Sunday, June 1, 2014

Notes on "Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high [...]"

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

                                                                Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore


"Where the mind is without fear..." is Tagore's vision of India. It is also his prayer for India.

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free

Here, fear = intellectual regimentation, straitjacketing, learning by rote, cynicism, specious discourse, intellectual decline, stagnation, narrow or unifocal/blinkered world-view etc (~ the proverbial "dreary desert sand of dead habit").

It is important to develop a culture of reading, of scholarship; to read literature, poetry, classics etc in one's mother tongue and/or in any other language(s) that one may be proficient in. (Knowledge does not have a narrow definition or scope, "narrow domestic walls".) This helps to 'expand' the mind (thought process, worldview). It causes enlightenment of the brain cells; 'ignites' or 'enflames' the brain cells (in a manner of speaking), which in turn reflects in the ability to think, perceive, take cognisance, comprehend, etc. [Creating a vibrant and progressive society is about (re-building) people; character building (individual and shared values, collective consciousness, thought processes, scientific temper, contentment, and the like).]

and the head is held high = dignity of labour.

["Where the mind is without fear" could also be a reference to the gentle 'awakening' or 'rousing' of the living and conscious energy - kundalini - the latent spiritual energy that lies dormant in the sacrum bone (a large, triangular bone) at the base of the spine.]

Dignity of labour: Creativity and innovation (including indigenising best practices) is also part of knowledge and education, and these are not confined to textbooks alone; knowledge can also be passed on from one generation to the next - minus formal classroom education or text-books; one can even learn via osmosis; therefore, e.g. an agriculturist, sericulturist or a horticulturist, or someone who is involved in animal husbandry, or even a sculptor, an artisan or craftsman is not devoid of knowledge or education. People with automobile and electrical or electronics engineering degrees depend on technicians, mechanics and handymen. It is all about livelihood, smart thinking and opportunity. It is part of the integrated economic wheel, vital cogs in the economic wheel, that is. Demand and supply. The "wheel of economic growth" will be affected, otherwise. | In earlier times, kusalavyas (wandering poets or wandering bards) too were greatly respected - since they disseminated stories from our ancient heritage and history through songs, couplets and the like. There was dignity of labour and skill; e.g. we marvel at the town-planning feats of the ancient Indus engineers, however, there would surely have been a multitude of labourers to accomplish or give shape to this feat. (The Indus-SarasvatI Civilization or 'Aryavarsha' was a knowledge-based culture/civilization that was also attuned to economic activity. ~ So [perhaps] skill-building/development and vocational training too received due attention, alongside what we now understand as primary and/or formal education.) 

On a side note: managing a home requires abundant patience, perseverance, time management, ability to multitask, interpersonal skills, supervising, budgeting, and so on. It is an integral and vital cog as well as an unquantifiable contributor to the "wheel of economic growth". ~ Chanakaya, ever the student (seeker of wisdom), learned some valuable lessons from an unlettered village woman, when he heard her berating her son for attempting to eat from the middle (from a piping-hot bowl of porridge). She advised the boy that when handed a piping-hot bowl of porridge (or chapatti, for that matter), one must not attempt to eat from the middle. Eating from the sides is advisable. This lesson stood Chanakya in good stead, enabling him to breathe new life and energy into ancient India, and (thereby) to fructify his vision of uniting a fractured nation and laying the foundations of a glorious era - that was marked by all-round progress, from the arts to the sciences, literature and innovation, as well as trade and other economic activity.) 

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls

Tagore calls for the blurring of myriad social and intellectual fault-lines, schisms. [Nazrul's poetic masterpiece 'Bidrahi' (Change Maker; Yug Purush - Transformative Personage) is also very interesting. ~ It also incorporates a line from Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson: I cannot rest from travel: I will drink Life to the lees. Note: Ulysses also mentions Troy: Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy. I am a part of all that I have met; Yet all experience is an arch wherethro' Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades For ever and forever when I move.]

"Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action" ~ 'Coz knowledge in the absence of wisdom is merely learning by rote or mechanical regurgitation. Dogma leads to national quicksand/quagmire. Absence of scholarly engagement, even informal ones, gives rise to redundant and moribund discourse. Wisdom of knowledge provides guidance.

Tagore advised intellectual rigueur and intellectual engagement, instead of national selfishness ("narrow domestic walls") and cynical, specious or moribund discourses or arguments.
| True knowledge, education and wisdom is also the ability to eschew verbosity, utter selfishness, indifference, worn-out clichés or platitudes, finger-pointing, mechanical thinking, and the like and to do clear-eyed objective thinking (logic and creativity); to have a broader vision, to take a wholesome view of issues, to prioritize and to emerge with action(karm)-oriented, holistic, organic and doable solutions.

"Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit" is indicative of a civilization and/or [individual and shared] civilizational values and ideals in decline. [Stream = the knowledge stream - universal knowledge that flow from a vast unfathomable (achintya) reservoir of consciousness = the SarasvatI. ... Feluda's Gyanpeeth and 'Dhakuria Lake' (Dhak is associated with Durga Puja. Devi Durga is also known as Dhakeshvari).]

Tagore, though critical of the excesses and exploitation of colonial rule, did not reject western civilization per se. "[...] I am not for thrusting off Western civilization and becoming segregated in our independence." He recognized the importance of what India could learn - from other nations/cultures/peoples - to/for her own benefit and progress. "If Providence wants England to be the channel of that communication, of that deeper association, I am willing to accept it with all humility. I have great faith in human nature, and I think the West will find its true mission." He also believed that the responsibility of a great future must be "untrammelled by the grasping miserliness of a past." Tagore's vision was to take on a more holistic attitude towards understanding the dynamic spirit of his time (and beyond). He also felt that the West should be capable of "imparting to the East what is best in herself, and of accepting in a right spirit the wisdom that the East has stored for centuries." ~ This is synergy creation at its best. It is (after all) western innovation and technology that has helped build India's economic infrastructure.

