maratha belle Anna Tadkhad's unabashed but sincere gesture to get him to hug and kiss her. Many years later, the poet confessed to his timid unromantic indifference to the pretty Anna's (he had nicknamed her "Nalini") overtures.[19] He was similarly unresponsive to the erotic advances of the Scott sisters of Bloomsbury, London where the young poet had been a paying guest. As he told Dilip Ray many years later, he had little doubt that the girls, his "lovers in former life" (purba janamer priya),[20] really fell for him and yet we notice his shy behavior at the initial stage of his meeting with them; he could not even summon the courage to look at one of them, Miss J, straight in the eye, lest he should lose his cool beholding her "well-chiseled countenance" [apurba chhanche dhala mukh]. The poet's experiences with the mature, independent-minded, and intellectual Victoria Ocampo (1891-1979) of Argentina, whom he named Bijaya (a Bengali synonym for Victoria), register a similar episode of unrequited passion.[21] One might reasonably suppose that his intimacy with Kadambari (1858-84), wife of his elder brother Jyotirindranath (1849-1925), was immaculate--it being a romantic communion or (as will be discussed later, bhalobasa) because of a tabooed relationship.[22]

Kadambari had possessed the poet's heart by gifting away hers to him. In fact Tagore dedicated a number of poems to her: Bhagnahriday (Heartbreak,1881), Chhabi O Gaan (Images and Lyrics,1884), Prakritir Pratishodh (Nature's Revenge,1884), Shaishab Sangeet (Song of Childhood,1884), Bhanusingha Thakurer Padabali (Lyrics by Bhanusingha Thakur,1884), and the like. Victoria Ocampo, on the other hand, fell in love hook, line and sinker with a handsome sexagenarian fit to be her father in age, and she did not hide her feelings for her gurudeb. "I love you. Nothing can alter that," she confessed candidly in one of her missives to the master and concluded reiterating her feelings for him: "let me tell you, Gurudev, that I love you".[23] The old bard in turn dedicated his anthology Purabi (1925) to his Argentine adorer Bijaya. As he recalled his enchanted encounter: Bidesher bhalobasa diye/Ye preyasi petechhe asan/Chiradin rakhibe bandhiya/Kane kane tahari bhasan./Bhasa yar jana chhila nako,/Ankhi yar kayechhila katha,/Jagaye rakhibe chiradin/Sakarun tahari barata [The lover who has gifted a throne/ with her love from a strange land,/Her whisperings will ring in (my) ears/For all time to come./Her language I did not know/Only her eyes spoke to me./Her melancholy message will endure for all time to come].[24] Ketaki Kushari Dyson, who has admirably probed into Ocampo's relationship with the aging Rabindranath in 1924-25, maintains that she became a Muse for the poet's creative corpus after 1924.[25]

Dyson's claims for Ocampo's impact on Rabindranath's literary output since the mid 1920s conflict with Bhattacharya's observations on the influence of the precocious child Ranu Adhikari (later Lady Ranu Mukherjee), whose beauty, simplicity, and gloriously freewheeling love and admiration for the handsome old man inspired his creative genius in significant ways.[26] The child Ranu appeared as the messenger of the poet's Jibandebata reminding him of the playmate of his early youth Kadambari--"morning star of his life transformed into the evening star [of his old age]" (bhorer tara elo sanhjher tarar beshe).[27] Even Tagore's younger relatives wondered about the "new inspiration" and "cause" of the "outpouring of new poems of a fine and noble vintage."[28] There were other women in the poet's life--less glamorous intellectually--who impacted his psyche and work, women such as his child-bride Mrinalini (though more a spouse than a Muse), his niece Indira, his sister-in-law Jnadanandini, his daughter-in-law Pratima, his granddaughter Nandita, and Rani Mahalanabis, and Rani Chanda.


When we examine the various stages in Tagore's understanding and appreciation of woman's humanity, we cannot fail to notice that while as an adolescent, he saw her as a fairy queen of his dream world; as a young man he saw her as a romantic princess. Naturally, women awakened his unbridled youthful passion; witness his output during 1878-84. For instance, his Kabikahini [A Poet's Lore] and Banaphool [Wild Flowers], the two novellas in verse, published in 1878 and 1880 respectively, with their theme of an intimate relationship between femininity and the natural world, express the poet's spontaneous lyrical genius but contain a mishmash of wishy-washy sentimental excesses. Recalling Bhagnahriday, Tagore himself observed later that at the time of composing this piece his mind was filled with vaporous bubble and his sentimental gunk was being churned in the whirlpool of fantasies without any purpose. This was sterile stirring--devoid of creativity and beauty. His lack of direction and aimless amorous fantasy yielded to intensely passionate longings especially in pieces such as Asahay Bhalobasa (Unbearable Passion), Ami Hara (Loss of 'I'), Upahar (Gift), and Durdin (Hard Times), all belonging to the collection titled Sandhya Sangeet [Evening Song, 1882] . The young poet's heart was shivering in trepidation having been overcome by an uncontrollable longing for the bliss of a mysterious woman's touch: "Man mor pagaler hena/Pranpane shudhay se yena,/Praner majhe ki karile tomare go pai,/Ye thnai rayechhe shunya ki karile se shunya purai" (My ecstatic heart seeks you in daring desperation,/Asking how could I get near you, how [could I] fill the void [in my heart] that you created).[29] As he confided to Pramatha Chaudhuri: "I passed the whole day [during the period of the composition of Chhabi O Gaan [Pictures and Songs] like a lunatic--I was overwhelmed by the gushing flood tide of my newly awakened youth."[30]

By the time Rabindranath composed the poems of Chhabi O Gaan, he had crossed the boundary of dreamy and idealized romantic longings of adolescence and entered the tumultuous world of youth assailed by an intense feeling of adult erotic urge. Unlike the earlier mood of his adolescence, when he sought the abstract and idealized woman of his fancy, the fully grown young man now set out to construct the image of a realistic female. As he recalled the period of the composition of Chhabi O Gan in his old age, his "desire [for a woman's love] was not to be satisfied with mere music, he now wished to savor her physical beauty."[31] This state of mind is made lyrically manifest in the piece that cries out loud: Hridaye jagaye basanar shikha/Nayane sajaye maya marichika/Shudhu ghure mari marubhume/Tabu kena, tabu kena michhe e pipasa./Biswa-charachara lupta haye yay/E ki ghor prem andharahu pray/Jibana-youbana grase/Tabe kena, tabe kena michhe e kuyasa. [I move about aimlessly with my heart burning in desire/And my eyes beholding an illusive mirage./ What, then, my love is for?/This tremendous passion, like the blinding Rahu, consumes my youth and my life./Why, then, is this love of mine?] (Mayar Khela [Play of Maya], 1888). Such anxious longings and ecstatic excitement mark his poems, inter alia, "Nirjharer Swapnabhanga" [The Awakening of the Waterfall], and "Ananta Jiban" [Eternal Life], all belonging to the anthology titled Prabhat Sangeet (1883).[32]

