Rabindranath Tagore’s perception of Indian Nationalism

A collection of his speeches on nationalism was published in 1917 and one of the speeches, included in the book, denotes Tagore’s unconventional, integrated views on Indian nationalism.
Rabindranath Tagore’s perception of Indian Nationalism

Rabindranath Tagore was a versatile genius, a true nationalist and above all an indisputable humanist who has been inspiring generations of intellectual and empathetic minds irrespective of their religion, race, language and also the barriers such as state and nation. The literary and artistic genius of Tagore, which spanned over six decades, is nothing but a reflection of a sensitive artist, a sympathetic man of letters, a profound thinker and a strategic experimentalist. It may be considered a false promise if someone assures to introduce in brief his all-encompassing intellectual engagements; therefore, the author of this article assures his readers an introduction of Tagore’s thought-provoking perception on Indian nationalism focusing the very soul of his intellectual deliberation. 

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), popularly known as Gurudev, expressed his views on Indian nationalism on various occasions. A collection of his speeches on nationalism was published in 1917 with the same title and one of the speeches in it denotes Tagore’s unconventional, integrated views on Indian nationalism. A substance of his deliberation is that the true spirit of nationalism lies in its broad humanistic concern rather constrained political strategy.  The spread of fanatic nationalism during the First World War might have forced him to interpret and blame it as an evil epidemic. He was trying to subvert the popular idea of nationalism which was more a political justification that encouraged grabbing other nations and their resources.  

Tagore’s perception of nationalism has mainly relied on ancient Indian philosophy, where the world was accepted as a single nest. In this way, Tagore was striving to dissociate himself from the general belief of nationalism and trying to associate it with ideas such as peace, harmony and welfare. He argues further that if anyway India decides to contribute the world; it should be only in the form of humanity. 

Humanity, world over does not require a narrow but broad sense of nationalism. Therefore, it should be formulated through various means of life. Tagore’s idea of humanism goes beyond any boundaries or barriers and seeks at large a common place where humanity comes before any other kind of identity. He adds further that the saints such as Nanak, Kabir, Chaitanya ignited the flame of humanism in Indian minds. But unfortunately, it was faded over time with an aggressive rise of racism and caste-based disintegration of our society.    

The ideas like purity and impurity of race have massacred millions over centuries. Even two World Wars and other racial conflicts were provoked based on the false notions of superiority. Nothing as such has really existed in this world where men and women can be straightway divided and disintegrated. Therefore, his belief: ‘Only those peoples have survived and achieved civilisation who have this spirit of co-operation strong in them’ receives a cardinal significance. At large, human beings all over the world should be glanced only through the mirror of co-operation and humanity.   

Tagore considered that apart from political freedom, the freedom of mind is more important. The Euro-centric notions of freedom have forced us to consider political freedom as an ultimate destination in the journey of the freedom movement in our country. Blind faith in Europe will instead increase our greed for possession. Hence, we should give up this narrowness and be more comprehensive in our inward and outward expressions that extend freedom of mind. Ultimately, this freedom of mind finds harmony with the human soul and at large human life. He also believed that there is only one history, i.e. history of man and other histories are mere chapters in the larger one.  

Nations with spiritual integration, love, and sympathy for others may find a permanent place in any age. Thus, Indian nationalism or nationalism of any kind is nothing but a mixture of integrated ideals of humanity and human welfare. It should be a tenable progression that outsets within.  

The world politics today indicates its growing narrowness in the form of mounting significance given to the politics of dominance and also to the theory of division. Tagore’s views on nationalism are much ahead of time and should reach the masses. Let’s remember Tagore amid coronavirus pandemic for his integrated humanistic concerns that survive in any crisis. 

(Dr Durgesh Ravande is an Associate Professor in the Department of English, KKM College, Manwath in Parbhani District.) 

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