It’s five months since I left Bangalore, but I still have an interest in India, so today’s post celebrates the birthday of an Indian poet. Rabindranath Tagore was born 153 years ago today. He won the Nobel prize for Literature in 1913 – the first Asian person to do so – and died in 1941.
Tagore is commemorated in London by a bronze statue in Gordon Square. If you could zoom out from the photo below, you would see a garden (owned by London University, open to the public), then Gordon Square, then university buildings (like the School of Oriental and African Studies, University College London and the Institute of Education), some more garden squares (Tavistock Square and Russell Square) and the whole Bloomsbury area of central London.
Zooming in again to the statue, you can read the opening lines of Tagore’s work “Gitanjali” in two languages – Bengali and English.
This is part of the English version. Even if it loses something in translation, it is still beautiful.
“Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure.
This frail vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fillest it ever with fresh life.
This little flute of a reed thou hast carried over hills and dales, and hast breathed through it melodies eternally new.
At the immortal touch of thy hands my little heart loses its limits in joy and gives birth to utterance ineffable.
Thy infinite gifts come to me only on these very small hands of mine.
Ages pass, and still thou pourest, and still there is room to fill.”
Most of Tagore’s writings are in Bengali, so the Tagore Centre UK has set up a lending library with books available in English. Click here for a link to their website.
The statue was created by the sculptor Shenda Amery, and unveiled by Prince Charles in 2011, the 150th anniversary of the year in which Rabindranath Tagore was born. Click on this link to read the BBC report of the unveiling of the statue in 2011.
Another memorial to Tagore exists in north London – click here for a link to more information about that blue plaque, as reported in the local newspaper, the Ham and High.