It is well known how Rabindranath came to write his profoundly moving long poem "Nirjharer Swapnabhanga" in a fit of sudden illumination that had all the qualities of an epiphany. Sometime in 1881-82 Rabindranath lodged with his brother Jyotirindranath and Kadambari at 10 Sudder Street, Kolkata, just behind the National Museum. Here, as he later recalled in Jibansmriti (My Reminiscences): "One morning I happened to be standing on the verandah looking that way. The sun was just rising through the leafy tops of the trees. As I gazed, all of a sudden a lid seemed to fall from my eyes, and I found the world bathed in a wonderful radiance, with waves of beauty and joy swelling on every side. .... That very day the poem 'Nirjharer Swapnabhanga' (The Awakening of the Waterfall), gushed forth and coursed on like a cascade."[33] Interestingly enough, Rabindranath's ecstatic exclamation "jagiya uthechhe pran/ore uthali uthechhe bari/ore praner basana praner abeg rudhia rakhite nari" [My aroused heart is overflowing with uncontrollable passion] was as sensual as it was spiritual, reminiscent of child Ramakrishna's samadhi at the sight of flying cranes in the cloudy sky or the sixteenth-century German reformer Martin Luther's wondrous vision of the merciful Christ upon reading St. Paul's letter to the Romans.[34] The poem contains Tagore's paradigm of love and, as many critics agree, heralds the birth of Rabindranath, the future world poet. It is fairly certain that the inspiration behind this literary masterpiece was the poet's sister-in-law and that there developed an intimacy between the two young sensitive and impressionable individuals of almost the same age.[35]


It is noteworthy that the poet's later creations, Kadi O Komal (Sharps and Flats, 1886) and Manasi, in particular, brought in, to paraphrase his own observations, the fresh fruits of the heady autumn (sharatkal) in place of his former sentimental torrents of the rainy season (barsakal). However, the autumnal fruits also generated an ambivalent image of the female--at once passionate mistress and compassionate mother. Thus in his essay Dui Bon [Two Sisters], Tagore wrote that women are of two kinds: erotic (priya) and motherly (ma).[36] To cite a few lines from the poem "Hriday Asan" (Heart's Throne) in Kadi O Komal: Komal dukhani bahu sharame lataye/Bikashita stan duti aguliya ray,/Tari majhkhane ki re rayechhe lukaye/Atishay-sayatan-gopan hriday!/Sei niralay sei komal asane/Duikhani snehasphuta staner chhayay/Kishor premer mridu pradoskirane/Anata ankhir tale rakhibe amay [(Her) two tender arms cling shyly to cover and protect the two blossoming breasts./In between them lies hidden [her] carefully nurtured heart!/In that secret tender seat under the shade of the two loving breasts and her sunken eyes [she] will keep me ensconced at the faint twilight of youthful love].[37] In Purna Milan [Total Union], the poet's eroticism is acutely clear: Trisita paran aji kandichhe katare/Tomare sarbanga diye karite darshan/Abar kothao--/Oi dehakhani buke tule neba bala/Panchadash batsarer ek gachhi mala [My thirsty heart is crying out/To behold you with my every limb./Girl, I shall place your body in my heart like a garland of fifteen.][38] Other pieces such as "Stan" (Breast), "Chumban" (Kiss), "Bibasana" (Undressed), "Bahu" (Arms), "Charan" (Feet), "Deher Milan" (Physical Union) etc. from Kadi O Komal celebrated the charms of the female physique.

In his maturer years Tagore came to view his relationship with women as something deeper and dearer than that of a partner in the game of love. In one of the poems of his Sonar Tari, the poet's kabita kalpanalata (Muse) or manassundari (the beautiful woman of imagination) becomes jibaner adhisthatri debi (presiding goddess of life) and antaralakshmi (goddess of the innermost recesses of heart).[39] She also becomes what the poet calls jibandebata (lord of life). As he wrote in Chitra (1896): Rate preyasir rup dhari/Tumi esechha praneswari,/Prate kakhan debir beshe/Tumi samukhe udile hese/Ami sambhrambhare rayechhi dandaye dure abanata shire/Aji nirmalbay shanta ushay nirjan naditire [You came to me at night in the/Guise of a lover./At dawn you appeared smiling,/Decked as a Goddess./And awestruck, I remain standing on the desolate riverbank yonder/With my head hung low in wonder] ("Rate O Prabhate" [At Night and at Dawn]).[40] For Tagore, thus, woman is se yena tufan/yahare chanchal kare se tarike kare khan khan (she is like a torrent./She pulverizes the boat she shakes); she is a yadukari bachane chalane (a charmer in her gait and speech), who is prasadhan sadhane chatura (an adept at making herself up), and yet the same woman lights and puts out a small lamp in her room./ After her morning bath she unlocks her hair and meditates her silent prayer (grihakone chhoto deep jvalay nebay/ Snan sanga kari elochule prabhate nirab nibedane stab kare ekmane) ("Ujjiban," Mahua).[41]

This melange of opposite attitudes bears testimony to the poet's unstated albeit undoubted thesis that true human love is more than lust, it is also the channel of receiving the assurance of divine grace. The capstone for such a realization is to be noticed in Mahua (1928) which contains, among others, the following piece: "Woman is God's greatest gift descended on earth to bestow dignity and honor upon man" [Nari se ye mahendrer dan,/esechhe dharitritale purusere sampite sanman, "Spardha" (Audacity)].[42] In another piece the poet wrote: Dibe se khuli/E ghor dhulir/Abaran./Tahar hate/ankhir pate/jagat-jaga jagaran./Se hasikhani anibe tani/sabar hasi/Gadibe geha, jagabe sneha/jibanrashi [She will unveil/this dusty cloak./This world will awaken to her look./Her smile will make everyone smile,/ And nurture a home and evoke affection in every life] ("Shunya Hridayer Akankhya"[Desires of an Empty Heart]).[43] Thus, as the poet proclaims in Malini, woman is neither a goddess nor an abstraction but a familiar female of flesh and blood--debi na re, daya na re, gharer se meye.[44]


We also need to note that Rabindranath's idealized woman is no mere abstraction even though she is a product of his creative genius. Thus his manasi is a mix of sensuous experience as well as poetic imagination. As has been noted above, he did acknowledge la femme to be god's gift, and yet he could write: Shudhu bidhatar sristi naha tumi nari./Purus gadechhe tore soundarya sanchari/Apan antar hate [Woman, you're not created by god alone./You're also made of the beauty of man's heart][45]. In his famous lyric from Manaspratima [Idol of Imagination] he sang: Tumi amara sadhera sadhana/Ami apana manera madhuri mishaye tomare karechhi rachana [You're the prayers of my desire/ I've created you from my imagination of the sweet and the beautiful][46]. Thus the poet could announce to his manasi with confidence as well as humility: Aj tumi apanake chinechha/Amar chena diye [You now know who you are/By my reckoning].[47]

