Salute to Gurudev

Gayatri Sankar

"Purano shei diner kotha, bhulbe kii re Hai o shei chokher dekha, praaner kotha Sheikii bhola jaaye”

The memories of the beautiful olden days, can you ever forget it? Days that were witnessed by our eyes, days that were a voice of our life, can it ever be forgotten?

– Rabindranath Tagore

No. We certainly can never forget memories of the good old days which saw Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore penning incredibly soothing lyrics. Blessed were those who were born in his era, who got the opportunity to rub shoulders with the maestro and who knew him personally and even those who had not known him closely. The master artist has influenced people far and wide. Gurudev not only gave words to his expression but also gave them melody, which have now become integral part of the Bengali culture. His matchless contribution to music, famously named after him (Rabindro Sangeet) has become indispensable part of Bengali person’s soul, for he has given a new dimension to ‘Bangla’ culture. His works of art are no ordinary pieces of work but divine creation.

Tagore was the first ever Indian to have been awarded the Nobel Prize in 1913 for Literature. Author of ‘Gitanjali’, Tagore gave a new height to Bengali literature, music and many other forms of art. His mesmerising soulful compositions are something music lovers in Bengal cannot do without. His songs are not only loved by Bengali people but music lovers across the world are equally touched by them. Sans him, Bengal will look incomplete and so will India. For he has given Indians ‘Jana Gana Mana’, an identity that makes us stand apart.

The founder of Visva-Bharati University, Thakur was someone who gave up his knighthood conferred upon him by the British Crown in 1915 in protest against the Jallian Wala Bagh massacre four years later. Gurudev, as he is lovingly addressed, cared the least for his British honour and proved that though he was pro-liberalisation, he was someone who equally valued his indigenous customs and traditions. Highly respected even by the white men, Thakur grew to a stature of a “father figure” and an inspiration to people worldwide. He was also very dear to the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi and the two great men were friends and philosophers to each other.

Tagore belonged to a family that was extremely qualified and liberal yet traditional. Interestingly, Tagore and his family have been fashion icons. They had a liberal mindset and were much ahead of their times with respect to the clothing style and patterns. In fact, the present style of draping a saree with the shoulder drape and pleats evolved out of the experiments tried by the women in his family.

Tagore, who tried his hands on the canvas for the first time ever at the ripe age of 67, has moved generations of painters. Ironically, he was written off by his contemporaries and critics as a "bad and untrained" artist during his lifetime.

Narrating how Thakur’s paintings were received while they were put on display in Kolkata (then Calcutta), a senior painter Naren Sengupta said, “The first exhibition of Tagore`s paintings in May 1930 in Paris that received an overwhelming response was later exhibited in Kolkata (in 1931 and 1932). But the audience there was strangely silent and I remember reading articles criticising his style and technique.” The critics did not like Tagore`s childlike adaptation of global artistic practices - especially those from the far East and Europe - to create a unique Indian language."

A painter, who was born in him at 67, continued to immortalise his expressions on the canvas with strokes of his creativity until his death in 1941.

White is the colour that symbolises wisdom and serenity. And Tagore’s saintly look as he turned older (his white centre parted hairdo, his bushy moustache and his beard that fell below his neck) only signified his genius. He was a highly learned man who was humility personified. He was and continues to be one of the supreme most manifestations of artist the world could have ever seen and followed.

To describe or pay homage to an artist and an institution as vast as Rabindranath Tagore is easier said than done. May his soul continues to rest in peace and may he keep inspiring one and all, not just in the land where he was born but people far and wide for ages to come.