An objective assessment indicates that colonization, despite its excesses, was part of the solution (that helped us emerge out of our self-created quagmire - courtesy extreme myopia, selfishness, and so on ~ the proverbial "dreary desert sand of dead habit"). ~ It proved to be detrimental, counterproductive and self-defeating. 

The colonizers, on the other hand, did leave us with various scientific innovations and a ready infrastructure, a link language, an education system, an electoral system, other institutions and frameworks, and so on. ~ All of which was indeed crucial in equipping us to interact and integrate with the rest of the world. We were reasonably prepared for the new world system that emerged.

Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake

Here, "Father" does not refer to any 'father figure'. It means dhata (Master or Support) or Bishvadhata (the World's Master - motive power and guiding spirit). [The Param-atma is also adhaataa (above whom there is no other). The Eternal Divine/Cosmic Being is in the subtle or astral body (sukshma sharira), avyaktah (unmanifested to the mortal eyes).]

BG 9.17: || pitāham asya jagato mātā dhātā pitāmahaḥ vedyaḿ pavitram oḿkāra || ~ "I am the father (pitā) of this universe (jagato), the mother (mātā), the support (dhātā) and the grandsire (pitāmahaḥ). I am the bestower of non-transient knowledge (vedyaḿ) - the wisdom of knowledge or Supreme or highest enlightenment (para vidya), the purifier (dispeller of unwanted or unpleasant aspects) and oḿkaara (the pranaavah)." [OM, written out as AUM, is very auspicious. Omkaara = the praṇava (pranaavah naad) is Shabda Brahmn (possibly the voice of the Avatara). The Avatara is the Param-atma (Brahmn or Purusha) in earthly form (in gross body or sthula sharira). Thus, avatara is savikaar (sentient), saguna (with qualities), saakar (with earthly form) and vyaktah (manifested to mortal eyes) OM ~ Para-Brahmn, Purusha-uttama, Brahm-putri or Omswaroop. | Putri = manifestation, personification or embodiment.]

In 'AamaR Mukti ALOye ALOye' Tagore says: 'Aamar mukti sharbajoner moner majhe dukkha-bipad tuchha kora kothhin kaaje' | My salvation is in the universal mind (sharbajoner moner majhe - in their collective consciousness), and in my exertions belittling/defying all sorrows/disappointments and perils (dukkha bipad tucchha kora), in tasks difficult (kothhin kaaje). ~ Tagore, a humanist, is referring to karm yog, nishkam (selfless) karm yog. To him, this world is the karm-bhumi (euphemistically yagna-shala; 'Ashvamedha yagna'?) of the World's Master (the seen/manifested and the unseen/unmanifested are both One). ... Tagore aspires to become a karm-yogi ~ to turn his life and efforts (exertions, knowledge and creativity) as an offering (in that 'Ashvamedha Yagna' - to bring about a positive/transformative change). Therein lay his salvation.


Master auteur Satyajit Ray's adaptation of Puss in Boots in "Goopy Gayen Bagha Bayen" and "Hirak Rajar Deshe" is top-class. He also incorporated the *Sleeping Beauty analogy.

Rather, Hirak Rajar Deshe ('In the Land of the Diamond King') brilliantly captures the essence of "Where the mind is without fear [...]"

[Jantarmantar Ghaar, magajdholai (brainwashing) etc is a reference to intellectual regimentation, straitjacketing, cynical or moribund aspects, stagnation, narrow or blinkered world-view, and so on (~ the proverbial "dreary desert sand of dead habit").]

*In Sleeping Beauty the princess was cursed by the evil fairy Maleficent, who foretold that on her 16th birthday, she would prick her finger on a spinning wheel's spindle and die. [Somewhat similar to the supposed curse on Dasarath?] | Incidentally, Tagore was never taken by the spinning wheel. He did not agree that spinning a wheel could bring about a great personal improvement. To him, spinning a wheel consists of endlessly turning the wheel of an antiquated machine with a minimum of imagination and a maximum of boredom.

Spinning wheel is not to be confused with the Kalachakra ('Wheel of Time'), the pinnacle of Buddhist wisdom, nor should it be misconstrued for the Buddhist Dharma Chakra (found on our national flag). The fabled Buddhist land or mythical kingdom of Shambhala is a mystical kingdom that guards the most sacred spiritual teachings of the world, including the Kalachakra ('Wheel of Time'), the pinnacle of Buddhist wisdom. [Note: The correct spelling is cakra, though pronounced with a ch. The word was also a metaphor for the sun, which "traverses the world like the triumphant chariot of a cakravartin." | A Chakravartin (Sanskrit: Cakravartin) is a 'wheel-turning' king - chakravarti-raja - a wise and benevolent ruler, and an ideal king.]

[Pic: The Lion Capital of Aśoka. Originally a wheel (Wheel of Dharma, Aśoka Chakra - a wheel with 24 spokes) was placed over the lion capital and was mounted on a stone pillar near Dhamek Stupa, Sarnath.] | The Ashoka Pillar is the symbol of India. India's national emblem is a rendering of a sculpture erected by Samraat Aśoka in the third century B.C. The emblem shows three lions mounted on an abacus decorated with a bull, a wheel and a galloping horse. Below it appear the words: Satyameva Jayate - "Truth alone triumphs." | The Aśoka Pillar is at Sarnath - place of Sri Gautam Buddh's first sermon. Originally a wheel (Wheel of Dharma, Ashoka Chakra - a wheel with **24 spokes) was placed over the lion capital and was mounted on a stone pillar near Dhamek Stupa, Sarnath. It has four back-to-back Indian lions. Below this are representations of a lion, an elephant, a horse and the bull. The pillar bears three inscriptions in Brahmi script. [There is a replica of the Ashoka pillar at Wat U Mong near Chiang Mai, Thailand, built by King Mangrai in the 13th century.] The great Mauryan Emperor Aśoka - a humanist, whose policies were oriented towards the collective good, a benevolent ruler and an able administrator - is also known as: Priyadarshi or Piyadasi. His dharma (dhamma) was social responsibility. [Pharaoh may have been a variation of Priyadarshi, which means: pleasant-looking or blessed by the Eternal Divine Being (Param-atma).]

