Tagore and his art

The name is Tagore…Rabindranath Tagore!

Reading Time: 5 minutes

রবি কবি বলে গেছিলেন – “যদি তোমার দেখা না পাই প্রভু, এবার এ জীবনে….তবে তোমায় আমি পাইনি যেন সে কথা রয়ে মনে“|

আর অয়ন মজুমদার (who again!?) বলে চলেছেন – “যদি রবীন্দ্রনাথকে না আনলেন মনের চিন্তনে……..তাহলে কি আর ঠাকুর দেখলেন এই বাঙালি জীবনে””|

Last month, I penned an article about বাঙালির একটি গুরুদেব| On this পঁচিশে বৈশাখ (25th day of Vaishakha month) and on the 159th birth anniversary, I could not not write about বাঙালির আর একজন গুরুদেব, Rabindranath Tagore, especially when I have my “Masalamug”☕

If ever there were four immortality pills 💊💊💊💊 created, three of them should have been reserved for Rabindranath Tagore, Kishore Kumar and Satyajit Ray. “He was not of an age, but for all time” – this quote about Shakespeare also rings true for Tagore…because people with so many talents should be the ones to survive forever, to influence and mould every generation of the human race.

I do not claim to comprehend every aspect of Tagore. But I do know that he was a great poet, an ace songwriter, a beautiful composer, a brilliant storyteller, a vivid painter, a profound philosopher and a learned educationist. How can one human being have such varied areas of “expertise”, not just areas of “interest” – is the part beyond my comprehension. Oh yes! I forgot……and sometimes, a strong nationalist as well .

As for this article, let me attempt to pen down three reasons why he will be always be the most complete artist ever to grace the face of this earth.

An exponent of Indian classical music, he used all ten tthaats and more than 60 raagas across his numerous compositions. Then there are so many of them based on regional or folk forms of music like বাউল (baul)and কীর্তন (kirtan). And then, more than fifty compositions on Western classical and Carnatic classical forms.
THAT, was Tagore – all of that, and then some more! For the uninitiated, most people take a lifetime to master just one of these musical forms.
Overall, he had written and composed more than 1750 songs under 17 different পর্যায় (classes) across all these forms of music. Here’s a breakdown of that:

পর্যায় (class)Number of compositions
ভূমিকা (introduction)1
আনুষ্ঠানিক (ceremonial)21
আনুষ্ঠানিক সঙ্গীত (music to observe some specific occasions)17
ভানুসিংহের পদাবলী (songs written using his childhood pen name)21
বিচিত্র (amazing)140
গীতিনাট্য (opera)3
জাতীয় সঙ্গীত (songs for the country)16
নাট্যগীতি (songs written for dramas)130
নৃত্যনাট্য (dance drama)3
প্রকৃতি (nature)283
প্রেম (love)395
প্রেম ও প্রকৃতি 101
পূজা (offering)617
পূজা ও প্রার্থনা (prayer and offering)40
স্বদেশ (nation)46
পরিশোধ (version of the opera, Shyama)3
পরিশিষ্ট (supplemental songs not attributed to him)15
Chinmay Chattopadhyay’s captivating version of “Amaro Parano Jaha Chay

Have a listen of this song আমারো পরানো যাহা চায় (Amaro porano jaha chay) from the প্রেম পর্যায় (love genre/class). Possibly the most popular of the Rabindra Sangeets, I bet শতকরা নিরানব্বই শতাংশ (99%) বাঙালিs would have heard one or more version of this song from the stalwarts of Rabindrasangeet – Hemanta Mukherjee, Dwijen Mukhopadhyay, Suchitra Mitra, Sagar Sen or Rezwana Chowdhury. But this rendition by Chinmoy Chattopadhyay, I promise you, is the বাবা (big daddy!) of all. The ultraমোলায়েম (mellifluous) voice & superস্পষ্ট (crisp) pronunciation of Chinmoy, alongwith the confluence of the piano, violin, esraj, flute, hawaiian guitar & tabla makes this version stand out over any other.

