Amrit Sen is Professor of English at Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan. A recipient of the Outstanding Thesis Award, his areas of interest include Eighteenth Century Literature and Tagore Studies.
Rabindranath Tagores incredibly vast career as litterateur, educationist, thinker, painter and activist brought him in contact with an array of personalities. Some of these interactions happened early in his formative years; others followed as he embarked on his mission to create an alternative imagined community in Santiniketan. Greatly influenced by the idea of universal man, Rabindranath's eternal search was for areas of congruence and interaction between civilisations. Thus in Bharattirtha Rabindranath writes.
In this exchange there will be a confluence, Nothing will be lost in this pilgrimage of humanity.
While Rabindranath opened up the self to multifarious influences across the globe, his local realities and cultural forms were not lost on him. From his early creative days he carefully studied and recorded indigenous cultural forms and integrated them in his literary and pedagogic processes. If he served the community through the Sriniketan experiment, he also reflected the local realities through his Bengali primer Sahaj Path. It is this strange, yet vital relationship between the local and the global that formed the crux of Rabindranath's rich complexity.
This vitality is also noticed in the gamut of his interactions with some of the most distinguished individuals of his time. Attracted by the range of his ideas and his creative and pedagogic experimentations, these individuals would open horizons for Tagore and substantially add to the Santiniketan community. Accordingly personalities like Okakura, Winternitz, Elmhirst, Ocampo, Andrews were drawn to various facets of Rabindranath's creativity.
At the same time, leading Indian thinkers and artists reacted to Rabindranath's ideas with their own verve. Rabindranath's relationship with Gandhi, plumbing depths of mutual respect and intellectual disagreement, is a case in point. These debates form some of the basic contours of the future of modem India. Rabindranath's interactions with Nandalal provided an impetus in the development of the Santiniketan School of art that created a new direction to the aesthetic movement in India. In that sense, none of these interactions are plain records. They are repositories of ideas on science, religion, creativity and cultural negotiation. They raise questions about universalism and global cultures, while remaining alert to issues of urgent local concerns.
Each of the essays in this collection is thus a nucleus tracing the radiation of Rabindranath’s ideas. The term circle used in the title is thus pregnant with meaning.
Book's Contents and Sample Pages
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