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The Legacy of Rabindranath Tagore


Guest post by Piya Mukherjee Kalra

My earliest childhood memories of music is listening to my father sing Purano Shei Diner Kotha, in remembrance of good times spent and memories made with friends. The song inspired by Scottish bard Robert Burns' "Auld Lang Syne" (Long Long Ago). At five, I was too young to know all this but would sing along with my father as it played on a cassette player.  

From my first dance performance to Aye tobe Sohochori (Come my friend, lets hold hands and dance together) to listening to the tunes on my grandfather violin, Tagore was the sound of my childhood. I grew up surrounded by his legacy. A legacy that held a treasure box of poems, short stories, plays, dance-drama and songs, for every season, every political movement, every relationship and sentiment that one can imagine.  

Rabindranath Tagore was born on May 7, 1861 and made a significant contribution to literature and music during his lifetime in India. On his birth anniversary every year, his poems are recited, songs are sung and plays are enacted in remembrance and celebration all over the globe.  

Tagore’s work transcends Bengal.  Jodi Tor Dak Shune Keo Na Aashe, Tobay ekla cholo re (If no one listens to you call, don’t be afraid to walk alone), is his most popular known and sung song.The song that motivates you to speak your mind, even if you need to do it alone, reflecting the true spirit of much of Tagore’s work.  

Gitanjali, a collection of his poems, got him international recognition. He was the first non-European to win a Nobel Prize for literature in 1913. His poems in Gitanjali were originally written in Bengali and later translated by him in English with an introduction by the renowned poet  W.B.Yeats. Tagore is also widely known for his composition Jana Gana Mana, the National Anthem of India. In addition, he has also composed Amar Shonar Bangla the national anthem of Bangladesh and inspired the national anthem of Sri Lanka.

His stories remain relevant even today - more than 100 years later. “Kabuliwala”  the story of a dry fruit seller and his friendship with a five-year old girl, Mini, tugs at the chords of the reader’s heart, young and old. It is my most favorite childhood story and when I read it to my children, they were mesmerized and transported to another world. Many of these stories have been translated into different languages, adapted to movies, plays and television series and are relevant and cherished even in the modern times.  

Our Top Tagore Recommendations

Here a few of Tagore's books and poems sure to take you back to your childhood, and make new memories for your kids!

The Little Big Man - In this poem, a young boy is in a hurry to grow up to be a big man, just like his dad. 
Clouds and Waves - A playful verse about a young girl who eschews playtime to be with her mother.
The Astronomer - Can these two young siblings catch the moon? A delightfully curious rhyme!
The Champa Flower - What if I turned into a Champa (Plumeria) flower asks a young boy of his mother, a charming poem celebrating imagination. 
The Land of Cards: Stories, Poems and Plays for Children: From the satire of The Land of Cards, to the feeling of being confined in The Post Office, to the grief of longing in Kabuliwala, all of Tagore's stories are marked with empathy and a true understanding of the human experience. 
The Friday Fair - A whirlwind of colors, smells and sounds of the Friday fair are sure to brighten up your week!
Gitanjali - Tagore's collection of poems that cover the gamut of life's little pleasures to meditating on death and a live well-lived. 
The Prince and other Modern Fables: Fairytales by a master story teller that incite your curiosity and paint pictures with the vibrantly imaged stories. With an orphan boy, tribal girl, court jester and a modern-day prince forced to seek work, this translated classic collection is a must-read! 
Tagore for Today: Literature and Art in the classroom - This book uses Tagore's work to introduce art and literary criticism for curious young learners and thinkers. 
Check out our earlier post: A Glimpse of Bengal 

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