New Delhi, May 5, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB-India) Rabindranath Tagore and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, two great Indians of the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth century had between them a kinship and appreciation of deepest character. They both were for Indianism, humanism and emancipation of dispossessed. On them Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1941, wrote in his jail diary, “ Gandhi and Tagore, two types entirely different from each other and yet both of them typical of India, both in the long line of India’s great men…, I have felt for long that they were the outstanding examples in the world today. There are many of course who may be abler than them or greater geniuses in their own line. It is not so much because of any single virtue but because of the tout ensemble, that I felt that among the world’s great men today Gandhi and Tagore were supreme as human beings. What good fortune for me to have come into close contact with them”.
Tagore first called Gandhi a Mahatma or a great
soul. He said at “Gandhiji’s call India blossomed forth to new
greatness, just as once before, in earlier times, when Buddha
proclaimed the truth, of fellow feeling and compassion among all
living creatures”. Gandhiji called him the Great Sentinel or Gurudev”.
To the outside world Tagore never hesitated to
project Mahatma Gandhi as the spiritual soul of India. He wrote
to China’s Marshal Chian Kai Sek in 1938 saying, “At this
desperate age of moral upset it is only natural for us to hope
that the continent which has produced two greatest men, Buddha
and Christ, in the whole course of human events must still
fulfill its responsibility to maintain the purest expression of
character in the teeth of the scientific effrontery of the evil
genius of man. Has not that expectation already shown in its
first luminous streak of fulfillment in the person of Gandhi in
a historical horizon obscured by centuries of …?” Chiang Kai Sek
replied to the letter (concern on Japan China conflict) as
“Respected Gurudev Tagore”.
A Bengali poet and a Gujrati Barister, working in
South Africa. How the kinship developed? As described by
Tagore’s biographer Prabhat Kumar Mukerji. In 1912-13 a Gujrati
Barister Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was busy in organizing
Satyagraha in South Africa to protest against atrocities on
Overseas Indians. Mutual friend of Gandhi and Tagore a British
Missionary and a Poet C.F. Andrews was going to observe the
movement. Tagore wrote to Andrews “You are fighting our cause in
Africa along with Mr. Gandhi and others.
The poet and the karmayogi met for the first time
on March 6, 1915. Gandhij was not quite satisfied with the
Santiniketan system. He wanted the students to do their own jobs
along with studies, he felt there was no need for servants,
cooks, sweeper or water carriers. When Gandhiji’s desire was
communicated to Tagore he agreed without any hesitation. He
announced, come “sab kaje hat lagai mora”. The new system
started on March 10, 1915 which Tagore declared as “Gandhi
Divas” in Tagore’s Ashram. Meanwhile Gandhiji plunged into the
freedom movement through his non-violent, non-cooperation
movement changing Congress first 30 years’ movement of petition
and constitutionalism to a movement of action. In 1921 the poet
entered into a controversy with Gandhiji regarding the methods used.
He took exception to boycotting of schools and
colleges and even burning of foreign clothes. In a letter to
C.F. Andrews he wrote “a crowd of young students came to see me.
They said if I would order them to leave schools they will obey.
I was emphatic in my refusal. They went angry, doubting
sincerity of my love for the motherland. Reason for my refusal “
anarchy of emptiness never tempts me”.
In spite of their differences Tagore salutes
Gandhiji’s spirit and the sea change he had brought into the
lives of Indians but was unable to follow him in his steps.
However, Rabindranath was not hesitant of paying his tributes to
Gandhiji. He said, “He (Gandhiji) stopped at the threshold of
huts of thousand of dispossessed, like one o their own.He spoke
in their own language. Here was the living truth at last, not
quotations from book. For this Mahatma the name given to him by
the people of India is his real name”.
Rabindranath once mentioned about Gandhiji’s call
for plying Charkha for half an hour every day. Tagore asked why
not eight and half hours, if it could help the country, in
gaining freedom or Swaraj. The two could not agree.
On May 20, 1932 Mahatmaji went on a fast in
Yerwada Jail protesting against separate electoral
representation for backward Hindus. Tagore sent a telegram to
Gandhiji saying “it is well worth sacrificing precious life for
the sake of India’s unity and her social integrity. Though we
cannot anticipate what effect it may have upon rulers who may
not understand its immense importance for our people, we feel
certain that the supreme appeal of such self offering to the
conscience of our own countrymen will not be in vain. I
fervently hope that we will not callously allow such national
tragedy to reach its extreme length. Our sorrowing hearts will
follow your sublime penance with reverence and love. Gandhiji
replied “ “have always experience God’s mercy. Very early this
morning I wrote seeking your blessing if you could approve
action and behold I have it in abundance in your message just
received” referring to the telegram.
The same day Gandhiji wrote a letter to Gurudev
Rabindranath saying “This is early morning 3 o’clock of Tuesday.
I enter the fiery gate at noon – if you can bless the effort. I
want it. You have been to me a true friend because you have been
a candid friend often speaking your though aloud. I had looked
forward to a firm opinion from you one or the other. But you
have refused to criticize. Though it can now only be during my
fast. I will yet prize your criticism, if your heart condemns my
action. I am not too proud to make an open confession of my
blunder, whatever the cost of confession, I find myself in
error. If your heart approves the action I want your blessing.
It will sustain me I hope I have made myself clear. My love”. A
note was added by Gandhiji to this letter “Just as I was handing
this o the Superintendent, I got your loving and magnificent
wire. It will sustain me in the midst of the storm I am about to
enter”. (Source: Rabindra Rachanawali, Vol. 14)
Worried about the health of Mahatma Gandhi,
fasting in Yerwada Jail protesting against the British proposal
to formulate separate electoral representation to scheduled
castes, Rabindranath Tagore reached Pune to see for himself.
Mahatmaji sent his son to escort Tagore inside. By that time the
British Government had accepted the demand of Mahatma Gandhi and
the fasting leader observing moun till afternoon that day agreed
to break his fast. Kamala Nehru prepared the juice and Kasturba
Gandhi offered the sip. Tagore was requested by Mahatmaji to
sing a self composed song. He sang “jiban jakhan shukai e jai,
karunadharai eso”. Tagore included his experience of the day
into his book on Mahatma Gandhi.
In Pune on Gandhi’s birthday Tagore attended a
meeting in Shivaji Mandir presided over by Madan Mohan Malaviya
where he read out his written speech and gave full throated
support to Mahatmaji’s untouchability abolition movement.
Mahatma Gandhi visited Tagore’s school and
university in Santiniketan on four occasions – twice with
Kasturba Gandhi and twice alone. In 1936 Rabindranath reached
Delhi with his Dance Drama team after visiting Allahabad and
Lucknow with the purpose of collecting funds for Vishwa Bharati
to tide over the money crunch. Mahatma Gandhi was sad to see
that his Gurudev at such an old age moving around collecting
funds. Gandhiji met him and arranged the money.
In 1940, a year before Tagore’s death, Gandhi
along with Kasturba Gandhi went to see the ailing poet, where
Tagore asked him to take charge of Vishwa Bharati after his
absence. In 1951 after Independence, Vishwa Bharati was taken
over by the Government of India as a Central University.
Rabindranath attended a number of Congress
sessions in Calcutta where he composed songs and sang. ‘Jana
Gana Mana’ the National Anthem was the opening song for the
second day of the Congress Session in 1911.