In a number of subsequent poems, Rabindranath celebrated the beauty and beatitude of femininity in nature. His idea of prem has now been transmuted or sublimated into bhalobasa that is as much spiritual and cerebral (manomai) as it is passionate and physical. The poet even resurrects the Hindu cupid Madan, who suffered death by being immolated in Shiva's angry fire, as the deity of love reborn as a hero (mrityu hate otho Pushpadhanu/Hey Atanu, birer tanute laha tanu).[48] Here we must recall Rabindranath's definition of bhalobasa. As early as 1881, the young poet had written in an essay in Bharati that "bhalobasa is more than mere self-surrender. Rather, it is surrendering the very best of one's self. Bhalobasa is not just installing the idol of the goddess in the heart. It is, more appropriately, installing the idol in the heart's sanctum."[49] In his "Pashchim Yatrir Diary" (Diary of a Traveler to the West) written on board the vessel "Haruna Maru en route to South America in October 1924, Tagore expatiated on the meaning of prem in the double import of the word: bhalolaga (liking) and bhalobasa (love). The former is directed toward the self while the latter toward the other. Bhalolaga is gratified in enjoyment, bhalobasa achieves fulfillment in sacrifice and surrender. "Bhalobasa realizes itself in the spirit, it is the expansion of human personality," Tagore concluded.[50]

In "Upahar" [Gift] Tagore wrote: Bhule gechhi kabe tumi chhelebela ekdin/Maramer kachhe esechhile/Snehamay chhayamay sandhyasama ankhi meli/Ekbar bujhi hesechhile/Age ke janita balo kata ki lukano chhila/Hriday nibhrite/tomar nayan diya amar nijer hiya/Painu dekhite [I have forgotten when in my youth you came to my heart/And looked at me with your loving eyes cool as the evening shadows./Who could have known what treasure was hidden in my heart until I could discover it through your gaze] (Sandhyasangit). The poet's lover is not just an erotic playmate of youth; she is also his soulmate in life and beyond.[51] His idea of femininity shows a remarkable fusion of Western and Eastern ideas in his reconstruction of the character of Chitrangada in the Hindu epic Mahabharata. As he makes her proclaim in the famous lyrical play Chitrangada: Ami Chitrangada ami rajendranandini/Debi nahi, nahi samanya ramani./Puja kari rakhibe mathay, seo ami/Nai; abahela kari pusiya rakhibe/Pichhe, seo ami nahi. Yadi parshve rakho/More sankater pathe, duruha chintar/Yadi angsha dao, yadi anumati karo/Kathin brater taba sahay haite,/Yadi sukhe duhkhe more karo sahachari,/Amar paibe tabe parichay. [I am princess Chitrangada,/Not a goddess to be worshiped/On an altar,/Nor a mere woman pushed behind/With indifference./If you let me walk beside you/In weal and woe/And make me your comrade/In difficult venture,/You will know me/For what I am.][52] "In her," observes Rajat Ray, "the older Indian idea of wife as a partner in the duties of family life (sahadharmini) had developed, under Western influence, into the romantic concept of a comrade in perilous action."[53] Clinton Seely further clarifies the term bhalobasa by comparing it to the commonly understood terms such as sneha (a kind of filial attraction) and prem (amorous romantic love). Bhalobasa, Seely concludes, "comprehends both sneha and prem."[54] Niharranjan Ray astutely observes that for Tagore "love cannot deny or bypass the reality of the body's desire; but a love which never learns to go beyond the body knows no real fulfillment, no peace, and is, therefore, unreal."[55] Indeed, as the poet himself has written in Creative Unity, "in human nature sexual passion is fiercely individual and destructive, but dominated by the ideal of love, it has been made to flower into a perfection of beauty, becoming in its best expression symbolical of the spiritual truth in man which is his kinship of love with the Infinite." In his poem "Nisphal Kamana" [Unrequited Passion] he had admonished: Bhalobaso, preme hao bali,/Cheona tahare./Akankhar dhan nahe atma manaber/ [Love (her), and be strong in love,/but do not desire her./Human soul is not an object of lust.]


Rabindranath has often been seen as a mystic for whom, in Vaishnavic terms, atmendriya pritiichha [self-centered love and desire] or eros [kam] coalesced in love for God [prem], krishnendriya pritiichha [Krishna--or God-centered love and desire].[56] In other words, the poet's idea of love is tantalizingly comparable to the Christian idea of agape. However, I argue that Rabindranath's idea of love cannot be apprehended by regarding him a mystic or regarding his idea of prem or eros as divine agape. Abbé Henri Bremond distinguishes between mystical, that is, religious and poetical activity and considers the latter as an imperfect form of the former. Even if poetry is considered as a kind of prayer in that it employs "some of the resources of the deep-seated soul," it is, according to Bremond, an imitation of mystical prayer, an ersatz religious solution to soteriological problems.[57]

Then, agape is radically different from eros. Agape is a noble spiritual love that mimics the love of God for all His creations. In agape, all things are loved unconditionally with no consideration of a transactional quid pro quo. It is unmotivated or as the Bengali expression has it ahaituki prem. Eros, on the other hand, is motivated by the acquisition of happiness. Eros recognizes value in the object of love and loves it. Agape loves and creates value in its object of love. As the psychologist Erich Fromm has it, eros is based on the proposition "I love you because I need you" while agape is predicated on the plea "I need you because I love you." Eros is man's way to God, agape is God's way to man.[58]


Jagadish Bhattacharya posits, following the definition of the seventeenth-century Bengali aesthetician Kabikarnapura, that Rabindranath's idea of love could be something analogous to suprasensuous eros or pritirati, that is a feeling or sentiment which delights (rati) the heart but remains asamproyagabisaya or devoid of carnality.[59] Rabindranath's idea of pritirati, is poignantly expressed in his poem Banaspati (The Dendron) in which, standing in the sunset hours of life, the tired titan expressed his desire for a final repose and quiet after having struggled with the Sturm und Drang of his soul buffeted by the crosscurrents of his unrequited passion and unfulfilled mission in life. In his response of December 28, 1924 to the overture of his Argentine hostess, who had written him to say "I have gone through such joy and such sufferings all these days! Joy because I felt near you; sufferings, because you ignored my nearness," the aging and ailing Rabindranath wrote to that "incomparable one" [tulanahinare] he had met "on the verdant bank of the blue ocean" [sunil sagarer shyamal kinare]: Daya karo, daya karo, aranyak ei tapaswire,/ Dhairya dharo, ogo digangana,/Byartha karibare tay ashanta abege phire phire/baner angane matiyo na./E ki tibra prem, e ye shilabristi nirmam duhsaha--/Duranta chumban-bege taba/Chhindite jharate chao andha sukhe, kaha more kaha,/kishor korak naba naba?/Asuk tomar prem diptirupe nilambartale,/Shaktirupe eso, digangana./Uthuk spandita hoye sakhe sakhe pallabe balkale/Sughambhir tomar bandana./Dao tare sei tej mahatwe yahar samadhan,/Sarthak hok se banaspati./Biswer anjali yena bhariya karite pare dan/Tapsyar purna parinati. [Hold back, please, O Goddess of Directions, do not distract this mendicant of the forest with your restless desire./ The hailstorm of your intense passion is merciless and unbearable./ Tell me, do you intend to pluck the new born buds with your violent kisses?/ Let your love descend as the light from the blue sky/ And you, Goddess, come as the primal energy, Shakti./Let the leaves and the bark of this dendron pulsate in singing your paean./ Endow it with your power so that it may achieve the final consummation of its prayers by offering all it has to the world at large].[60]

