Why Tagore? by Ramachandra Guha

Ramachandra Guha is a highly acclaimed contemporary historian of India.  His India after Gandhi (Macmillan/Ecco Press, 2007) was chosen as a book of the year by the Economist, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, the San Francisco Chronicle, Time Out and Outlook; and as a book of the decade in the Times of India, the Times of London, and The Hindu. His most recent book Makers of Modern India profiles nineteen Indians whose ideas had a defining impact on the formation and evolution of India.

Click here to read Guha’s essay Travelling with Tagore. We are very grateful to him for letting us have it for this site.  In this essay, Guha tries to answer a questioner as to why he identifies Tagore as one of the founders of modern India.  ‘I can see why you singled out the other three,’ said his questioner. ‘Gandhi led the freedom movement, Nehru nurtured the infant Indian state, Ambedkar helped write its Constitution and gave dignity to the oppressed. But why Tagore?’

Here is Guha’s reply:

The impact of Tagore’s ideas on Gandhi and Nehru has perhaps been given less attention than it deserves. It was through the poet’s provocation that these two men developed a theory of nationalism that was inclusive, not exclusive; a nationalism that sought not just political freedom for the Nation but equal rights for all its citizens. Where other nationalisms insisted on a homogeneity of attitudes and world views, the idea of India respected and even celebrated the linguistic, cultural and religious diversity of its peoples. This idea of India was inclusive outside its borders, prepared to overlook the horrors of colonialism once colonialism had formally ended, to forge new and equitable relations with all the countries and peoples of the world.

Here then is one possible answer to the question ‘Why Tagore?’: that the two most influential of modern Indians were shaped and reshaped by their encounters (in person, as well as in print) with the poet. This may be reason enough for the rest of us to recover Tagore, to read him afresh, to sense that his works carry much meaning for those Indians who do not speak Bengali or those human beings who do not live in India.

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2 Responses to “Why Tagore? by Ramachandra Guha”

  1. It is a very informative and communicative website.Tagore will reach out to people all over the world .

  2. The Slave of the Husband…

    Trying to get in advance to researching excess from you afterward!……

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Our Tagore events

  • Oct 6, 2012 AUTUMN EXTRAVAGANZA, Michael Power St. Joseph High School, Toronto. A variety show with Tagore’s works, and a multicultural Dance Ensemble with folk dances of Ukraine, Chile, and India.

  • Sep 25, 2012 'Walking Alone: Justice and Inequality in Tagore's thought', talk by Ananya Mukherjee-Reed at Princeton University, USA.

  • May 4, 2012 Soul of Spring,McMichael Art Gallery, Kleinburg, Ontario. A medley of music, dance and poetry based on Tagore's play. It was performed during an exhibition of Tagore's paintings 'The Last Harvest' at the gallery.

  • Jan 19, 2012 'Race and Diversity in Tagore', talk by Ananya Mukherjee-Reed at the University of Toronto

  • Sept 30, 2011 Tagore reading at the Festival of South Asian Literature and the Arts

  • October 2, 2011 A panel on Tagore featuring Uma Dasgupta and Martha Nussbaum on Writers & Company, CBC Radio One Broadcast time 3:05 pm Eastern. Click here for more details and podcast
  • Dec 3-4, 2011: A film festival featuring the North American premier of two films based on Tagore's work.
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