|Old Court House Street Calcutta|
Rabindranath had an impressive command of language from the age of eight. At the age of sixteen, he published his first work under the pseudonym Bhānusiṃha (The Sun Lion). He also started to press for India's independence from Britain.
Founder of Brahmoism
a picture from the
At about the time of his father's death, Rabindranath sent his eldest son Rathindranath to the University of Illinois in Urbana to study modern agricultural techniques. Rabindranath also founded the Brahmacharya Ashram and the Visva Bharati School at Santiniketan, and published "Naivedya" (Votive Offering), a collection of poems on patriotism, religious devotion, and altruism, dedicated to his father.
The following year Rabindranath was invited to tour the United States giving lectures and readings. Rabindranath hoped that the tour would fund the development of Visva Bharati into a university. The tour took place at the height of the war in Europe. His warnings regarding the dangers of nationalism and militarism, like those of his contemporary Bertrand Russell, were as unpopular in America as they were in Europe, and undermined his appeal as an author. Eventually Rabindranath was forced to abandon the tour, which resulted in considerable financial loss.
(née Payne Whitney)
On his return to America in 1920 he met an even cooler reception than before. His attempts to interest wealthy philanthropists in his university at Santiniketan met with little success. However, during his tour he met Leonard Elmhirst, a Yorkshire farmer. Leonard had completed a degree in agriculture at Cornell University and married the wealthy divorced American heiress Dorothy Straight.
Leonard was very enthusiastic about Rabindranath's projects in Bengal and went to Santiniketan to work for him as his secretary. He helped create the Institute of Rural Reconstruction in the neighbouring village of Sriniketan. Emily, out of devotion to her fiancée, provided much needed funding for the project. Leonard also accompanied Rabindranath to almost every part of the world to promote Visva Bharati.
& Leonard Elmhirst
In Buenos Aires Rabindranath and Leonard had the good fortune to meet Argentine author Victoria Ocampo. Victoria had greatly admired "Gitanjali" and had just published an essay, "The Joy of Reading Tagore", for La Nacion magazine a few days before. She rented a house (Villa Miralrio) in San Isidro, where Rabindranath convalesced for two months surrounded by gardens of colourful and fragrant flowers. Rabindranath was deeply moved by the experience. The following year, when he published "Purabi" (The East in its Feminine Gender), he dedicated it to 'The Lotus Palms of Bijaya' (Bijaya is Bengali for Victoria).
|Leonard & Dorothy|
Meanwhile Leonard and Emily continued their other projects around the world, in particular the Visva Bharati. Rabindranath became increasingly concerned about the Indian caste system, and the exclusion of Dalits from education. He included Dalit heroes in his compositions, and successfully intervened with the Zamorin of Calicut to persuade him to respond to Mohandas Ghandi's epic fast in Yeravda Prison and open the Guruvayour Temple in Kerala to Dalits (or Harijan as Mohandas called them).
& Mohandas Ghandi
Rabindranath continued to compose poetry and write novels until his death in 1941. From 1937 on, he suffered a recurring and grave illness. He wrote some of his best poetry despite this suffering, and died three months after his eightieth birthday during which, sadly, he was barely conscious. On 30th July he dictated his final poem, accepting his fate and expressing his gratitude for what little he had received in return for all his efforts.