Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)
Tagore hailed from a wealthy, aristocratic Bengali family whose members were remarkably unorthodox, eclectic in their tastes, well traveled, artistic, and ardently in favor of social reform. He became a poet, playwright, thespian, songwriter, painter, composer, choreographer, novelist, educator, and world traveler. He wrote virtually every day of his life, and was equally eloquent in Bengali and in English.

In 1910, Tagore won the Nobel Prize for literature for Gitanjali, a collection of verse songs from his vast and varied writings. Knighted in 1915, he returned his title in 1919 in protest against a government that had opened fire on thousands of innocent unarmed civilians, many of whom were infants and children, at the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre.

Tagore was an elegant, imposing, and revered personage. He was the first person to address Gandhi as the Mahatma, and the appellation stuck. Although they were close and each admired the other, Gandhi and Tagore strongly disagreed on political and ideological issues.

Blending the best of Eastern and Western traditions, Tagore opened a school at
'Santiniketan (Abode of Peace). Although it had a slow and rocky start, the school became the foundation for the Vi'svabharati University—a flourishing and unique world university remarkable for its serenity and genuine respect for study.

Rabindranath Tagore. Gitanjali (Song offerings). Translated by the author; with an introduction by W. B. Yeats. London: Printed at the Chiswick Press for the India Society, 1912. Gift of James A. Healy.

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