Especially Tagore's last three collections of poems--Rogshayyay (In Sickbed), Arogya, (Recovery), and Janmadine (On My Birthday) written during October 1940-March 1941--reveal an enigmatic convergence of the artist and the ascetic. All the pieces of these collections are characterized by a quiet grandeur: shanta rasa. Though, according to Bagbhatta, this particular rasa or aesthetic delight has its marker in samyakjnan, that is, awareness of the Absolute Soul (Paramatman) or God, in Tagore shanta rasa displays the unity of the two divergent consciousness: "the sweet earthy passion" (martyer madhuratama asakti) and "the sublime freedom of the heavens" (akasher nirmalatama mukti). This consciousness informs his idea of love or bhalobasa as it evolved from the impetuous, rebellious, and "delirious cascading waterfall" (nirjharer pralapkallol) of his youth to a serene and silent prayer "in cosmic quiescence" (nikhiler brihat shantite).[61] In the sunset hours of his life, in a relatively obscure but a truly lyrical piece titled "Sandhyay" [In the Evening], the poet beseeches his beloved to be as beautiful, serene, and quiet as the evening and asks her to come to his life all by herself: Ogo tumi sandhyar mata hao ...omni sundar shanta ...mata dhire dhire amar jibantire/Barek dandao ekakini.[62]


Rabindranath was a humanist par excellence who loved this beautiful earth and its colorful inhabitants so much that he refused to depart from this world: "I do not want to die in this beautiful world,/ But live in the hearts of men" [Marite chahina ami, sundar bhubane, /manaber majhe ami banchibare chai] (Kadi O Komal).[63] He candidly confessed to his commitments to the world at large in his letter to his Argentine hostess and admirer Victoria Ocampo: "My true home is there where from my surroundings comes the call to me to bring out the best that I have, for that inevitably leads me to the touch with the universal."[64] He wrote in his Reminiscences: "I guess my work has only one theme--reconciling the finite with the infinite."[65]

Tagore's quintessential humanism is implicit in his concepts of dharma and debata. For him dharma, loosely translated as religion, is Manuser Dharma (Religion of Man, 1931) and debata (God) is Jibandebata[66] (Lord of Life). As he explained: "That creative energy inside me which is unifying as well as signifying all the pleasures and pain of my life, and my changing self through many rebirths I had called Lord of Life (Jibandebata)." The Jibandebata is also, as Tagore himself has said borrowing the Baul (rustic roving singing minstrels) imagery, "the man or woman of the heart" or maner manus. A noteworthy feature of Tagore's God is that He presides over His created world. Tagore has little patience with Shankaracharya's mayavad that reduces this world to a mere illusion or a dream. To him, this world, created by God, is intensely real. "Without the world," he declares, "God would be phantasm, without God the world would be chaos."[67] Tagore's conviction that "to know the Supreme Joy through all earthly love, to perceive the visible form of the Exquisite One through the world of beauty is what I call the realisation of freedom"[68] is a telling testament of his pronounced earth-credo or terraphilia.

As early as 1901 Rabindranath wrote: Bairagya sadhane mukti, se amar nai/Asankhya bandhan-majhe mahanandamai/Labhiba muktir swad [Deliverance is not for me in renunciation. /I feel the embrace of freedom in a thousand bonds of delight].[69] About three decades later, he reiterated: Shudhayo na more tumi mukti kotha, mukti kare kai,/Ami sadhak nai, ami guru nai/Ami kabi, achhi/Dharanir ati kachhakachhi/Eparer kheyar ghatay [Ask me not what salvation means or where to get it./Sage or mentor I'm not./I am but a poet who stays close to this earth on this side of the bank (of life)].[70] In another poem, he confessed: "How I wish to quench my thirst by drinking time and again the wine of bliss from all the vessels of this world" [Ichha kare barbar mitaite sadh/Pan kari biswer sakal patra hate/Anandamadiradhara naba naba srote].[71] Sometime later, the poet announced: Labhiachhi jibaloke manbjanmer adhikar,/Dhanya ei soubhagya amar [I'm blessed to be born a human in this world living beings] ("Barsashes" [Year End], 1926). In a short poem composed toward the end of his life the poet proclaimed in no uncertain terms: Shes sparsa niye yaba yabe dharanir bale yabo, 'Tomar dhulir tilak parechhi bhale; dekhechhi nityer jyoti duryoger mayar adale./Satyer anandarup e dhulite niyechhe murati/Ei jene e dhulay rakhinu pranati [When I go having touched this earth for the last time, I would say, 'Today I have marked my forehead with your dust;/I have seen the bright eternity behind the mist of danger and turmoil./I know that the beautiful truth has realized itself and I place my head on the dust (of this world)'][72]. He had sung: Amar mukti alloy alloy ei akashe/Amar mukti dhulay dhulay ghase ghase/Amar mukti sarbajaner maner majheDuhkha-bipad tuchha kara kathin kaje [My deliverance is in the lighted firmament, in every dust particle and in every grass of the earth/ ... My salvation is in the universal mind and in my exertions defying all dangers and disappointments].[73] The ailing Bisvakabi [World Poet] tendered his final offering not to a deity of the distant heavens but to humanity of this world: Ami bratya, ami mantrahin./Sakal mandirer bahire amar puja aj samapta hala/Deblok theke/Manabloke,/Akashe jyotirmay puruse/Ar maner manuse amar antartama anande [I am the uninitiated pariah,/Today I have performed my final worship with profound bliss of the bright God of the skies/And the Man of My Heart on this world away from the temples] (Patraput [The Leaves], 1936).[74]


Yet Tagore was far from a naïve starry-eyed philanthropist or a supramundane mystic or prophet. Even though he delighted in his interaction with peoples and ideas, he was also painfully aware of the deceit, deviousness, and iniquity of his world. Some of his contemporaries considered him as a poet of ethereal, even unreal [bastutantrahin] fantasies.[75] A one-time friend of the poet, Narendranath Datta (premonastic name of Swami Vivekananda, 1863-1902), who had taken lessons in Brahmo prayer songs from Rabindranath, called him a purveyor of "erotic venom."[76] An influential poet and literary critic in Britian ridiculed Tagore's English translation of his own poems as the product of an illiterate Indian.[77] On October 25, 1930 he wrote to Indira: "By god's grace I was born with a tough physique so that I could take as much abuse as I can from my own country[men]."[78] On September 14, 1933 Rabindranath wrote: "It is a matter of great regret that for [some people] scandal mongering makes a good living. I thus realize how widespread and deep is the animus against me in my country. How little pain my country people feel by hurting and insulting me! Had this not been the case, scurrilous criticisms against me would not have been so profitable."[79] Tagore's biographer Mukhopadhyay laments: "At what an inauspicious moment did he compose Sonar Tari! No other single creation of Rabindranath spewed so much flattery as well as vitriol either earlier or later....Really speaking, the poet was actually the target of attack, his poetry an excuse, because some people sought to belittle those qualities of Rabindranath's multifaceted genius that had been recognized by the majority of the intellectuals of the country."[80]

