Bard beyond the known
Ritusmita Biswas

Tagore's friendship with Einstein has been described as a "chat between two planets"
SCIENCE & SENSIBILITY: Tagore's friendship with Einstein has been described as a "chat between two planets"

Rabindranath Tagore and the Bengali identity are synonymous. Each and every intellectual Bengali (and often others, too!) prides himself on being inspired by Tagore and his work. In fact, this versatile creative genius is vital to Bengalis and "Bengaliana". Ask any average Bengali what Kabiguru, as Rabindranath is fondly remembered, means to them and he will tell you all about the accomplishments and achievements of this Renaissance man.

We Bengalis pride ourselves on our knowledge about Rabindranath. From little children to the elderly, everyone is aware about the various milestones in the life of Gurudev, or so they believe. In reality, there are many hidden facets of his life that remain unknown to the masses.

For instance, we all know that Rabindranath penned Jana Gana Mana, the National Song of India, but how many of us knew that he was also the author of Amar Shonar Bangla the National Song of Bangladesh? In fact, the bard is the only one in the world who has penned the national anthems of two countries.

The poet, unlike many other bards, was not solely encompassed in his imaginative world. He was a keenly political creature, who played a significant role in India’s freedom struggle. In fact, unknown to many is the fact that Tagore had been the president of the Bengal Congress in 1908.

The poet’s political ideals were complex and while he supported Indian nationalists, he vehemently opposed both imperialism and militant nationalism, which is very much evident in his epic novel, Ghare Baire, set in the backdrop of the Swadeshi Andolan of 1910.

While his letter to Gandhi, through which he engaged in political debate regarding the spirit and nature of nationalism, is quite well-known, what is little known is his equally deep friendship with world-famous scientist Einstein, with whom he corresponded regularly to discuss whether consciousness can affect existence. His friendship with Einstein had been described by one journalist as a chat between two planets – a poet with a heart of a thinker and a thinker with a heart of a poet.

Some of the greatest persons in history have been Tagore’s biggest admirers. One such famous person who intensely admired Tagore was Pt Nehru, who openly acknowledged that the two biggest influences in his life have been Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore. Nobel Prize winner Roman Rolland was yet another ardent admirer. On his part, the poet, despite his fondness for non-violence, was intensely fond of revolutionary Sri Aurobindo (who later shunned politics and set up the Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry) and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose (to whom he dedicated his famous play Tasher Desh).