** The Gayatri Mantra, also known as Savitr Mantra, is a 24-syllable hymn from the Rig Veda; it is one of the most auspicious and oldest of mantras. The auspicious Gayatri Mantra is also considered one of the most universal and greatest mantra. ~ BG 10.35: || gāyatrī chandasām aham || ~ "I am Gayatri mantra among the Vedic mantras."


The Rig Veda says: || Ekam Sat Vipraha Bahudha Vadanti || ~ Truth is one, but the wise know it as many. | In other words: God is one, but we can approach the Almighty in many ways.

Truth/Sat/Satya = Shaashvata or Sanaatana (Eternal). | Sat/Satya = the Eternal (Ultimate/Primordial/Primeval) Truth or the Eternal Divine/Cosmic Being (Purusha or Brahmn - the unmanifested Sanaatana Purusha). It is also a reference to the Avatara (Para-Brahmn) - the manifested Purusha-uttama (greatest of all beings) or Purushottam Satya. [The seen/manifested Para-Brahmn and the unseen/unmanifested Brahmn are both one.
Purusha and Prakriti. This also explains Dvaita (dualism) and astika (theism).]

"Beauty is truth, truth beauty, - that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know."

(Ode on a Grecian Urn – John Keats)

Truth (Sat/Satya) is also timeless essence or true (pure, eternal, non-transient) knowledge (supreme or highest enlightenment). In other words: the wisdom of knowledge or the light of wisdom - supreme enlightenment or complete wisdom (para vidya) ~ the ability to see the larger picture (self-reflection, cognisance and accurate interpretation, inner sight or internal wisdom), to transcend egocentricity, and to find the deeper meaning inherent in all things. The awareness that the finite is inseparable from the Infinite (divine). | Beauty = Sundar = sattvic aspects or noble traits - auspiciousness, goodness, tranquility, non-selfish aspects, non-deluded (clear-eyed), devoid of narrow perspective; in other words: inner perfection - the ability to look both within one's own spiritual depths and into the universe beyond, for inspiration and wisdom).

A quote from Swami Vivekananda's speech (Welcome Address - Chicago, Sept 11, 1893) ~ in response to the warm and cordial welcome he received: "As the different streams having their sources in different places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different paths which men take through different tendencies, various though they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee."

Tagore said: 'Shhob path eshaey miley gyalo shheshaey tomaarii duu-khani nayone...'

BG 10.24: || sarasam asmi sagarah || ~ "and of bodies of water I am the ocean." [Sarasam also indicates saras - meaning: gracefully flowing. Saras or Sarasa means spring, pool or fountain (of knowledge and wisdom; Feluda's Gyanpeeth and Dhakuria Lake). Saras or Sarasa can also indicate SarasvatI. ~ The Sarasvati is an important river goddess in the Rig Veda. The Sanskrit name means, "having many pools". The Sanskrit name for the River Indus is Sindhu. "Sindhu" means river, stream or ocean (sagarah) in Sanskrit. [The A. Sea was earlier known as Sindhu Sagara.] | The Sindhu and SarasvatI are mentioned repeatedly, respectfully and glowingly in the Rig Veda. They nourished tall majestic trees, plants and flowers. The region between the Sindhu and SarasvatI were regarded by the Rig Vedic people as the holiest of holy grounds - Brahmadesa.
It was also called "Aryavarsha" (abode of the Arya people; the Land of the Noble Ones) ~ the land from which the Vedas (Book of Knowledge or Book of Enlightenment) came from. [
Veda comes from the root 'Vid' which means, "to know". This has in turn given rise to the word 'vidya' which means, knowledge. Veda is not to be misconstrued for religious scriptures. Knowledge - whether literature, poetry or science has no religious connotation ("narrow domestic walls"); knowledge is universal. | In the Rig Veda, the SarasvatI is described with all the grandeur of a mighty and a very large river. She is called 'the best of the rivers' (naditama) - a great river with perennial water (Feluda's 'Dhakuria Lake'). Devi Sarasvati is also revered as the mother of the Vedas (Book of Knowledge) and as the mother of the Sindhu-Sarasvati Civilization or "Aryavarsha". Arya = noble, noble-natured, i.e. people who followed a pattern of life based on noble values and ideals. These were shared values. Varsha = continent, in Sanskrit.] Thousands of years ago the might of the Sindhu and SarasvatI had given birth to the oldest and largest civilization of the ancient world - the Indus-Sarasvati Civilization or 'Aryavarsha' - the greatest civilization the world has known and possibly the oldest civilization in the world, and thus the cradle of civilization.]


~ BG 10.27: || narāṇāḿ ca narādhipam || ~ "and among humans I am the monarch." ... This can mean Cakravartin - a wise, sagacious, far-thinking and progressive monarch or 'wheel-turning' Sovereign (not to be misconstrued for Queen - even if the Krishna-avatar were to be a female).