Although Tagore frankly confessed to being a romantic he did reckon with his personal struggle against the terrifying real world on his own terms. He would deal with it by bringing together the bhairab [terrifying reality] and the sundar [the ideal and the beautiful]. He wrote: Yetha oi bastab jagat/Sekhane anagonar path/Achhe amar chena./Sethakar dena/Shodh kari--se nahe kathai taha jani/ tahar ahban ami mani./Shoukhin bastab setha nahi hai./Sethay sundar yena bhairaber sathe/Chale hate hate [I'm familiar with the road to the real world./I know, too, that I can't pay my debts to it in words/But I respond to its call./...No fancy reality could be found there./There the terrific and the terrible walk hand in hand./][81] His Sheslekha, composed in the last year of his life contain a couple of poems that reveal his personal struggle: Rupnaraner kule/Jege uthilam,/Janilam e jagat svapna nai./Rakter akashe dekhilam/Apanar rup,/Chinilam apanare aghate aghate/bedanay bedanay;/Satya ye kathin,/Kathinere bhalobasilam,/Se kakhano kare na banchana./Amrityur duhkher tapasya e jiban,/Satyer darun mulya labh karibare,/Mirtyute sakal dena shodh kare dite [I awoke on the bank of the Rupnaran/And realized that this world is not a phantasm./I beheld my visage etched in blood,/And recognized myself amidst many hurts and aches;/I fell in love with the relentless reality that knows no deception./This life of mine is a long painful prayer till I redeem all my debts and receive the terrible price of truth in death].[82] The very last piece, dictated from deathbed is eloquent, elegant, and evocative: Tomar sristir path rekhechha akirna kari/Bichitra chhalanajale/He chhalanamayi./Mithya bisvasher phand petechha nipun hate/Saral jibane./Ei prabanchanadiye mahatvere karechha chinhita./...Satyere se pai/Apan aloke--dhouta antare antare./Kichhute parena tare prabanchite,/Shes puraskar niye yai se ye/Apan bhandare./Anayase ye perechhe chhalana sahite/Se pay tomar hate/Shantir akshay adhikar [Sorceress, you've strewn the path of/Your creation in a mesh of varied wiles./Cleverly you've laid a snare of false beliefs/In artless lives./You've marked the (honest) and great with deceptions/....Though crooked outside/He's upright within,/And that is his pride./Though all call him disturbed,/He finds truth in the inner recesses of his heart/Washed clean by his inner light./Nothing can fool him;/He carries to his treasure-house/His final reward./He who could put up with your deceit receives from you the right/To everlasting peace].[83]


Tagore's humanism in its cosmic expanse makes him an aesthete whose experience of beauty and the creative art expressed in it go against the grain of ancient Indian or Vedantic aesthetics which, to quote a sentence from a modern exponent of the subject, "makes us progressively conscious of the illusoriness of the empirical world and ego-life and of the reality of the higher and non-attached spirit within us."[84] However, Tagore did not think that the function of art was to make us realize "the illusoriness of the empirical world" and the hyper-reality of a higher world. By detachment and disinterestedness of aesthetic experience he understood detachment from the exigencies of action and never from the world of humanity and of nature where his every step on the green meadow or in the grove has filled his life with enchanting and exciting delight (Ghase ghase pa phelechhi baner pathe jete/phuler gandhe bharechhe man uthechhe pran mete).[85] As he wrote, "from the dawn of history the poets and artists have been infusing the colours and music of their own soul into the structure of existence. And from this I have known certainly that the earth and the sky are woven with the fibres of man's mind."[86] He has thus found his niche under the starry firmament and his song springs forth in utter amazement (Akash-bhara surya-tara,/Bishwa-bhara pran/Tahari majhkhane ami peyechhi, peyechhi mor sthan./Bismaye jage, jage amar pran).[87] One of the most poignant pieces proclaiming the poet's aesthetic amalgam of human and cosmic love may be found in the collection titled Chaitali [Late Harvest] (1896): Amader dujaner pratham chumban./Ananta nakshatralok uthila shihari/ Amader chakshe ela ashrujal bhari (Our first kiss./The limitless galaxy shuddered./ Tears filled our eyes).[88] This is what Theodor Lipps had called Einfühlung or empathy.[89] This empathy is love in all its forms: love between a man and a woman (eros), man's love for God and God's for man (agape), and aesthetic love (Einfühlung), that is, love for the world at large through empathy, which means "feeling into" rather than sympathy, which means "feeling with."

We should bear in mind that the poet had expressed such sentiments eloquently earlier in his poem "Ananta Prem" [Love Eternal]: Nikhiler shukh nikhiler dukh/Nikhil praner priti/Ekti premer majhare mishechhe/ sakal premer smriti/Sakal kaler sakal premer giti [The bliss, blight, and love of the world has merged into one love that holds the memory and music of universal love for all times].[90] Elsewhere he endorsed the sentiment of a woman poet of medieval India and cited her in his own translation: I salute the Life in the house and the Life abroad in the unknown,/The Life full of joy and the Life weary with its pains,/The Life eternally moving, rocking the world into stillness,/The Life deep and silent, breaking out into roaring waves.[91] Nirad Chaudhuri observes that mystical faith in "Rabindranath Tagore's philosophy of life is at once rooted in the faith in earthly existence and in life beyond death."[92] In other words, following Abu Sayeed Ayyub, it may be concluded that for Rabindranath love of woman, nature, and god is a connected concept.[93]


The lover Rabindranath cannot be separated from the aesthetic priest, the worshiper of his Jibandebata. As he had declared in a lecture in the United States in 1917: "With the growth of man's spiritual life, our worship has become worship of love."[94] This worship is also accompanied with a gender transformation of the object of love. Thus the poet's ususal lover, the woman, now becomes a male with a masculine name Jibandebata, antaratama (the most intimate one) to whom the male poet now expresses his love as a woman (in Edward Thompson's unkind words expressing a "zenana imagery"): Ohe anaratama,/mitechhe ki taba sakal tiyas/Asi antare mama?/Duhkhasukher laksa dharay/Patra bharia diyachhi tomay,/Nithur pidane ningadi baksa/Dalita draksa sama./ [My lord, have you drunk enough of me? /I have crushed my breast like vineyards,/ filling your cup with my joys and sorrows/].[95]

