The squl always wants to travel, that is its nature. It dies if it does not travel. That is why it goes on moving either for necessity or for pleasure. You have seen the ducks that flock on the shoals of the Padma. They leave their nests that are located next to some lonely lake encircled by the rugged Himalyan peaks and after flying for many days and nights they arrive on the sandy banks of the Padma.
Travels formed an integral part of the personae and creative artist that was Rabindranath Tagore, During his travels to England and the USA (1912-13 and 1920) Tagore wrote essays for publication in various Bengali journals. In 1939, Tagore selected fourteen of these essays and an appendix containing seven letters he had written to some of the teachers in the Shantiniketan ashram while he was on these trips. For publication as a volume. Tagore rewrote the original essays then using the colloquial instead of the formal language; he also revised the texts substantially. Later editions altered the number of essays, sometimes digressing from Tagore's own selection. Sometimes going back to Tagore's original formal language.
The travelogue provides an insight into tagore's perception of the different facets of western life and the diverse philosphical issues that cross his mind as he journeys from one contiment to anohter.
Translated from Bengali for the first time, Pather Sanchoy would be of interest to all those who enjoy exploring unknown territories geographically and psychologically.
Rabindranth Tagore was an itinerant traveller. He had the opportunity to travel with his family members from his childhood days. His grandfather, Dwarkanath Tagore, was the second person among educated Indians (after Raja Ram Mohan Roy) to sail to England. Thus it is no wonder that the lust for the distance pulled him out of home and health repeately, throughout his life. On September 20, 1878 he accomplained his brother satyandranath and sailed for England for the first time. We get his experiences of travelling in a ship and glimpse of his trip from the letters he wrote home and which were published serially in the family periodical Bharati (between Baisakh 1286 B.S. and Sravana 1287 B.S.). in 1881, these letters were published under the title Yurop Probashir Patra [Letters from a Sojourner in Europe].
In 1904, these letters were again included in the Hitabadi edition of Tagore's Granthabali Later, Rabindranath, embarrassed by his juvenile bravado, edited his letters before including them in his book Paschatya Bhraman in 1936. This volume included both Yurop Probashir Patra and Yurop Jatrir Diary. He also included a Preface in the form of a letter (August 29,1936) to Charuchandra Dutta, the retired ICS officer who spent his time in Santiniketan from 1931 to 1938, in which he states, I would like this book to be regarded as a work of literature and not history.' He further wrote, 'I did not go as a wayfarer when I first travelled to England in my early years. What I meant to say is that my vision was not restricted to seeing everything fleeiting as I walked along the road. I was a guest and allowed access into homes.' In 1961, during the birth centenary of the Poet, Paschatya Bhraman was however published again containing Rabindranath's unedited letters, In the Preface to the first edition Tagore wrote that he was really not concerned whether anyone was benefited by reading his book or not: 'I have only expressed what I felt on first seeing a foreign society. However, whether this is of any use or not, one does get to know a history of how opinions are formed and revised during the visit of a Bengali in England.'
Tagore's second trip to england lasted from Augest 22 to November 3, 1890. From the first published edition of Yurop Natrir Diary (1983) we get an intimate portrait of Tagore as a person, especially from the 'Indtroduction'. His view of the orient versus the occident, of society and civlization are very significient here.
Tagore's third trip to England began in May 12, 1912 and lasted for a year and a little over four months. Here he was accompanied by his son Rathindranath and daughter –in –law, Pratima Devi. He was no longer a stranger but a familier traveller, travelling in the same route again. So in the ship he now composed songs, reworked with the English Translations and wrote letters and articles for Tattwabodhini Patrika. Tagore also visited several schools in England to see their methods of education. Whatever he read and saw were sent as articles /letters home. Those are now collected in Pather Sanchay and Siksha. After staying in England for four months the Poet went to America on November 28, 1912. He stayed in different places including New York, Illinois, Urbana, Chicago, Boston and Cambridge. As a direct Impact of this Europe and America trip he developed more modern Ideas. On september 4,1913 the poet boarded the ship City of Lahore from Liverpool and reached Bombay on October 4.
In his fourth trip to Europe Tagore arrived in England on June 5, 1920. After staying in England for four months he went to other countries of Europe. In the aftermath of World War I and his rejection of knightwood now. On October 28, 1920 he reached New York along with Irish friend. William W. Pearson. The response in America was lukewarm too and no one was ready to accept his idea of internationalism or the motto of Visva –Bharati. Returning to England on March 24, 1921, Tagore breathed a sigh of releif. By the time he returned to India in July 1921, the country was deeply involved in the non –cooperation movement.