The Eternal Divine Being is the Emperor/Sovereign/Monarch of the galaxy. The Supreme Godhead is also Aryaman (the noble one - a reference to sattvic or noble qualities). | The Milky Way galaxy itself was seen as the path of Aryaman (the noble one) or the Ganges (the name etymologically related to going) of the sky (akash-ganga). | Wiles and guile are not to be confused for 'stooping to conquer' or petty/selfish motives. ~ Thus, the Eternal Divine Being (Param-atma - the great soul or the guiding spirit) is also known as Vrishaakritih (embodiment or personification of Dharma - indicative of sattvic values and principles, ethics - for the greater/larger/collective good). And so, the illustrious God of gods (Mahaadevah or DeveshaH) is called Vṛṣabha (the Great Bull). | The 'thousand-horned great bull with a hundred heads' may not refer to any creature per se. It is (very likely) a metaphor or imagery for Vrishaakritih (embodiment or personification of Dharma - indicative of sattvic values and principles, ethics - for the larger good). Dharma (sattvic traits and qualities) is generally symbolized in Sanaatan Dharmic thought by the bull, vrishabha. | The Zebu Bull or Brahma Bull imagery and motif depicted on the Indus seals could be the seal or insignia of the Vrishni. [Vasudev Krishna, the Lord of Mathura and Dvarka, is also known as Varshneya.] |
God of gods: aadidevah (the first devah; aadi = foremost, primal); mahaadevah (the great devah); deveshaH (the Lord of all devas) and adhaataa (above whom there is no other).

Vaidyanatha or Vasudeva Dhanvantari (the Supreme Druid) = a problem solver, a change maker, solution-provider or path-finder. [Vasudeva = Deity/deva of the Earth (Vasundhara or Dharitri/Vasudha).]

Sanskriti (culture) is a perennial knowledge stream; it is not a stagnant pool (thus learning, unlearning, organic transformation and evolution is necessary, rather integral to it). Sanskriti can also be described as the core/nucleus/kernel of a nation. However, culture (sanskriti) is not narrow in its scope. Culture (sanskriti) is a confluence, the collective 'way of life' - a veritable kaleidoscope or alpana if you may. The ideals of a nation/peoples - their adaptability to changing conditions, as well as their capacity for a broader view - i.e. an equanimous and actively open mind (in other words: their ability to learn and assimilate from other nations and peoples, 'coz a rolling stone gathers no moss') is crucial. ... A forward-looking culture - that involves a constructive and positive way of living can (thus) provide the foundation for cultural exchange and engagement, exercising their own creativity by integrating intellectual virtues in the process. "We must recognize that it is providential that the West has come to India. And yet some one must show the East to the West, and convince the West that the East has her contribution to make to the history of civilization." - said Tagore (one of the finest ambassadors of Indian/Eastern thought to the rest of the world.) ~ He was a passionate Indian, but his worldview transcends into universalism; his philosophy of humanism is enriched with the tranquil touch of internationalism - where one may find a unique blending of the best of the East and that of the West. Tagore was an Indian by birth but a world citizen by his perception. India in Tagore's vision is the pilgrimage (pilgrim centre) of world humanity as she is the great synthesizer and unifier in the midst of manifold differences through centuries. His sublime "Mahamanober Saagaro Tiirey" ('Indian Pilgrimage' or 'India - the Pilgrim Centre') goes much beyond unity in diversity. Thus, his poetry with its message of harmony, universalism and humanism is ever relevant. And harmony, balance and integrity are what Gurudev has consistently focused on... through his considerable oeuvre. ~ A widely-traveled man... Tagore was a curious and keen observer of socio-political life in the numerous countries he visited. He was a citizen of the world. He believed in an intellectual union of world cultures; his vision was to take on a more holistic attitude towards understanding the dynamic spirit of his time (and beyond).

He believed that all countries of the earth must be fully conscious of the future, and that her vision must not be obscured and her faith in humanity must be strong with the strength of youth. He envisioned a parallelism - the parallelism of welding together into one body various peoples (~ and this is reminiscent of the Universal Form of the Eternal/Primordial Being - Vishva-roop or Viraat-roop.) ~ Tagore felt it was necessary to find out something common to all peoples/culture, which will prove their real unity (yog/sanyog/confluence), but that looking for a mere political or commercial basis of unity is not sufficient - discovering the spiritual unity is the way to go. He also advised that it is important for a nation/people to develop herself from within, instead of merely adopting (relying upon) Western methods; 'coz borrowing other people's history will not be enduring. ["... it does India no good to compete with Western civilization in its own field." Maybe he called for symbiotic collaboration.]

Cultural homogeneity is chimeric. Ancient India has always been a kaleidoscope; there was never a homogeneous or monolithic culture (sanskriti); even languages (each language, that is) have not been homogeneous. Sanaatan Dharma itself is the best example of unity in diversity. This egalitarianism, this pluralism, this all-encompassingness is once again reminiscent of the Universal Form of the Eternal/Primordial Being - Vishwa-roop or Viraat-roop; this harmony and ability to assimilate diverse thoughts, aspects, viewpoints etc has been our strength. It has been our greatest strength. And this has shaped the 'way of life'. However, collective myopia (culminating in myriad "narrow domestic walls") - that came about after the decline of the Gupta era - led us into the "dreary desert sand of dead habit"; it proved to be our undoing; a once-glorious civilization/ancient India lost her preeminence... and rapidly crumbled into smaller and fragmented monarchies, independent kingdoms and feudatory states (that were antagonistic to each other).

Tagore was forward-looking and believed in an intellectual union of world cultures. He believed in the synergism between spirituality and reason; he was spiritual as well as a genuine science enthusiast; he was not a mystic or sage (despite his appearance - white flowing beard and attire). Renunciation was not his way. He delighted amongst all the hustle and bustle of life. "Deliverance is not for me in renunciation. I feel the embrace of freedom in a thousand bonds of delight." He also had a voracious mind; he possessed an extraordinary depth of knowledge and could hold his own on a variety of topics. [It's a common misconception that science and arts are two mutually exclusive spheres and one cannot excel in both. Tagore proved it wrong, as did Einstein with his interest in music and literature.]

