Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore is a poetry collection published in 1910, originally written in Bengali, and also translated by him in English, which I feel is a trait of sheer linguistic intellect. It received universal acclaim which led him to win the Nobel Prize in Literature – being the only Indian to so – after gaining much appraisal and respect by the prestigious poet William Butler Yeats, who himself won the Nobel Prize in Literature in the year 1923.
Gitanjali is also famously known in the English language as ‘Song Offerings’. The collection comprises 103 short poems in total, each a page long. It has some of the most famous lines written in Indian literature, some of the lines are regularly quoted in speeches and lectures by great Indians of our times.
The history of poetry covers a very large ground in the globe, from Wordsworth to Homer, from T.S. Eliot to W.B. Yeats, from John Keats to Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Yet the question arises, what is it that makes a huge difference in the case of Rabindranath Tagore, what about his inspirations and stylistic innovation? The answer is, ‘Gitanjali or Song Offerings’ is a splendid poetry collection of utmost simplicity and deeply sonorous spirituality.
It has significantly deep and profound themes of holiness, religion, worship, devotion, life, death, birth and struggle, love and pacifism yet all of these themes spring out from the roots of imagination, keen observation of traditional Indian mindset, idiosyncratic behaviour, religious worship and hierarchy.
Even though, after all the themes I have mentioned above, Gitanjali is a holy book from the worshipper’s point of view, it is a grand companion to the great holy book Bhagavadgita, Gita and Bhagavadgita are incomplete without each other.
‘Gitanjali’ is a rare piece of self conscious artistry and struggling stoicism in the face of pain and austerity. Gitanjali certainly deserves reader who not only devour the music of the poetic journey, but with a keen and compassionate eye, magnify their vision to enlighten themselves to the plight of the poet, who unwillingly binds his whole life in a 110 pages approximately.
‘Gitanjali’ at every turn with the language of naturalism and enlightenment, evokes in the dear reader a beautiful sense of solitude and the pain of loss, at the end of every stanza, Gitanjali has a bittersweet song to offer and a fresh heartache for the reader’s heart to ponder.
Gitanjali is a tribute to a man who like Homer, Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, Coleridge, and Philip Larkin, heard the eternal music of life, the moods of the nature, the sensuality of the flow of the river, the ever changing tunes of life that a human being dances to. Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry is filled with idealism, a plethora of permutations and combinations, as if a hermit sits and writes on the page to capture the tunes of his own soul. And that is precisely why, the collection is one of the purest, enchanting and enlightening adventures that could ever be recorded.
Gitanjali is for everyone, just read it and I can place a bet on it, the reader will glare in dismay at how simple, powerful and moving are the emotions evoked by the poet’s cadence, who with confidence holds your hand and takes you to the world of the ‘immaterial’.
‘Gitanjali’ is a masterpiece of spiritual enlightenment which makes it easily one of the most towering achievements of all time. I sincerely feel that Gitanjali is a life changing experience.
“At the immortal touch of thy hands my little heart loses its limits in joy and gives birth to utterance ineffable”
– Rabindranath Tagore from ‘Gitanjali or Song Offerings’