This reversal of gender whereby the poet himself becomes a woman supplicating to a male lover must have been facilitated by his Vaishnabic cultural heritage.[96] Interestingly enough, Rabindranath's poetic career began as the precocious Bhanusingha composing erotic lyrics on the Vaishnavic theme of the love between Radha and Krishna. In his advancing years, especially past his middle age, the poet harked back to the same font of his poetic consciousness, the Vaishnava devotional style of feminization of the male devotee. Thus the poems addressed to his Jibandebata are more philosophical versions of his romantic lyrics of adolescence and early youth transforming his erotic consciousness into prem (in the true sense of bhalobasa): Sab cheye satya mor, sei mrityunjay,/se amar prem./Tare ami rakhiya elem/Aparibartan arghya tomar uddeshe [My love is immortal and it's the highest truth (of my life)./That eternal offering of mine I have dedicated to you].[97] The unabashed romantic matured into a brooding philosopher who combined in himself the premik (lover) and the pujari (worshiper). This erotic ascetic, the dendron of the forest (aranyak banaspati), awaited till his dying day, staking all his possessions, the advent of his surreal lover, Jibandebata, the darling deity of life, who is also kautukmayi antaryami (playful indwelling woman), antartama jibannath (lord of life who is inside the innermost), or priyatama pranesh (the most beloved lord of life): For the return of the One/ Who has left me on the road,/ I eagerly wait with all my load. / He is never seen but he can see,/ Yet thus unseen he loves me. /My heart is lost in my secret affair/ With that amazing intimate Lover (Amar sakal niye base achhi/ Sarbanasher ashay /Ami tar lagi path cheye achhi/ Pathe ye jan bhasay/ Ye jan dey na dekha yay ye dekhe/ Bhalobase adal theke/Amar man majechhe sei gabhirer/ Gopan bhalobasay).[98] Rabindranath Tagore was no world-weary self-abnegating ascetic. He was a seeker of the ultimate freedom and beauty in this life on this planet, and not a beyonder. "Not self-immolation, but self-expression must be our aim," the poet proclaimed--and this should serve as his enduring epitaph.[99]

1 These stylized sobriquets could be found in any popular study of the poet either in Bengali or in English in Kolkata book market. See, for example, Amalendu Dasgupta, Rishi Rabindranath (Kolkata: General Orinters and Publishers Limited, 1361 B.E.). All Bengali poems cited in this paper are accompanied by my English translation except otherwise stated. B.E. stands for Bengali Era which follows Christian Era by 593 years 3 months 14 days.

2 Sankha Ghosh, Kabir Abhipray [The Poet's Intentions] (Kolkata: Papyrus, 1998), "Lekhak" [The Author], 1-57. Also see Ajitkumar Chakravarty, Rabindranath: Kabyagrantha Pather Bhumika [An Introduction to Reading Rabindranath's Poetry] (Santiniketan: Visvabharati 1353 B.E.& Rabindranath O Kabya Parikrama [Rabindranath and a Survey of Literature] (Kolkata: Mitra O Ghosh Publishers, 1390 B.E.); Charuchandra Bandyopadhyay, Rabirashmi [Sunrays], 2 vols. (Kolkata: A. Mukherjee & Co., 1346 B.E.); Srikumar Bandyopadhyay, Rabindra Stristi Samiksha [Survey of Rabindranath's Works] (Kolkata: Orient Book Company, 1946); Mohitlal Majumdar, Adhunik Bangla Sahitya [Modern Bengali Literature] (Seventh ed. Kolkata: General Publishers & Printers, 1973).

3 Bishi, Rabindra-Sahitya-Bichitra [Assorted Works of Rabindranath] (Kolkata: Orient Book Company, 1378 B.E.), 188. See also idem, Rabindrasarani [Rabindranath's Ways] (Kolkata: Mitra O Ghosh, 1962).

4 Ghosh, Kabir Abhipray , "Pathak" [Readers], 97-139; Bose, Kabi Rabindranath [Rabindranath the Poet] (Kolkata: Bharabi, 1966), 41.

5 "Song of Myself" (1885) in Whitman, Complete Poetry and Collected Prose , ed. & comp. Justin Kaplan (8th printing. New York: The Library of America, 1982), 87.

6 Tagore's letter to his niece Indira from London (October 10, 1890) cited in Sajanikanta Das, Rabindranath: Jiban O Sahitya [Rabindranath: Life and Works] (Kolkata: Shatabdi Grantha Bhaban, 1367 B.E.), 136. My translation.

7 See Ujjwalkumar Majumdar, Bangla Kabye Pashchatya Probhab [Western Influence on Bengali Poetry] (1375 B.E. Revised 2nd ed. Kolkata: Abhi Prakashan, 1389 B.E.).

8 This phrase is borrowed from Krishna Dutta and Andrew Robindson, Rabindranath: The Myriad-Minded Man (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995).

9 Cited in Rathindranath Ray, Rabindra Manan [Reflections on Rabindranath] (Kolkata: Pustak Bipani, 1987), 289. My translation.

10 "Durbodh" [Incomprehensible] in Sonar Tari [The Golden Boat] (1891) cited in Rabindranath Tagore, Sanchaita [Collected Poems] (1931. Reprint. Kolkata: Tuli Kalam, 2002), 126.

11 See Tagore's "Beatrichey, Dante O Tanhar Kabya" [Beatrice, Dante and His Poems], "Pitrarka O Lora" [Petrarca and Laura], "Gatey O Tanhar Pranayinigan" [Goethe and His Lovers], and "Chandidas O Bidyapati" [Chandidad and Vidyapati]-the first three published in Bharati (1878), the last in idem (1883)--and Rabindranath Tagore, Religion of Man [Manuser Dharma] (1931), ch. 6, 65-66. See also Jagadish Bhattacharya, Kabimanasi [The Woman of the Poet's Imagination], 2 vols. (Kolkata: Bharabi, 1997-2000), I (1997), 19, 38 and II (2000), 17-55. This is a path-breaking study by a gifted scholar.

12 Cited in Majumdar, Bangla Kabye Pashchatya Prabhab , 264.

13 Bose, Kabi Rabindranath , 36-37. My translation.

14 Das, Rabindra-Pratibhar Parichay [The Genius of Rabindranath: An Introduction] (Revised and expanded ed. Kolkata: Mallick Brothers, 1996), 9.

15 Tagore, Jibansmriti [Reminiscences] (1319 B.E. Reprint. Kolkata: Visvabharati Granthalay, 1368 B.E.), 5. My translation.

16 Tagore's letter to "A" (March 1939) cited in idem, On Art and Aesthetics: A Selection of Lectures, Essays and Letters , ed. Prithwish Neogy (Kolkata: Orient Longmans, 1961), 25.

17 See Tagore, Chhelebela [My Boyhood Days] (1940) in Rabindrarachanabali [Complete Works of Tagore], 30 vols. (Kolkata: Visvabharati Granthalay, 1346-1404 B.E.), XXVI, 596, 607.

