Ever since the sesquicentennial birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore in 2011, there has been a steady increase in scholarly publications on him from various perspectives and even a decade later, the trend is still continuing. Tagore practiced all the major literary genres—poetry, drama, fiction, and a range of non-fictional writings. In addition, he was a song-writer, composer, painter, philosopher, educationist, social thinker, and public intellectual. So critical surveys of the chief sectors of his artistic output and its reception are also quite a difficult task. The present volume under review takes on that challenge and along with studies of the historical and cultural background of Tagore’s time, it also includes some specialized studies on particular topics and fields of activity.
The essays in this anthology are primarily divided into two sections—‘Overviews’ and ‘Studies’. There are two excellent preliminary articles written originally in Bengali and aptly translated by Sukanta Chaudhuri. Professor Sankha Ghosh from Kolkata and Professor Anisuzzaman from Dhaka (both of whom unfortunately passed away recently) need no introduction for their excellence in Tagore scholarship. In ‘Rabindranath Tagore: From Art to Life’, Sankha Ghosh points out that moments of strong emotion, impelled by patriotism or bereavement, can indeed leave traces in a poet’s work but in the case of Rabindranath, even during the very period marked by a deep vein of renunciation in his poems and songs, he also proved to be bound to social and family life by many hard, mundane commitments. Observed carefully, we may find that his spiritual thought has a social basis, and his social thought is empowered by spiritual motivation. The two are linked and balanced, the apparent contradictions resolved at a nodal point where all the strands of his life come together. In ‘A Garland of Many Tagores’ Professor Anisuzzaman reiterates the fact that there is no one else in Bengali cultural history, and few in the world, who have worked with such assured success in so many fields of art and culture; moreover, his transactions in each have continually taken new forms. So ‘[W]e must look at the garland of many Tagores not as a string of disjunct elements but as an organic, integral whole’ (p. 22).