Tagore emphasized on education - knowledge and intellectual curiosity (as opposed to learning by rote). "These solidly complete Universities over which our country is brooding, are like hard boiled eggs from which you cannot expect chickens to come out."

Tagore credits several illuminating experiences from his childhood with shaping his life and establishing its creative direction. When he was learning to read at about the age of six, disconnected words suddenly came together as he encountered the rhyming phrase "jal parey/pata narey" (the water falls/the leaf trembles) in his spelling book. The rhythm of the words connected him for the first time with a harmonious creative dimension. ~ "I was no longer a mere student with his mind muffled by spelling lessons," he writes. "The rhythmic picture of the tremulous leaves beaten by the rain opened before my mind the world which does not merely carry information, but a harmony with my being. The unmeaning fragments lost their individual isolation and my mind reveled in the unity of a vision."

[Tagore: Childhood picture.] He wrote poetry as an eight-year-old. At age sixteen, he released his first substantial poems under the pseudonym Bhānusiṃha or Bhanusingho ("Sun Lion")... and the next sixty-four years were marked by a torrential flow of creativity in manifold forms. At twenty, he penned the sublime verses of 'Nirjarer Swapnabhango' ('Awakening' or 'Rousing' of the Fountain/Spring)... celebrating the awakening of his living and conscious energy - kundalini - the latent spiritual energy that lies dormant in the sacrum bone (a large, triangular bone) at the base of the spine. [Spring = fountain, sarasa. Sarasa can also indicate SarasvatI. Feluda's Gyanpeeth and 'Dhakuraia Lake'.] ~ BG 10.35: || ṛtūnāḿ kusumākaraḥ || ~ "and of seasons I am spring".  

[Pic: Gitanjali - which won him the Nobel Prize in Literature, 1913. Gitanjali = An Offering of Songs. | Gita = Songs. Anjali = offering.] ~ In the second decade of the last century Tagore was already beginning to be ubiquitous. André Gide (winner of the Nobel Prize in literature in 1947) translated his works into French, Boris Pasternak (who won the Nobel Prize in 1958) and Anna Akhmatova translated them into Russian. [In 1917 several Russian translations of Gitanjali (one edited by Ivan Bunin, later the first Russian Nobel Laureate in Literature) were available, and by the late 1920s many of the English versions of his work had been rendered into Russian by several distinguished translators.] 

[Pic: Well-known portrait painter William Rothenstein's pencil sketch for the cover page of 'Gitanjali'.] ~ W.B. Yeats had written the preface to the first edition of Tagore's own translation of the Gitanjali in 1912 (the well-known portrait painter William Rothenstein did a pencil sketch for the cover page), and Ezra Pound in a revised edition in 1913 compared him to Dante. Juan Ramón Jiménez, a Nobel Prize winner in 1956, seemed especially responsive to Tagore's idealism/humanism and sensitivity to nature's nuances, and who, in collaboration with his wife, Spanish-born writer and poet Zenobia Camprubi, produced Spanish versions of 22 of Tagore's titles. Pablo Neruda also translated some of his works. ~ Latin American literature was influenced by these developments. A number of litterateurs including the Nobel Prize winners - Mexican poet Octavio Paz and Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral came under the spell of Tagorean magic. But few in this continent were as deeply moved (by the great Indian) as the legendary Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. [Note: Tagore's translations into English are like embroidery seen from the back. | Many of his poems are actually songs, and inseparable from their music.]

