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9 May, 2017 00:00 00 AM

Fresh engagement with ever new Tagore

No other literary personality of the world has exercised such tremendous influence over his readers through so many artistic genres with almost all of his works touched by the mark of his sheer genious
Fresh engagement with ever new Tagore

Every year 25th Baishakh, birthday of Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) is a day of special celebration for culture-concerned Bengalis.  On this occasion we rediscover the relevance of endless Tagore in contemporary context and revisit his ever new cultural expressions as the fountain source of sophisticated enjoyment, constructive socio-ethical motivation and sublime cathartic intervention. Our everyday interaction with Tagore gets reinforced by reading, performing, viewing, listening, writing and contemplating his priceless creation. He has enormously enriched our quality of life with art and culture enveloping our relational, existential and ecstatic domains.

No other creative personality in the world has exercised so much influence over his readers through so many literary and artistic genres and in every case invariably with a Midas touch. Sheer volume and variety charged with supreme quality of his contributions make us wonder-struck. He was a poet par excellence, psychological and mystic novelist, wonderful essayist, brilliant short story and letter writer, painter, patriot, visionary, composer of songs, educator and shaper of modern Bengali language and literature.
Interestingly, in 1912 when his manuscript of Song Offerings, translation of 103 poems from Bengali Gitanjali, Naivedya, Kheya, Gitimalya, Chaitali etc was lost in Charing Cross railway station in London Tagore took it as divinely destined.  But his son persistently tried and finally recovered the leather bag carrying the sole hard copy during those pre-soft copy days.  The literary circle of London instantly decided to get it published which met with tremendous demand and success. Ezra Pound sent eight selected lyrics to an American journal where it received tremendous appreciation. T.S. Moore in his capacity as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature recommended the book for Nobel Prize.
By that time most of the members of Nobel Academy jointly selected Thomas Hardy, the pessimist novelist for the award and the Chairman also had his consent. But a reading of the ever optimistic and egoless Tagore through a slim prose translation of his poetry gave them a taste of great refuge. The decision altered in favour of him, a writer in Bengali from British colony called India. 
Overnight Bengal and India came into international prominence creating unexpected history as Tagore won the Nobel Prize in 1913 as the first non-European recipient of the same. The book was found to be a product of supre me culture and civilization representing complete life of humanity. 
How much impact Tagore had made on the wise connoisseurs can be guessed from the preface to Song offerings by W.B. Yeats whose blood was stirred by the book as nothing did for years. 
He was impressed by the completeness of the experience of Tagore covering all the aspirations of mankind and cry of the flesh and cry of soul together first time in literature and wrote, “He is the first among our saints who has not refused to live but has spoken out of Life itself.”   
In Tagore's poetry art and substance are inseparably interwoven to stir our heart. But the central theme of his poetry is discovery of mysterious life and a joyful process of becoming. Time and again he told that his poetic journey is from the finite to the infinite, from colourful forms to the formless and from cosmic melody to the soundless silence of eternity. He never slighted pangs of suffering humanity and found absurdity in conventional way of life without adequate vision. He found this earthly sojourn as a delightful invitation to the colourful feast of sight and symphony in creation where even unbearable sorrow is a jerk from inertia of smooth living and way to peace and ecstasy independent of external stimulus.
His patriotic poems and songs tremendously influenced freedom fighters during Indian freedom movement and Muktiyudhya in Bangladesh. His constructive social agenda for suffering humanity is ever alive to the requirement and ever inspiring. His songs are the national anthems of India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Even before Bangladesh won liberation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman selected his 'amar sonar Bangla, ami tomay bhalobasi' to be the national anthem of Bangladesh and it is one of the ten best national anthems of the world today.
His preoccupation with nature as animated with life-force and alive as our cosmic counterpart is a new addition to nature poetry.  His wonderful love poems- daring, passionate and saintly are fraught with a sense of separation in which cry of flesh is sublimated to the cry of soul. An intense experience of oneness in universal life is the hallmark of his cosmic romance.  “The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures…..If I be mud or water, grass or flower or move along with all creatures I will be blessed remaining tied to my endless self.”  This expansion of consciousness rose out of his direct experience and occurred as "a species of involuntary and unconscious autobiography", as German philosopher Frederick Nietzsche held every great philosophy to be.  Realization of the grand unity in diversity made him sing, “Thou art the sky and thou art the nest as well.”
This loving unification of the transcendental with apparent terrestrial is the hallmark of his poetic experience, “I dive down into the ocean of forms hoping to gain the perfect pearl of formless.” This diving pilgrimage is a painful process. But the poet enjoys the same as it purifies him and brings closer to the cosmic beloved and facilitates surrender.  That is why he prays, “Give me the strength to raise my mind high above daily trifles. And give me the strength to surrender my strength to thy will with love.”
His occasional deviation from divine path due to worldly distractions gives birth to pangs, as from the heart of hearts he realized that all worldly desires are mere fetters and empty to the core.  Hence to maintain the eternal communion with the Infinite he has to rise above the gravitational pull of finitude. 
Ultimately the poet Tagore absolutely surrenders to the mystic Tagore for uninterrupted union with his cosmic beloved, “My song has put off her adornments….Ornaments would mar our union; they would come between thee and me; their jingling would drown thy whispers.” He realized the limitations of poetic experience and accomplishments, “My poet’s vanity dies in shame before thy sight. O master poet, I have sat down at thy feet. Only let me make my life simple and straight like a flute of reed for thee to fill with music.”
We rediscover Tagore with age, experience and increased capacity. Tagore was ever engaged with expressing victory of life and its ineffable expression in creation. We need to open hearts like him to attend the cosmic invitation in the wonderful world with love.  
    The writer is a freelancer


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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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