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The Polemics Of Identity And Crisis: Rabindranath Tagore’s Ideas Of Civilisation And Modernism

3427 words - 14 pages

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British Imperialism in India deeply affected attitudes to politics, society, community, nation, and gender and intercommunity relations. This inevitably conditioned the thought process of the then common masses as well as the intelligentsia. Colonialism in India and also elsewhere made it impossible to understand the history of the country and what emerged was deconstructed notions largely conditioned and shaped by the imperialist’s missions to ‘civilize’ the colonized and the broad agenda of the ‘white man’s burden’. Studying Rabindranath Tagore from this broad rubric shall lead one to understand how Imperialism and colonialism moulded and shaped his entire career as the polymath who ...view middle of the document...

In Bengal during the aforementioned period people started raising questions about beliefs and everyday issues and thus the period witnessed an intellectual awakening, deserving in its own right, to be called Renaissance in the European manner. This was indeed a revival of thoughts, a deep inquiry into existing belief systems, an endeavor to do away with the social vices and usher education as the tool for all round development. Raja Ram Mohan Roy, one of the first exponents of this revival, perceived that without the knowledge of science Indians would fail to participate in the social transition of the world. After him the other great thinkers and social reformers like Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Bankimchandra Chatterjee, Swami Vivekananda and so on worked in the directions of opening schools and colleges, making education accessible to women, eradicating the social vices like the sati pratha and making widow remarriage a reality amongst several other social and cultural reforms. Rabindranath Tagore, born in 1861, got to witness these changes while he was growing up. The societal changes of the times and the cultural milieu of his home at Jorasanko made him the man that the world knows him to be. However, Tagore never remained confined to any parameters and his horizons remained limitless as he shifted, moulded and created his thoughts with each passing day and with each passing event of his days. When Mahatma Gandhi ushered in the Swadeshi Movement Tagore too was highly inspired and contributed in his own ways through his poems and songs. Realizing the impracticalities of the movement he was quick enough to move away from it. His detachment obviously raised eyebrows but he was clear in his thoughts. In a self referential essay titled ‘Rabindranather Rastranaitik Mat’ (Tagore’s Political Views) he wrote:
“…It should be known about me that no time has any fixed opinion on any subject of politics emerged out of my mind in a fully developed form- rather they have taken shape through various changes along with the experiences of my life. Of course there is a thread of unity in the sequences of those changes. But to retrieve it what should be considered is which parts of my writings are principal, which ones are subsidiary; which ones are ephemeral, and which ones have crossed the limits of particular times to keep flowing”. (Mukhopadhyay viii)

Tagore created a vast plethora of characters and situations in his literature that stood for his thoughts on liberalism and universalism. His characters spoke on his behalf and also echoed his confusions, disillusionments and dilemmas. They also set up for him the agendas that he intended to put forward through his literature. In the vastness of his creation it is an arduous task to fathom his thoughts through individual works. This can be done only when his works are taken in totality and a comprehensive study is done. Never the less I have selected two of his seminal works and will...

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