Gitanjali or “The Song Offerings” is a reflection of Rabindranath’s consciousness, wisdom & philosophy. The original work, which was published on August 14 1910, comprised 157 songs. The English version was released in November 1912 by the India Society of London. It contained translations of 53 poems from the original Bengali Gitanjali ,as well as 50 other poems which were from his drama Achalayatana & 8 other books of poetry –mainly Gitimalya ,Naivadya & Kheya . It had a long introduction by the noted poet W.B. Yeats.
Gitanjali has 2 aspects. Firstly, most of these songs are written as conversations between the poet and God. Sometimes the words of God remained unuttered, yet the poet speaks of his prayers and feelings. On the other hand, apart from some personal prayers, some songs also addressed to the Bharatvidhata—the God of India. In 2 songs – He mor chitto punyatirthe jagore dhire (song no 106) and He more durvaga desh (song no 108) the poet called his countrymen to unite against the evils of their own as well as the foreign rule. We must remember that Gitanjali was written in the context of British India. When the protest against the British Govt flowed both in violent & nonviolent ways, the poet prayed toBharatvidhata to awaken his countrymen into the heaven of wisdom & work. He also prayed for the removal of caste discrimination.
The prayers of the poet are not for mortal or earthly things. They have aspirations for a better life. Yeats says that these songs came from great sorrow & deep emotion. A single line of his poetry can make anyone forget of all the troubles of the world. The songs of Gitanjali can purify our body & mind to get closer to our God. Although the God of Rabindranath is the God of beauty, wisdom & perfection, not a rigid deity prescribed by religion or tradition. This God does not have any specific image nor did the poet ever represent his God through any symbols. He resembles the God of the Upanishads, the concept of a supernatural power. The first song of the collection Amar matha nata kre dao he tomar charandhular pore apparently cites a request from the poet to his God to bend the poet’s head down forcefully before the Almighty. But the inner meaning of the song is the devotee has to give up his pride to get the ultimate peace & happiness from his God. In Bipode more raksa kato he prayed to his God to give him power & make him fearless to face his problems.
Rabindranath drew the picture of death as the way to go to his God. The concept of death comes to him as a peaceful ocean where he can rest after his mortal life passes. The songs of Gitanjali have a deep connection with nature. These songs are mostly written in the context of monsoon, autumn or spring. When nature brings her assets to us by decorating our surroundings with new pictures, new lights and new fruits and flowers, it makes us new & pure for devoting ourselves to God. Song no 11 & 13—amra bedhechi kasher guchha and Amar nayana vulano ele describe the festures of autumn, song no 12 Amala dhabala pale legeche mandomadhur hawa is written in the background of rain. Song nos 16 to 20 depict the different pictures of rainy season.
It is hard to place Rabindranath and his ideas in any genre. Highly eclectic yet harmoniously synthesized into a whole, these ideas, as reflected in the Gitanjali, reflect the innermost feelings of the poet. Not only is this work a Classic which must be read by anyone who wants to experience the true essence of Tagore and the Bengali Renaissance, but is also a necessary reading for anyone interested in philosophy.
Why did it win Nobel Prize? Best translation…..