THE 150th birth anniversary of world famous poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Thakur is being celebrated throughout India. At a higher level, Thakur’s institutionalising is progressing with great fervour. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has announced that a “distinguished panel” of 25 persons would oversee the celebrations. The Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) is unveiling plans to showcase Thakur to the world. This is the month when both sides of Bengal -West Bengal and Bangladesh become almost ‘mad’ after Rabindranath Thakur. One has to come this part of India to feel the high sentiment of the people here.
In fact Rabindranath was present in every sphere of human life with his unparallel writings. Although he received his Nobel Prize for his book of poem named Geetanjali he had his frequent journey in the field of culture, literature, politics, economy etc. In every field his ideas were very pragmatic and orchestrated in tune with traditional Indian culture. So it naturally used to touch the hearts of Indians. All aspects of his life and literature are so vast that even today after 150 years of his birth, many intellectuals think that there are many things yet to be discovered and discussed.
As a great national poet he had given us the National Song-Jana Gana Mana. But a controversy was cropped up veering round this song. Many people including some erudite intellectuals, even today, think that Rabindranath wrote this song in praise of the British King George V, who came to India in 1911 and there was a Delhi Durbar ceremony. It is said that Rabindranath was asked to write a song to be sung on this occasion. But this was a blatant lie and this ‘lie’ was publicised by the British News Agency Reuters. Rabindranath wrote a long rejoinder letter to the authorities of Reuters, but they did not publish it or circulate it among their subscribers. Pulin Behari Sen in his book regarding this subject had quoted the rejoinder letter of Rabindranath Thakur. This book was published by Visva Bharati.
But this was a fact that some officials of the British government did approach the authorities to keep this song as an item of the function arranged for in honour of George V. British officials had refused to include this song in Delhi Durbar function. On April 23, 2010 The Hindustan Times published an article written by Sumit Mitra and the caption of the article was “At Home in the World”. In the last Para of his article Shri Mitra wrote: “In December 1911, his (Rabindranath’s) Jana Gana Mana was sung at the Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress after the Viceroy’s office had rejected it as the opening number for the Delhi Durbar with George V at its centre, for its deficit of ‘loyalty’. The swap is significant.”
This was a significant confusion which has to be cleared from the minds of all Indians. Further, it should be noted that this canard against Rabindranath was surreptitiously spread by Reuters and the so-called English educated intelligentsia of our country love to believe that Reuters cannot commit any mistake.
Gandhiji was 8 years junior to Rabindranath and he was an admirer of Rabindranath. Gandhiji, Nehruji and Indiraji frequently visited the poet at Visva Bharati in Santiniketan. It was Rabindranath who gave the title of Mahatma, Rituraj and Priyadarshini to Gandhi, Nehru and Indira respectively. And after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919 when Rabindranath relinquished his knighthood, Indian politicians were all admiration for him. Almost all national leaders were put up in the jails and there was none to organise a protest meeting against the massacre of Jallianwala Bagh. It was Rabindranath who called a protest meeting at Town Hall, Calcutta. The crowd assembled there was overflowing the Hall. Hence, he transferred the meeting at Monument Maidan and Rabindranath had delivered one of the most emotional speeches of his life.
Rabindranath had been lamenting all through his life for the kind of patriotism we had been following. In his opinion, our patriotism had been deeply influenced by foreign ideas enumerated in their books and literature. They had no roots in this country. Hence, patriotism followed by our leaders does not enthuse them to make supreme sacrifice for the country or countrymen.
So his suggestion was: “One has to interact with countrymen with the sense of deep love and oneness. One should study their problems, educational standard, religious ideas, influence of superstitions etc. At the same time, one has to make them understand that what is the actual motivation of foreign rules here vis-a-vis what our leaders, who are educated in European system of education, are doing. They cannot unite the countrymen on the basis of their ideas. Instead we need some straightforward young men and women who will mix with people unhesitatingly leaving aside all their personal liking and disliking and totally dedicated for the cause of country and countrymen. Only they can do something good for the country.”
In this connection, he had cited the life of one Japanese patriot who first travelled the whole country and saw the problems and miseries of his own countrymen. At the end of his down to earth knowledge of the country, he started imparting education to his fellow countrymen and ultimately he was assassinated by some self-interested people. But he did not complain.
So Rabindranath at that time reminded his listeners that if you cannot blend your theoretical education (which was mostly influenced by foreign educational system) with down-to-earth knowledge of your country then all your efforts for freedom movement or any movement will go in vain, they will never find any success. During the days of Anti Bengal Partition Movement, Rabindranath wrote a bunch of articles in Bangadarshan to make the people understand what actually Swadesh Bodh or patriotism means.
This is, at least, one area where Rabindranath Thakur is still relevant. So even after 150 years of his birth we still remember him.
(The writer was a member of Press Council of India, 1998-2001)