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Sarvaiya, V. (2012). GITANJALI: ART OF PRAYING. PHILICA.COM Article number 332.

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Vijaysinh Sarvaiyaunconfirmed user (English, Amrita University)

Published in humani.philica.com

ABSTRACT: Gitanjali is the collection of poems which have attracted readers across the world from its very publication. The collection as it was sub titled ‘Song Offerings’ is the collection of songs in prose with the capacity of making the readers heart dance. In these songs the poet talks of not only the relationship between man and God but also between man and man, man and nature. The present paper attempts to highlight the path proposed by the poet.

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                                                GITANJALI: ART OF PRAYING


                                                          Prof. V.B. SARVAIYA

                                               ASST. PROFESSOR IN ENGLISH

                                    MAHILA COLLEGE – GONDAL DIST. RAJKOT (GUJARAT)

E-mail: vijay_sarva@yahoo.co.in      Mobile: 09825399272



Can one imagine modern India without Gandhiji, Tagore, Vivekananda and JRD Tata!!!!  These genius people are the gift of God to the nation. They have set the standards, they are the role models. 

Tagore returned to England for the first time since his failed attempt at law school as a teenager. Now a man of 51, his was accompanied by his son. On the way over to England he began translating, for the first time, his latest selections of poems, Gitanjali, into English. Almost all of his work prior to that time had been written in his native tongue of Bengali. He decided to do this just to have something to do, with no expectation at all that his first time translation efforts would be any good. He made the handwritten translations in a little notebook he carried around with him and worked on during the long sea voyage from India. Upon arrival, his son left his father's brief case with this notebook in the London subway. Fortunately, an honest person turned in the briefcase and it was recovered the next day. Tagore's one friend in England, a famous artist he had met in India, Rothenstein, learned of the translation, and asked to see it. Reluctantly, with much persuasion, Tagore let him have the notebook. The painter could not believe his eyes. The poems were incredible. He called his friend, W.B. Yeats, and finally talked Yeats into looking at the hand scrawled notebook.

The rest, as they say, is history. Yeats was enthralled. He later wrote the introduction to Gitanjali when it was published in September 1912 in a limited edition by the India Society in London. Thereafter, both the poetry and the man were an instant sensation, first in London literary circles, and soon thereafter in the entire world. His spiritual presence was awesome. His words evoked great beauty. Nobody had ever read anything like it. A glimpse of the mysticism and sentimental beauty of Indian culture were revealed to the West for the first time. Less than a year later, in 1913, Rabindranath received the Nobel Prize for literature. He was the first non-westerner to be so honored.

Gitanjali as the title suggests is a song offering to the Divine. The poet reacts to the vision of reality. The work resembles the poetry of mysticism. Tagore presents God as the fountain of energy. God is the source of life and death. Divine is presented as a great affirmation. The poems are transparent, simple and powerful enough to open the doors of inner space. Like a Sufi poet Tagore brings out the concept of reaching God through Music. In poem no.2 of Gitanjali, Tagore makes it clear that the only hope of finding God is with the help of his songs. He writes:

“I know thou takest pleasure in my singing. I know that only as a singer I come before thy presence.”

For the poet the world is a creation of God, and it is a great melody created by the master Musician. The poet wishes to be a part of this song. The poet sees his work as an attempt to rhyme the music of God. But before the Almighty God, man’s attempt to sing is foolish. The poet says that he is \unable to sing or talk. He is baffled. The Poet says that God his made his heart captive, and the songs of Gitanjali have made the hearts of the readers’ captive. God is the source of life and death. The poet says that he will try to keep his body pure because the life force within him is nothing but the evidence of God residing within. The poems reflect the inner harmony that the poet has experienced. According to the poet the God is pervasive and is present in body, mind and action. Tagore says that the presence of God can be experienced in the midst of everyday realm. Apart from having great aesthetic appeal, Gitanjali projects his deep understanding and the subsequent vision about the immense possibilities and potentialities of attaining sublime ideals in one’s life. His songs are offerings. Through his songs the poet is not begging. He and God are not different.  In poem no. 9 of Gitanjali the poet clarifies that:

“O beggar, to come to beg, at thy own door!”

He is scared of nothing. He wants nothing. He is simply offering what is he having. And, he wants even the fellow countrymen to be fearless. He prays to God to lead his country where:

“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;”

Rabindranath Tagore is an exception. He was very close to Mahatma Gandhi but he was strongly against the idea of nationalism. He warned Japan of imitating the West. He cautioned the West of the evils of material progress. He recognized the importance of science, but science without religion would be lame as his friend the great scientist Albert Einstein had said. Rabindranath Tagore in his essay ‘Personality’ (1917) had written that “we may become powerful by knowledge, but we attain fullness by sympathy”. Life is simple but we make it complicated by our narrow knowledge. That is why the poet prays in his poem no. 35 to God that lead his country ‘where knowledge is free’.  In ‘Stray Birds’ the poet has presented this situation beautifully:

“God expects answers for the flowers he sends us not for the Sun and the Earth” (26) Tagore’s Gitanjali is a compact presentation of his philosophy. Here he talks of ‘back to nature’. He writes about hypocrisy in religion. He writes about the useless material progress. Tagore’s love for humanity is the outcome of his spirituality. His love for mankind is result of his love for God. He is a mystical poet, he sings of man and nature, life and death, love and beauty and their relations to the infinite spirit. Tagore’s main ideology seems to come from the Upanishads. He was against orthodox customs. He believed in purity and service to others. He was sure that it was only through purity and service to the fellow beings, one can find God. Tagore’s God is also not the orthodox God. In Gitanjali he writes about God and temple. He questions to the temple goers whether they have seen God. He asks them to open their eyes and see that God is not in the temple. He further says that God is with the farmer, who is tilling the hard ground. The poet says that God is with the path maker, who is breaking hard stones. These two occupations are purposefully selected, because without food and roads there would be no progress. Tagore gave importance to new world order in which transnational values and ideas were important. He talked of "unity consciousness".


Reference Books:

1.      Nationalism by R. Tagore: London, Macmillan – 1917

2.      Personality by R. Tagore: London, Macmillan – 1917

3.      Creative Unity by R. Tagore: London, Macmillan – 1922

4.      Religion of Man. London by R. Tagore:Allen & Unwin. (The Hibbert lectures) - 1931

5.      Letters from Russia by R. Tagore: Santiniketan, Visva Bharati - 1960

6.      Towards Universal Man R. Tagore: (Introduction by H. Kabir.) Bombay, Asia, 1961


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Sarvaiya, V. (2012). GITANJALI: ART OF PRAYING. PHILICA.COM Article number 332.

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