Tagore was a modern educator. He prioritized individual experience over objective knowledge (learning by rote or formal classroom education) of the external world. He founded three distinct institutions: a school for primary education, a World-University (Visva-Bharati) to promote visual and performance arts, and an Institute for Rural Reconstruction. Visva-Bharati was a centre of academic excellence once. Tagore excelled at collaborating. [And this enriched Visva-Bharati too.] | Rabindranath was nothing like a powerful, oppressive or uncharitable zamindar. Instead, he formulated methods for social and economic change (organic transformation). [He put up a small centre-cum-library for a village inhabited by some of his tenants, but it went unused. He engaged a teacher, but the pupils stayed away on various pretext. Efforts to develop cooperative farming, common water supplies and road-building also went in vain because of apprehension (among the people) that someone would get greater advantage. These and other experiences led him to formulate an approach that emphasized community responsibility and transformation of individual consciousness at all levels through education and grass-roots involvement.] Tagore also put forth a constructive program, which included merging villages into regional units, under reliable leaders, which would include schools, workshops, granaries, cooperative stores and banks, as well as common meeting places for recreation and the settling of dispute. [Tagore also endeavoured to revitalise and reorient the traditional festivals of rural Bengal by not only inculcating the artistic and cooperative spirit among the villagers, but by also giving it a socio-economic significance.] Rabindranath's rural reconstruction efforts gained momentum in 1920-21 when he met Leonard Knight Elmhirst, a British agronomist studying at Cornell, and invited him to oversee the rural programme at Sriniketan. Elmhirst (who had earlier lived in India for two and a half years and had experienced the problems of rural India) accepted Tagore's invitation, and with about a dozen students helped to open the Rural Reconstruction Centre in February 1922, which would later be given the name Sriniketan. During the next few years, numerous educational, cultural and developmental initiatives (including self-help programs) were undertaken through Elmhirst's pragmatic insistence upon increased crop production and Tagore's equally strong insistence that each village must be studied and treated as a whole if long-lasting results were to be gained. The Sriniketan programme covered four general areas: agriculture, crafts and industries, village welfare and education. [There were branches for diary, fishery, poultry, horticulture, sericulture and animal science.] Achievements: greater crop output, soil reclamation and reforestation, upgrading of livestock, reduction of deaths due to epidemics, creation of cooperatives, revival and creation of cottage industries, establishment of schools and higher rates of literacy, and so forth. | An important function of the village welfare section was rural health, which like the other initiatives, began on a small scale. Gretchen Green - who opened the first dispensary - indicates that there was a shortage of personnel and medical facilities for treating vast numbers of patients. With the dispensary as a base, Kalimohan Ghose (who had been sent to England by Tagore to study primary and adult education) began to organize co-operative health societies in which villagers took out membership entitling them to a limited amount of free treatment. By 1933 three health cooperatives had been established in the villages of Ballabpur, Bandgora and Goalpara. In 1930 Dr. Harry Timbres joined the staff and took over the anti-malaria program. A twenty-seven percent reduction of deaths by malaria was reported between 1928-1948. Considerable gains were also made in the area of preventive medicine as drains were opened up, tanks disinfected, trenches dug, and quinine distributed and small-pox vaccinations administered. Many of the health initiatives were carried out by the Brati-Balakas/Brati-Balikas (a group patterned after the boy scouts/girl guides). Another aspect of village welfare was the building up of co-operatives, though, again, the team had to overcome considerable impediments. The most successful cooperative, in terms of fighting rural indebtedness, appears to have been the Visva-Bharati Central Co-operative Bank, stated in 1927, which had 236 Agricultural Credit Unions attached to it. Economic research and rural surveys were also carried out by the welfare-section. There was some attempt at land distribution, at least in the early period. Educational initiatives were implemented at all levels. By 1929 there were night classes for children and adults unable to attend day school in twelve villages and one day school for girls. The curriculum included basic literacy, math, crafts and recreational activities. Pioneering work in adult education was carried on through various activities. There was a rural circulating library - the first of its kind in Bengal - which contained 1500 books by 1940. There were also training camps, jatras (folk-plays) and melas (fairs). An early form of distance education was initiated through the Loka-Siksha Samsad, a society which organized home study and examinations for persons who could not attend school. There were special women's educational projects which were handled by the Mahila Samitis (women's groups) such as nutrition, maternity and child care, literacy and so forth. One of the most notable and successful educational projects of Sriniketan was Siksha-Satra ("where education is given freely"), which began in July, 1924, after six destitute boys were placed under the care of the Institute. The learning framework - created by Rabindranath, Elmhirst and Santosh Majumdar (an energetic and able member of Elmhirst's Sriniketan team) - reflected a more practical adaptation to village life of the Santiniketan ideals such as natural environment, child autonomy, perceptual training, learning through creative activities, and development of social responsibility. Some of the basic assumptions underlying the Siksha-Satra experiment were that the program should give maximum scope to the child's imagination and that the child should learn by doing (co-operative enterprise/organisation) and by experiment (skill development, instead of merely textbook and classroom examination or parental conservatism or shortsighted discipline). The revival of cottage industries and crafts had been a major goal of Sriniketan, and this department sought to resuscitate and create local industries, initiate new artistic designs and train apprentices. In the craft area, training centres were set up to restore local industries and crafts such as leather work, carpentry, lacquer work, raw silk production, pottery, cane-work, tailoring, embroidery, batic work, book-binding and so forth. [In 1929 a mechanical workshop was set up, and training was offered in mechanical drawing, smithy, lathe work, and wood and metal turning.] A separate unit known as Silpa-Bhavan (Institute of Craft and Design) was begun on a small scale in 1922 with the goal of providing vocational training to village apprentices and providing crafts training to the students of the academic departments of Santiniketan and Sriniketan. Silpa Bhavan (with its emphasis on economic returns and increased marketing) proved to be one of the most economically successful in Sriniketan and it became an independent unit in 1937. | From the beginning, the Sriniketan project was one of international cooperation. England was represented by Elmhirst, C.F. Andrews and W.W. Pearson; Japan by wood-working expert Kim-Taro Kashahara; the U.S. by nurse Gretchen Green, followed later by Dr. Harry Timbres and benefactor Dorothy Straight. Sweden donated looms and other weaving equipment and the expenses for an instructor, Ms Jeanson, who introduced the Sloyd system of weaving. Celebrated painter Nandalal Bose was instrumental in the area of craft design at Sriniketan. In 1930 he founded Karu-Sangha, a handicraft cooperative associated with Kala-Bhavan, to help improve the economic life of the artisans.

Sriniketan was formally established on 6th February 1922. [Sri is a reference to Devi Lakshmi. Visva-Bharati means the communion of the world with India. Devi SarasvatI is also known as Bhagavati Bharati. Bhagavati = Lord of Destiny (or personification of "destiny"). Bharati = the deity/deva of fine speech (vāk or vāc - persuasive powers, etc). SarasvatI is Bharati - the 'Mother' of Bhataravarsha: the continent (Sanskrit: continent = 'varsha') that is dedicated (Sanskrit: dedicated = 'rata') to light, wisdom (Sanskrit: wisdom = 'bha') ~ the light of wisdom or the wisdom of knowledge; Bharatavarsha is the oldest civilization of the world and thus the cradle of civilisation.] | Elmhirst was the first Director of Sriniketan and the work started in February 1922. Tagore recalled, in a letter written on 29 August 1932 to Elmhirst: "You came from your university and you were absurdly young, but you were not in the least academic or aridly intellectual. You had human sympathy in abundance which was the principal motive power that carried you across all the difficulties that stood against you in their congregated might. You rightly named your work Village Reconstruction Work, for it was a living work comprehending village life in all its various activities and not merely productive of analytic knowledge." | In 1924, Elmhirst accompanied Tagore (as his secretary), first on his trip to China and later that year on his trip to South America. In 1925, on returning to England, Elmhirst (together with his wife Dorothy) co-founded Dartington Hall, an institute modeled after Sriniketan at Totnes, Devonshire. [The Dartington Hall project was about progressive education and rural reconstruction.]

