Rabindranath Tagore (sometimes rendered in a more modern transliteration as Thakur or Thakura) was one of the great writers of the early 20th century.
Rabindranath Tagore was born to a wealthy Brahmin family in Calcutta (Kolkata) in West Bengal during the British occupation of India.
His mother died when “Rabi” was a young child and his father’s responsibilities often required travel, leaving Rabindranath to be raised by elder siblings and family servants. His family was central to regional political, intellectual, and artistic social circles, however, ensuring that the young Tagore was exposed to great art and learning from an early age.
Tagore began composing poetry by the age of six and showed such a natural gift that he, at the age of sixteen, published a set of poems under a pseudonym that was mistakenly received by critics as a long-lost masterpiece. Only later was it revealed that the author was the adolescent Tagore.
As an older teenager, Tagore was sent to study in England, but soon left school to more actively feed his wide-ranging interests through self-study.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Tagore established an ashram as a place for learning, teaching, and agricultural experimentation.
Tagore was a strong advocate for Indian nationalism in opposition to British imperial rule, while, at the same time, criticizing the most violent expressions of revolution.
During his lifetime, Tagore traveled extensively, meeting the world’s great writers, scientists, political leaders, and social reformers.
Rabindranath Tagore was also an accomplished painter, as well as a musician and prolific composer, with more than 2,000 songs to his credit.
Tagore’s poetry draws from the rich devotional poetic traditions of India, but rendered in a highly fluid, contemporary style. His impact on world poetry and literature is immense, especially writing that explores the modern mind through the mystic’s lens. Countless literary figures of the 20th century cite Tagore as an important influence and source of inspiration. Although his library of poetry is extensive, his most widely read and loved collection is The Gitanjali.
In 1913, he became the first non-European to with the Nobel Prize in Literature.