Tagore’s legacy is sacrosanct

Tagore’s legacy is sacrosanct
When Swami Vivekananda was touring North India, a group of young men came to see him. They represented the cause of protecting cows. Swamiji asked them why they sought a ban on cow slaughter. They responded that the cow was their mother. “That I can see”, was all Swami Vivekananda muttered. The anecdote explains the gulf between an intellectually oriented Hindu and those who are the cadres. Kalyan Singh, the Governor of Rajasthan, belongs to the latter category.
Some time ago Ram Guha wrote in an article, on lack of right-wing intellectuals in India and I quote, “There is a distinction to be drawn between intellectuals and ideologues, who are more interested in promoting their political or religious beliefs than in contributing to the growth of knowledge. The writings of ideologues are rarely based on serious or extended research.” If Kalyan Singh is now viewed as a BJP ideologue, his utter lack of knowledge on Tagore’s five stanza poem “Bharata Bhagya <g data-gr-id="86">Bidhata</g>” and background thereof illustrates how idiotic such ideologues are.

First let us go through the poem for the uninitiated ones. Kalyan Singh thinks that the “<g data-gr-id="92">adhinayaka</g>” mentioned in the song was King George the Fifth. Clearly he never had the occasion to read the whole five stanza poem. If he did he would have chanced upon the beginning of the third stanza,

“The way of life is somber as it moves through ups and downs,
But we, the pilgrims, have followed it through ages.
Oh! Eternal Charioteer, the wheels of your chariot
Echo day and night in the path”.

Just explain Mr Singh, can any mortal king, let alone George V, answer the description of the Eternal Charioteer? Even Tagore wrote in 1939, “I should only insult myself if I cared to answer those who consider me capable of such unbounded stupidity as to sing in praise of George the Fourth or George the Fifth as the Eternal Charioteer leading the pilgrims on their journey through countless ages of the timeless history of mankind.”

The reason for this controversy had been the presstitutes of the day, the British Indian Press. The Statesman and also the Englishman reported on December 28, 1911 on the Congress convention taking place in Kolkata, “The Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore sang a song composed by him specially to welcome the Emperor” , “The proceedings began with the singing by Rabindranath Tagore of a song specially composed by him in honour of the Emperor.”

And see what the Indian press wrote. To quote from the Amrita Bazar Patrika and The Bengalee, both reported onDecember 28:

“The proceedings of the Congress party session started with a prayer in Bengali to praise God (song of benediction). This was followed by a resolution expressing loyalty to King George V. Then another song was sung welcoming King George V.”

“The annual session of Congress began by singing a song composed by the great Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore. Then a resolution expressing loyalty to King George V was passed. A song paying a heartfelt homage to King George V was then sung by a group of boys and girls.”

Even the report of the annual session of the Indian National Congress of December 1911 stated this difference: “On the first day of the 28th annual session of the Congress, proceedings started after singing Vande Mataram. On the second day, the work began after singing a patriotic song by Babu Rabindranath Tagore. Messages from well-wishers were then read and a resolution was passed expressing loyalty to King George V. Afterwards the song composed for welcoming King George V and Queen Mary was sung”, “The second song in praise of George V was composed by a relative of Tagore (Jatindra Mohan Tagore). The eight line song started with “Hail Noble Prince! All hail to Thee!”
Why blame the rustics from BJP alone, some time back Markandey Katju, who became the Judge of India’s Supreme Court said that Tagore in 1937 wanted to project himself as a patriot and wrote in defence of the poem. He had in mind the letter that Tagore wrote to Pulin Bihari Sen in 1937 (November 10) : “A certain high official in His Majesty’s service, who was also my friend, had requested that I write a song of felicitation towards the Emperor. The request simply amazed me. It caused a great stir in my heart. In response to that great mental turmoil, I pronounced the victory in Jana Gana Mana of that Bhagya Vidhata (i.e. God of Destiny) of India who has from age after age held steadfast the reins of India’s chariot through rise and fall, through the straight path and the curved. That the Lord of Destiny, that Reader of the Collective Mind of India, that Perennial Guide could never be George V, George VI, or any other George. Even my official friend understood this about the song. After all, even if his admiration for the crown was excessive, he was not lacking in simple common sense.”

What I fail to understand is why did Tagore, at the ripe old age of 76, want to project himself as a nationalist? If he was a steadfast friend of the British Crown, why did he return the “knighthood” in 1919 in the wake of the Jalianwala Bagh massacre? What is more, why was Shantiniketan, the school Tagore set up, was in the blacklist of the then British Government? Little learning is said to be dangerous. But that does not deter you to assume the posts of Judge or Governor.
Sugato Hazra

Sugato Hazra

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