During his travels and lecture-tours Tagore carried his message of human unity to all the important countries of Asia, America and Europe. He believed that "True knowledge is that which perceives the unity of all things in God." ~ Tagore's philosophical and spiritual thoughts transcend all limits of language, culture, and nationality. In his writings, the poet endowed with intuitive perception takes us on a spiritual quest and gives us a glimpse of the infinite in the midst of the finite, unity at the heart of all diversity, and the Divine in all beings and things of the universe. Tagore, the universal bard (Bishwakabi), brought out the essence of Eastern spirituality in his poetry like no other poet. | Tagore, almost as a pilgrim, moved around the world either in person or in his thoughts - to search for the universalism of humanity, or the wholeness of being. Much of what Tagore experienced in life has been expressed in songs with musical and verbal imagery and rhythms designed to support and enhance each other. [~ Those who are familiar with the original in Bengali can never quite be satiated with their English translations.] ~ To Tagore, reality was not an idea, but rather that ecstatic awakening when God (Param-atma or Higher Self) and the soul (human or individual soul - jiva-atma or mere Self) in a vivid and transcendent moment of communion are known to be one (Self-realization or Param-atma realisation - to dissolve in each other in a cosmic way) ~ 'Nirjarer Swapnabhango' ('Awakening' or 'Rousing' of the Fountain/Spring). | Tagore's poetry is not mere phrasal dexterity or tuneless ditties, rather it is genuine passion felt in the heart's deep core; it is refreshing to say the least. His gift of lyricism and song shines forth. It is like a draught from a pure spring, or a spiritual oasis in a desert of poetic wasteland. | Tagore's portrayal and celebration of a higher power embedded in the fabric of the universe and responsible for its continuing existence and operation is very fascinating, indeed. He celebrates the Divine, the Infinite - the Ananta ... and expresses a sense of deep wonder in the universe.

'Aakash Bhora Surjo Tara':

We will understand 'Nirjarer Swapnabhango' ('Awakening' or 'Rousing' of the Fountain/Spring) ~ if we comprehend:

'Aamar Byala Je Jaye':

'Mor Binaa Othhe Kon Suurey':

It's not hard to imagine just how famous Tagore was in the West. ... With his works impressing the likes of William Butler Yeats and Ezra Pound, Tagore lectured to packed audiences around the world (including at Rochester, Boston, and Harvard University). His dignity and handsome presence, the ease of his manners and his quiet wisdom made a marked impression on all who met him. The young poets came to sit at Tagore's feet; Ezra Pound the most assiduously. Among others whom he met were G. Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Galsworthy, Andrew Bradley, Thomas Sturge Moore, and Robert Bridges. Yeats read Tagore's poems in front of a distinguished audience comprising of Ezra Pound, May Sinclair, and Ernest Rhys etc. Tagore also met and interacted with Robert Frost, Helen Keller and Dr Karel Hujer (Astronomer). Tagore and Werner Heisenberg, the discoverer of the famous Uncertainty Principle of quantum physics (and, along with Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, one of the giants of modern physics), had long conversations about science and Indian philosophy. Not only Yeats and Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot, not only Bernard Shaw and Bertrand Russel and Albert Einstein, but scores of other writers and intellectuals, and millions of more common folk, were touched in due course by this remarkable minstrel-bard. He is simply in a rarest class by himself.

Gurudev was a versatile genius, a multifaceted personality: a social reformer, a thought leader, a teacher/educator, a renaissance poet, a novelist, a playwright/dramatist, an essayist, a science enthusiast, an artist, a choreographer of dance dramas, a critic, a lyricist/music composer, a prolific painter and above all, a great humanitarian and philosopher. [His vast canon also included travelogues, sketches and doodles... and over 2000 songs.]

A Sadhaka (seeker) of scholarship, knowledge and the cosmic mind (Higher Self or Universal Consciousness), he was a strikingly handsome figure with piercing eyes and intelligent cerebral looks, an intellectual luminary who possessed an inner charm... that emerges in his inspiring words and his lyrically unequaled songs. Elements of Indian classical music has been integrated in an extremely intelligent and effective manner in his magnificent songs - Rabindra-sangeet - which embodies a mesmerizing fusion of his musicianship and poetic genius (in other words: Rabindra-sangeet enjoys the blissful alliance of its lyrics along with music). Tagore's unrivaled arena of creativity, where he produced prodigious volumes of poems, songs, dramas, essays, novels, travelogues and short stories with seemingly endless energy - are his everlasting gifts - the infinite treasures of his oeuvre. Tagore's boundless curiosity also carried him into the realm of physical sciences, and his interest in scientific inquiry, his meetings and conversations with Albert Einstein (among others) are quite well known, and have now become part of the Tagore lore. [He and the brilliant polymath Acharya J.C. Bose were lifelong friends. Perhaps it was Einstein who introduced him to the great Satyendra Nath Bose.
| Satyendra Nath Bose and Einstein have collaborated: The Bose-Einstein condensate. Dr. S.N. Bose is also the Bose behind boson (e.g. Higgs-Boson). ~ The name boson was coined to commemorate the contribution of the Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose in developing, with Einstein, Bose-Einstein statistics - that theorizes the characteristics of elementary particles.]

Many decades ago, Tagore encouraged the idea of reforestation (Vriksharopan) at a time when there was no such thing as a wave of nature conservation, climate change, Earth Hour or Earth Day. On one such occasion, he celebrated nature and woodlands by planting trees during a festival he called Vanamahotsava (Celebration of Forests). At that time, he wrote the song 'Marubijayer Ketan Udao Shunye Heye Prabal Pran' ('Raise aloft the banner of the conquest of the desert') - which carried emphatically the idea of fertile soil and the connection of life itself to the soil and the bounty that it brings forth.