As mentioned earlier, during Rabindranath's third visit to England and USA during 1912-13, he wrote some essays for publication in various Bengali journals like Tattwabodhini Patrika, Prabasi and Bharti. Rabindranath was anxious to have these collected in a travel book. In January 1915, he wrote to Ajit Kumar Chakravarty, one of the English teachers in the Ashram Vidyalaya, I shall feel assured if you edit Santiniketan and Letters from 'England'. Unfortuantely nothing came of this wish till as late as 1939 when Rabindranath himself set about to prepare this book. He selected fourteen of these essays for publication. These also included some from the 1920 trip to England and USA. What is significient here is that the seventy –eight –year old poet rewrote the essays using the colloquial chalit bhasha instead of the formal sadhu bhasha; he also revised the texts substantially. To these fourteen essays, he added an appendix which included seven letters he had written to some of the Vidyalaya teachers while he was on this trip. It is clear from this selection that Rabindranath wanted a travelogue which would compile his writing during the 1912-13 tour and his 1920 trip. In 1936, when Paschatya Bhraman was being prepared, his literary secreatary Amiya Chandra Chakravarty had advised Rabindranath to incorporate the writings during the 1912-13 tour and his 1920 trips into this book. Rabindranath preferred preparing a seperate book. From manuscript sources we find the title of this book was to be Paschatya Bhraman Volume II, but later the name Pather Sanchoy was chosen.
Some years after the death of the Poet, in 1946, the Visva –Bharti Publication Department decided to discard Rabindranath's own selection. They went back to the earlier formal sadhu bhasha version and then added all the writings of the 1912 -13 tour, irrespective of whether they were related to his travel (In fact, the essays that were later included are on education and there are also some spiritual discourses) and deleted the travel are also some spiritual discourses) and deleted the travel writings of 1920. The seven letters included in the appendix were also abandoned. The Visva –Bharti Publications Department did not feel the necessity to keep record of Rabindranath's selection.
As far as the publication by the Government of west is concerned, we have two editions. The Rabindra Rachanabali Birth Centenary edition (Volume 10) published in Calcutta by the Government of West Bengal in 1961 has Pather Sanchoy based on the selections made by Tagore in 1939. Later, the 1990 edition (Volume 12) of the Some Rabindra Rachanabali, once again published by the Government of Bengal, contain Tagore's own selection and the revised essays in colloquial language. This includes thirteen essays, one entry tilted 'Bichitra'/'Bilat –Jatrir Patra' (Letter from a Traveller to Vilayet), seven letters and nine essays as additions or supplement. This book aims at examining both the collection of essays and related letters and bringing all of them together under one cover so that a new and comprehensive volume of Pather Sanchoy can be read, not only the way Tagore wanted it to be, but also as a part of a new travel text that will give the reader a more in –depth view of the poet's perception of different facets of the West. Beginning with the first article called 'Jatrar Purbapatra' (Prelude to the Journey), many of these pieces are not travel articles per se; they speak of the different philosphical issues that cross his mind, different people he meets, or the different experiences he encounters. Translated from Bengali for the first time, some of these pieces will give the reader a tast of Tagore's versatility as well.
Somdatta Mandal is Professor and Head of the Deparment of English and Other Modern Euroeon Languages, Visva –Bharati, Santiniketan, Having a teaching career that spans 32 years, she has held several administrative posts in the university, Paper –setter, examiner and adjudication for doctoral dissertations across several universities in India and the Saarc nations, she has lectured widely in national and International fora.
A recipient of several prestigious international fellowships and awards from the Fulbright Foundation, Charles Wallace Trust, Rockefeller Foundation, Shastri Akademi, her areas of interest are American literature, contemporary fiction, film and culture studies, diaspora studies and translation. She has published three book, five volumes of translation, edited and co –edited 22 books, published above 90 research artical in national and international journals and anthologies.
Somdatta Mandal has published translations of several travel narratives, among which are Krishnabhabini Das's A Bengali Lady in England (2015); Wanderlust: Travels of the Tagore Family (2014); Durgabati Ghose's The Westward Traveller (2010) and Hariprabha Takeda's The Journey of a Bengali Lady to Japan and Other Essays (2017).
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