Abanindranath Tagore (1871 - 1951)

Abanindranath Tagore was born on August 7, 1871 in the famous No.5, Jorasanko mansion of Kolkata to Gunendranath Tagore. Gunendranath's father was Girindranath, second son of Prince Dwarakanath Tagore. When Girindranath's elder brother, Maharshi Debendranath, became a Brahmo and banished worship of traditional, ancestral deities in his household--Girindranath had to separate his family from the Jorasanko mansion to the outer wings. Thus No.5 Jorasanko became separate from the No.6, where Debendranath continued to live with his illustrious pregenies.

Despite the separation due to the difference in religious observances, the children of the two households remained very close and shared the same enthusiasm and talent for the different branches of arts (and sciences, to a lesser extent)—music, drama, painting, and literature.

The founder of the modern school of Indian art, Abanindranath was inspired, rather cajoled, into writing by Rabindranath. The result was initially two slim but beautiful books for children, Shakuntala (শকুন্তলা) being one. This was followed by Rajkahini (Stories of Kings, রাজকাহিনি)--tales of heroism from the Rajputana, Bhut-Potrir Desh ('The land of Ghosts and Goblins', ভূত-পত্‌রীর দেশ), Khatanchir Khata ('An Accountant's Journal', খাতাঞ্চির খাতা), Nalak, (নালক) Buro-Angla ('Thumbietot', বুড়ো-আংলা), Kshirer Putul ('The Doll made of Sweet', ক্ষীরের পুতুল) etc. Abanindranath continued to write for the young well into his old age. Most of these stories were retellings, and re-creations from existing tales, from near and far.

His style is distintictive--it is commonly said that he "wrote pictures". Many of his books were originally illustrated by him--for some reason, the current editions do not seem to carry those illustrations. Among his other books, with profuse illustrations, are Pathe-Bipothe ('By the Wayside and Astray', পথে-বিপথে), Bangalir Vrata ('Ritues and Rituals of Bengali [Women]', বাঙালির ব্রত), and lectures on art and art criticism delivered as the Bageswari Prafessor of Fine Arts at the University of Calcutta, published as Bageswari Shilp-prabandhaboli (বাগেশ্বরী শিল্পমালা-প্রবন্ধাবলী). Written in collaboration with Rani Chanda, his memoirs Gharoa ('Homely Talk', ঘরোয়া) and Jorasankor Dhare ('By the side of Jorasanko', জোড়াসাঁকোর ধারে) are finest examples of the vast genre of Tagoreana.

He died on December 5, 1951.

Published November, 2011

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