Celebrating Gurudev: The Rare Details about Rabindra Nath Tagore

Revered as Gurudev, Tagore lived during the times of the Raj and left an impressive body of work in arts and literature. Let’s know more about the First Asian Nobel Laureate from India.

It is not every day that the world discovers a mind as bright as that of Rabindranath Tagore. The man showcased India’s philosophy to the world and became the first Asian to win the coveted Nobel Prize. Tagore was a poet, dramatist, painter, musician, philosopher, novelist and an educationist who inspired generations through his notable works.

Here are some impressive and relatively unknown facts about him.

  • It is a known fact that Tagore won the Nobel Prize 1913, and became the first non-European to win the award. What you might not know is that his Nobel Prize was stolen in 2004 from the safety vaults of Viswa Bharati University where it had been kept. However, the Swedish Academy graciously presented two replicas of the original award to Viswa Bharati, one made from gold and other from bronze.
  • Tagore once had an in-depth conversation with Albert Einstein- another genius of the twentieth century. The two hit off quite well and discussed God, humanity, science, beauty and truth. As a result, the conversation earned the status of an iconic dialogue between the two most remarkable minds of the time. The whole discussion was transcribed and can be read online.
  • If you thought that Tagore is the only poet whose poems have been accepted as the national anthems of two countries, India and Bangladesh; you are mistaken. Rabindranath Tagore has also inspired the national anthem of Srilanka. So that makes a total of three countries.
  • Gurudev’s sister Swarnakumari Devi was also a renowned novelist and a poet. She was one of the very first women writers of her time. Also, she was a singer and a social worker.
  • He was greatly disillusioned by classroom teaching. He considered it as limiting and dull. His vision of an ideal educational institution was materialized in the form of Viswa-Bharati University in 1918, which was built with his Nobel Prize money.
  • The British were mightily impressed by him, so Tagore received a knighthood from King George V in 1915. However, he returned the title to the King after the Jallianwala Massacre. He valued freedom over personal honours. Talk about having a spine!
  • Tagore, often known as ‘The Bard of Bengal’ wrote more than 2000 songs which are a part of ‘Rabindrasangit’ in Bengal. Some of his songs were inspired from his extensive travelling around the world to 30 countries including Scotland, Ireland and Europe. His extensive travels made him a believer of ‘internationalism’ or a global citizen.

He passed away on 7th August 1941 at the age of eighty, leaving behind the legacy of magical poetry, sophisticated prose, profound philosophy, spirituality, and so much more to the world.

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