18 Cited in Nirad C. Chaudhuri, Atmaghati Rabindranath [Suicidal Rabindranath] (Kolkata: Mitra O Ghosh Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 1992), 22. My translation.

19 Dilip Kumar Roy, Among the Great (Mumbai: Jaico Publishing House, 1950),171-73. It is puzzling why an author considers Anna a fashionable anglicized brat whom the poet never liked or loved. See Lila Bidyanta, Rabindra Sahitye Nari [Women in Rabindranath's Works] (Kolkata: Abhi Prakashan, 1971), x.

20 Rathindranath Majumdar, Rabindrakabye Nari Bhabana [The Concept of Woman in Rabindranath's Poetry] (Kolkata: The Book Trust, 1986), 7. See also Hirendranath Datta, Achena Rabindranath [The Unknown Rabindranath] (1984. Reprint. 2nd printing. Kolkata: Dey's Publishing, 1987), 100-29.

21 See Bhattacharya, Kabimanasi , I, 320-27 & II, 144-46.

22 For Kadambari see Chitra Deb, Thakurbadir Andarmahal [The Inner Apartments of the Tagore Household] (1387 B.E. 13th print. Kolkata: Ananda Publishers Private Limited, 1392 B.E.).

23 Cited in Ketaki K. Dyson, In Your Blossoming Flower-Garden: Rabindranath Tagore and Victoria Ocampo (New Delhi: Sahitya Academy, 1988), 250. Dyson's endeavor to show Ocampo's influence on Tagore's several works since 1924 constitutes a provocative tour de force.

24 Tagore, Shes Lekha [Last Poem, 1941] (Kolkata: Visvabharati Granthalay, 1351 B.E.), 8.

25 Dyson, Tagore and Ocampo , 267.

26 Bhattacharya, Kabimanasi , I, 13. See also an exaggerated albeit entertaining account in Sunil Gangopadhyay, Ranu O Bhanu [Ranu and Bhanu] (Kolkata: Ananda Publishers Private Limited, 2001).

27 Bhattacharya, Kabimanasi , I, 306.

28 See Krishna Kripalani, Rabindranath Tagore: A Biography (1962. Second revised ed. Kolkata: Visva-Bharati, 1980), 323.

29 Cited in Majumdar, Rabindrakabye Nari Bhabana , 7. See also Malaya Gangopadhyay, Rabindrasahitye Prem [Love in Rabindranath's Works] (Kolkata: Nabarka, 1988), 78-147.

30 Cited in Majumdar, Rabindrakabye Nari Bhabana , 7. My translation.

31 Cited in ibid., 8. My translation.

32 Tagore, Prabhat Sangeet [Morning Song] (Kolkata: Visvabharati Granthalay, 1345 B.E.), 10-20, 24-32.

33 Rabindranath Tagore, My Reminiscences , intro. by Andrew Robinson (1917. Paperback ed. London: Macmillan Publishers Limited, 1991), 153-54.

34 See Tagore, Prabhatsangeet , 13; Swami Saradananda, Sri Ramakrishna the Great Master [Sri Sri Ramakrishna Lilaprasanga], trans. Swami Jagadananda, 2 vols. (Sixth rev. ed. Mylapore: Sri Ramakrishna Math, 1983-84), I, 55-56; Narasingha P. Sil, "Luther, Erikson, and History: A Strange Encounter," The Quarterly Review of Historical Studies , XXII, 3 (1982-83).

35 See, Chaudhuri, Atmaghati Rabindranath , 27-35; Sunil Gangopadhyay, Pratham Alo [First Light], 2 vols. (Kolkata: Ananda Publishers Private Limited, 1997), I, passim and, above all, the pioneering magisterial account in Bhattacharya, Kabimanasi , I, ch. 2 and II, ch.6.

36 Cited in Amiyakumar Sen, Prasanga Rabindranath [On Rabindranath] (Kolkata: Tuli Kalam, 1975). 138.

37 Cited in Chaudhuri, Atmaghati Rabindranath , 58.

38 Cited in Bansari Dhyang, Rabindra Sahitye Nari [Women in Rabindranath's Poetry] (Kolkata: Sahitya Prakash, 1993), 11.

39 Tagore, "Manassundari" in Sanchaita , 113-24.

40 Sanchaita , 234.

41 Bishi, Rabindra-Sahitya-Bichitra , 359.

42 Cited in Majumdar, Rabindrakabye Nari Bhabana , 200.

43 Cited in ibid., 189.

44 Cited in Bishi, Rabindra-Sahitya-Bichitra , 345.

45 Tagore, "Manasi," Chaitali in Sanchaita , 285.

46 Cited in Prashantakumar Pal, Rabijibani [Life of Rabindranath], 6 vols. (Kolkata: Bhurjapatra, 1982-90), IV, 152.

47 Tagore, "Dvaita" [Duality], Shyamali (1343 B.E. Reprint. Kolkata: Vivabharati Granthalay, 1359 B.E.), 12.

48 Cited in Khana Mukhopadhyay, Rabindrakabyer Shes Paryay [Last Phase of Tagore's Poetic Works] (Kolkata: Jijnasa, 1978), 346.

49 Tagore, "Bibidha Prasanga" [Miscellany], Bharati (Shraban, 1288 Bengali Era, or 1881) cited in Bhattacharya, Kabimanasi , I, 164.

50 Cited in Gangopadhyay, Rabindrasahitye Prem , 92. My translation.

51 Majumdar, Rabindrakabye Nari Bhabana , 14-15.

52 Tagore, Chitrangada (1299 B.E. Reprint. Kolkata: Visvabharati Granthalay, 1356 B.E.], 69-70. The translation is borrowed from Rajat K. Ray, Exploring Emotional History: Gender, Mentality and Literature in the Indian Awakening (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2003), 48-49.

53 Ray, Exploring Emotional History , 48.

54 Seely, "Translating Between Media: Rabindranath Tagore and Satyajit Ray" (keynote address at the Twelfth Annual Tagore Festival, University of Illinois, Champaign (October 21, 2000). Available online at .

55 Ray, An Artist in Life: A Commentary on the Life and Works of Rabindranath Tagore (Trivandrum: University of Kerala, 1967), 119.

56 See Krishnadas Kabiraj Birachita Chaitanya Charitamrita [Nectar of the Life of Chaitanya by Krishnadas Kabiraj]. Abridged ed. By Sukumar Sen (Kolkata: SahityaAcademy, 2002), 7.

57 See Henri Bremond, Prayer and Poetry: A Contribution to Poetical Theory (1927. Rpt. Folcroft, PA: Folcroft Library Edition, 1971).

58 See Nygren, Agape and Eros (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1953) and Fromm, The Art of Loving (New York: Harper & Row, 1974).