A whopping 1.5 billion people on this earth are familiar with his work. Let me explain how.
But first, can you imagine being the guy who penned “God save the queen”, the national anthem for the UK. For that man (or woman) would not want to be born again with the dubious distinction of being unknown to the rest of the world!
Contrast this with Tagore, who not only penned the “Dispenser of the destiny of India”, but also has the distinction of dispensing similar songs for our two neighbours as well. “Dispenser of the destiny of India” is “ভারত ভাগ্য বিধাতা” – the original 5-stanza-poem of which we grew up singing only the first one in our school’s morning assembly. And just as we feel our chests swelling up as we sing জন গণ মন (Jana Gana Mana), our eastern neighbours feel similar pride while delivering আমার সোনার বাংলা (Aamar Sonar Bangla) and island neighbours down south while chanting শ্রীলঙ্কা মাতা (Sri Lanka Matha) – all of them composed (or allegedly influenced) by Rabindranath Tagore.
I promise you would feel a sudden nationalist urge as you listen to this brahmo-hymn like composition, ভারত ভাগ্য বিধাতা (Bharoto Bhagya Vidhata, below) – the complete version of জন গণ মন (Jana Gana Mana) – from the movie Rajkahini!

The five-stanza version of our National Anthem

So while you are still captivated by that feeling of pride listening to the anthem, have a look at this screen-grab of two of his manuscripts.

More than the writing itself, it’s the visual appeal of the doodle – probably used at times to chime in with the theme of his own writing, maybe used nonchalantly on other occasions to make corrections into them. Doesn’t it leave you in awe of the creative breadth of his extraordinarily gifted mind? And considering that he only started painting when he was in his sixties, it is hard to believe that he has more than two thousand canvases to his credit – perhaps the painter in him lay dormant, deciding on what to paint when it turned sixty-three!

Indeed, it had to be a remarkably well-developed “right cerebral cortex” that could delve into the minutiae of such diverse things using so many art forms. A person with that faculty who was “a symbol of India’s cultural regeneration” (as Padma Vibhushan and renowned painter K G Subramanyam once called him) inarguably deserved the Nobel 🏆. And most definitely, that immortality pill 💊!

And just in case you are still wondering who get’s the last of those immortality pills💊, why don’t you pop in your choice of name(s) in the comments box below and we will see whether we can reach a conclusion.

Meet you again soon, until then 

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Alakananda Bhattacharya
Editor

Very nice article Ayan. Informative and very intriguing. Keep up the great writing…Joi Guru! 🙂

Shikari Shambu
Shikari Shambu
2 years ago

Truly a very interesting take on this great personality who is beyond words to capture and define..
No wonder he was way ahead of his time, and inspired people across generations. This essence has been so gracefully portrayed in this article,
Suggestion: Maybe a line on his art’s impression in Bangladesh can be added, as that is not much published here.

Himanshu
Himanshu
2 years ago

I think RD Burman should revive the 4th pill of immortality!!

Araktim
Araktim
2 years ago

Well written Ayan.. Indeed it is a moment of pride to have Gurudev born in this soil. No words can suffice his greatness.

Ashwani Kumar
Ashwani Kumar
2 years ago

Content here is a Great Masala!

Amrita Chatterjee
Amrita Chatterjee
2 years ago

Very creative and really true …

Amrita Chatterjee
Amrita Chatterjee
2 years ago

Very interesting and creative work. Really true.

Susmita Patra
Susmita Patra
2 years ago

I was searching for one heart touching speech in Rabindrajayanti ,but today by reading this m just speechless….I can’t find an word to mention how beautiful it is to describe Tagore…and specially it is in English so everybody can understand…Rabindranath is always ঠাকুর for me n all of us..He is our India’s “Father”..I don’t know how many people will agree in that…He was a true and most talented human being …and he was,is and will be…Then obviously he already got the immortality pills.
Thank You for uploading this..

Jaishree
Jaishree
2 years ago

Beautifully written Ayan, Being a non bengali my introduction to Rabindra Sangeet happened in grade six and there has been no looking back since then . Gurudeb is beyond words and will continue to inspire generations to come

Sonali Bakshi
Sonali Bakshi
2 years ago

Very informative… good write up..👍

Tarun Singh
Tarun Singh
2 years ago

Super informative… thanks for sharing

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