'Marubijayer Ketan Udao Shunye Heye Prabal Pran':

For Tagore science did not signify a mechanistic analysis of facts, but rather a broader interpretation, a wider perception of the universe. Tagore (and even Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose) conceived Nature not merely as a physical phenomenon, but a living spirit, which could help humankind to realize the essential Truth of Life. Tagore showed a keen interest in scientific knowledge and discoveries. ~ To both Tagore and J.C. Bose, there never existed any rigid distinction between science and poetry or more broadly between science and literature. Critiquing the typical Western attitude of making excessive specialization in the field of learning, they sought to locate an underlying unity in all branches of knowledge, to find a 'comprehensiveness of truth', which is the core of Eastern philosophy.

Tagore on progress: "You have to judge progress according to its aim. A railway train makes its progress towards the terminus station - it is a movement. But a full grown tree has no definite movement of that kind. Its progress is the inward progress of life. It lives, with its aspiration towards light tingling in its leaves and creeping in its silent sap."

As a thought leader, renaissance poet and playwright/dramatist/lyricist he advanced a vast canon that comprised paintings, sketches and doodles, hundreds of texts, and over two thousand songs (Rabindrasangeet - Tagore's magnificent music). His elegant and magical poetry is noted for their rhythmic and lyrical nature. | Tagore's life as a peripatetic litterateur was dedicated towards cultural rapprochement; as a humanist, universalist and internationalist, his message of Asian brotherhood and internationalism was a cautionary note vis-a-vis the pitfalls or counterproductiveness or myopia of narrow, selfish, unifocal nationalism (~ especially in a kaleidoscopic nation like India + given the ancientness of our civilization). He also cautioned against the approach of negativism called lethargy, ignorance, moribund discourse, finger-pointing, inertia, and other members of that brood. | "Each country of Asia will solve its own historical problems according to its strength, nature and needs, but the lamp they will each carry on their path to progress will converge to illuminate the common ray of knowledge."

Tagore never deviated from his dharma, which was poetic creativity, contributing to the society, collaborative reflection and intellectual engagement - exchange of thoughts and ideas - to convey and bring forth a more substantive perception and analysis. [Absence of scholarly engagement, even informal ones, gives rise to redundant and moribund discourse.] He believed that at all times the beauty in life is to be found in all pursuits of knowledge, and knowledge or development in isolation is never complete. Hence, his emphasis on cultural, scientific and social exchange between all peoples in all places. ~ He envisioned an India imbued with the noblest of her ancient civilizational ideals: that of acceptance, exchange and the striving for human perfection through a loving and reverential appreciation of nature and identification of the infinite within the finite. | To illustrate his theory of education, Tagore enjoyed recounting the following incident: "I well remember the surprise and annoyance of an experienced headmaster, reputed to be a successful disciplinarian, when he saw one of the boys of my school climbing a tree and choosing a fork of the branches for settling down to his studies. I had to say to him in explanation that "childhood is the only period of life when a civilized man can exercise his choice between the branches of a tree and his drawing-room chair, and should I deprive this boy of that privilege because I, as a grown up man, am barred from it?" What is surprising to notice is the same headmaster's approbation of the boys' studying botany. He believes in an impersonal knowledge of the tree because that is science, but not in a personal experience of it."

Tagore disliked rote classroom schooling. He held that proper teaching does not explain things; proper teaching stokes curiosity: "[It] knock[s] at the doors of the mind. If any boy is asked to give an account of what is awakened in him by such knocking, he will probably say something silly. For what happens within is much bigger than what comes out in words. Those who pin their faith on university examinations as the test of education take no account of this." ~ He emphasized on education - knowledge and intellectual curiosity (as opposed to learning by rote). "These solidly complete Universities over which our country is brooding, are like hard boiled eggs from which you cannot expect chickens to come out." | In old age, Tagore still rose long before dawn to witness the birth of each new day, and he still wrote fluently in his own hand. He liked to make extensive corrections; he also liked his manuscripts to be elegant. His artist's eye for his handwriting was revealed in the simple artistic and rhythmic leitmotifs embellishing the scribbles, corrections, and word layouts of his manuscripts. ~ His genius enriched whatever it touched.

Tagore was not narrowly national, he did not believe in intellectual regimentation either. He also believed in the wisdom of knowledge; he believed in a broader vision, a longer-term understanding of issues + dignity of labour ("and the head is held high"). His message was for the world. And yet, he remained a passionate Indian. ... He drew inspiration from the deep wells (vast repertoire) of wisdom and thought and culture (civilisational values and ideals). He saw himself as an inheritor, representative and expositor of India's age-old heritage (civilizational values and ideals). His writings constitute the best commentary on his life. These reveal him as nothing else does. ... The universal bard (Bishwakabi) is to be found in his poems. Tagore's vast legacy of creativity, intellectual freedom, relentless striving towards inner perfection, harmony amongst people and harmony of people with nature, the unbounded joy of life which has discovered its own rich resources - these are a priceless gift to India, and indeed, the world.


Our National Anthem: Controversy shadowed "Jana-Gana-Mana-Adhinayaka" from the day of its first rendition in 1911 at the Congress session in Calcutta. King George V arrived in India the day the song was first sung... and sections of the Anglo-Indian English press in Calcutta thought - and duly reported - that Tagore's anthem was homage to the emperor. ~ Tagore responded thus: "I should only insult myself if I cared to answer those who consider me capable of such unbounded stupidity." He later wrote, "A certain high official in His Majesty's service, who was also my friend, had requested that I write a song of felicitation towards the Emperor. The request simply amazed me. It caused a great stir in my heart. In response to that great mental turmoil, I pronounced the victory in Jana Gana Mana of that Bhagya Vidhata [ed. Lord of Destiny] of India who has from age after age held steadfast the reins of India's chariot through rise and fall, through the straight path and the curved. That Lord of Destiny, that Reader of the Collective Mind of India, that Perennial Guide, could never be George V, George VI, or any other George. Even my official friend understood this about the song. After all, even if his admiration for the crown was excessive, he was not lacking in simple common sense."

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