59 Bhattacharya, Kabimanasi , II, 20.

60 Tagore, "Banaspati" in Purabi (1332 B.E. Reprint. Kolkata: Visvabharati Granthalay, 1358 B.E.), 204-5.

61 See Bhattacharya, Kabimanasi , I, 399.

62 Cited in Bishi, Rabindra-Sahitya Bichitra , 193.

63 Cited in Monish R. Chatterjee, "Rabindranath Tagore: Sadhaka of Universal Man, Baul of Joyful Songs" online. See

64 Tagore's letter of January 13, 1925 written from aboard the ship S.S. Giulio Cesare reprinted in Krishna Dutta and Andrew Robinson, eds. Rabindranath Tagore: An Anthology (London: Picador, 1997), 179.

65 Tagore, Jibansmriti, 133.

66 Tagore, Introduction [Granthaparichay] to "Chitra" in Rabindrarachanabali , IV (1347 B.E.), 555. Srikumar Bandyopadhyay adduces several poems (# 3,4,5,12,15,39,46) of the collection Utsarga [Offerings] (1308-15 B.E.) to illustrate Tagore's use of the concept of Jibandebata. See Bandyopadhyay, Rabindra-Sristi-Samiksha , II, 203.

67 Cited in Kakoli Basak, Rabindranath Tagore: A Humanist (New Delhi: Classical Publishing Company, 1991), 43.

68 Cited in A Tagore Testament , ed. & trans. Indu Dutt (1969. Reprint. Mumbai: Jaico Publishing House, 1984), 18.

69 Tagore, "Naibedya" [Sacred Offerings] in Gitanjali: Song Offerings , trans. by the author and intr. by William B. Yeats (1913. Rpt. Delhi: Macmillan, 1999), 49, (# 73).

70 "Pantha" [Traveler], Parishes [Conclusion], 1339 B.E. cited in Bhattacharya, Kabimanasi , I, 28.

71 Cited in Chaudhuri, Atmaghati Rabindranath , 84.

72 "Madhumay Prithibir Dhuli" [The Sweet Dust of this Earth], Arogya [Recovery], February 14, 1941 in Sanchaita , 762.

73 Cited in Barenyakumar Bhattacharya, Rabindra Manane Upanishad [The Upasnishads in Rabindranath's Thinking] (Kolkata: Punthi Pustak, 1997), 66-67.

74 Tagore, Patraput [The Leaves] (1343 B.E. Reprint. Kolkata: Visvabharati Granthalay, 1353 B.E.), 56-57.

75 Mukhopadhyay, Rabindrajibankatha , 88.

76 Narasingha P. Sil, Swami Vivekananda: A Reassessment (Selinsgrove: Susquehanna University Press, 1997), 118. See also Pal, Rabijibani, II, 124-27.

77 See William B. Yeats's invective in Amartya Sen, "Tagore and His India," The New York Review (June 26, 1997), 56.

78 Cited in Nityapriya Ghosh, Svabhabata Svatantra Rabindranath [Rabindranath: A Natural Individualist] (Kolkata: Prama, 1388 B.E.), 28 (read, especially, 89-106: "Ahaituki Bidves ebam Nihshabda Sahanshilata" [Gratuitous Animosity and Silent Suffering] ). My translation.

79 Cited in Chaudhuri, Atmaghati Rabindranath , 7. My translation.

80 Mukhopadhyay, Rabindrajibankatha , 39. My translation.

81 Cited by Soumendranath Tagore, "Romantic Rabindranath O Samakalin Bastabbadi" [Romantic Rabindranath and Contemporary Realists] in Ujjvalkumar Majumdar, ed. Thakurbadir Chokhe Rabindranath [Rabindranath as the Tagores saw Him] (Kolkata: Aparna Book Distributors [Publications Division] , 1990), 68.

82 "Sheslekha" in Sanchaita, 832-33.

83 Ibid., 768-69. I have provided a translation by borrowing partly from Amiya Chakravarty, A Tagore Reader (1961. Reprint. Boston: Beacon Press, 1966), 373-74 and partly from Nirad C. Chaudhuri, "Tagore: The True and the False," Times Literary Supplement (September 27, 1974), 1031.

84 Prabas Jiban Chaudhury, Studies in Comparative Aesthetics (Santiniketan: Visva-Bharati Research Publication, 1953), 102. This section of my paper borrows some references from Abu Sayeed Ayyub's excellent article "The Aesthetic Philosophy of Tagore" in A Centenary Volume: Rabindranath Tagore 1861-1961 (New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi, 1961), 78-87.

85 Song, Bharati (1924).

86 Tagore, Personality [Lectures delivered in the United States, 1916-17] (1917. Rpt. London: Macmillan, 1959), 74.

87 Song, Bharati (1924).

88 Cited in Gangopadhyay, Rabindrasahitye Prem , 109. My translation.

89 Lipps, "Einfühlung, innere Nachalmung und Organempfindungen," Archiv für die gesamte Psychologie , XX (1903), 185-204.

90 Tagore, Manasi cited in Shubhrangshu Mukhopadhyay, Rabindrakabyer Punarbichar [Rabindranath's Poetry: A Reexamination], 2 vols. (Kolkata: Mitra O Ghosh, 1369 B.E.), I, 87.

91 Tagore, On Art and Aesthetics , 25.

92 Chaudhuri, "A Quest for Selfhood," Calutta Municipal Gazette (1941. Reprint. 1978). Available online in .

93 Ayyub, Pather Shes Kothay ebam Purbaprakashita Kayekti Prabandha 1934-66 [Where does the Road End and Few Essays Published Earlier] (1977. 3rd ed. Kolkata: Dey's Publishing, 1984), 167.

94 Tagore, Personality , 159.

95 "Jibandebata" in Chitra (1302 B.E.) reproduced in Sanchaita , 265. I cite the translation by Buddhadeva Bose in his Tagore: Portrait of a Poet (Mumbai: University of Bombay, 1962), 91. For Thompson's remark see ibid., 92.

96 Somjit Dutt observes, perhaps rightly, that "in Tagore's imagination, a female beloved and a male deity often merged with each other" probably due to the dual influence of the non-anthropomorphic Upanishadic (nirakara and nirguna) Brahman of his parental Brahmo religion and the anthropomorphic personal deity of Christianity. A Foreign Shine and Assumed Gestures: The Ersatz Tagore of the West (2001).

97 Cited in Das, Rabindra Pratibhar Parichay , 317.

98 Tagore, Raja [The King of the Dark Chamber] (1317 B.E. Reprint. Kolkata: Visvabharatai Granthalay, 1353 B.E.), 65.

99 Tagore, On Art and Aesthetics , 1.

[Earlier versions of this article were read in "Celebrating Tagore" conference at Fayetteville State University (April 10, 2004) and presented to "Professor Hirendranath Mukherjee Memorial Seminar" at the Presidency College, Kolkata (August 26, 2004). The author gratefully acknowledges the courtesy extended to him by the libraries of the Asiatic Society and Bangiya Sahitya Parisad, Kolkata as well as of the School of Oriental and African Studies, London during August and September 2004. ]

Illustrations taken from Rabindranath Tagore's letter to Frederik van Eeden.

Published in Parabaas February 15, 2005

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