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Sarvaiya, V. (2012). Tagore' s Concept of Religion. PHILICA.COM Article number 333.

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Tagore’ s Concept of Religion

Vijaysinh Sarvaiyaunconfirmed user (English, Amrita University)

Published in humani.philica.com

Abstract: Rabindranath Tagore was a universal citizen. His concept of God and religion are not orthodox. He is very clear about the existence of God, but he does not accept the orthodox concept of idol worshipping. In the same manner his religion there is no space of rituals and customs. To him man is at the centre. His God is human friendly. His religion welcomes all.

Article body

                         Tagore’ s Concept of Religion



                            Prof. V.B. SARVAIYA

                   ASST. PROFESSOR IN ENGLISH


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



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Samanvaya, harmony or concord is the heart of Indian culture. The great minds of the Indian Renaissance were representative of this value of Samanvaya. They were universal citizens. Raja Ram Mohan Roy was the first reformer of this modern era. He had universal outlook and he was sympathetic for the whole of mankind. Roy was followed by Sri Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda. They have become a symbol of universality. They are the embodiment of Samanvaya. This tradition of Samanvaya was further carried on by Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi. These minds explored and encouraged the spirit of the Vedic period. The Indian Renaissance developed the whole science of human possibilities. This phrase ‘science of human possibilities’ was coined by a well known British biologist and humanist, Sir Julian Huxley, when he was writing about the philosophy that developed during the end of the Vedic period. He said:

“We have many sciences today, but we want a new science”.

      This new science was the science of human possibilities. Tagore’s secularism or harmony or Samanvaya is the new science. It has sprung from the roots of Indian literature. Tagore was highly influenced by Upanishads and the Vedas. Tagore was also inspired by the life and words of Lord Buddha. Three centuries after Lord Buddha, the great Mauryan Emperor Asoka translated the spirit of religion into social experience and political state policy. In his 12th Rock Edict near Junagadh in Saurashtra (Gujarat) one can read:


“If anyone love’s his own religion, he does harm to his own religion, for, in religion harmony is the right way”.  – ‘India’s Vision of Samanvaya’ by Swami Ranganathananda

Man’s relationship with God was so much emphasized in the ancient time that the Indian society failed to consider man’s relationship with man. He failed to live in co-operation with neighbors. The social engineering in Indian society got into chaos. Man in Indian society failed to realize how man should deal with other individuals. It is very true that while cherishing God-ward awareness the Indian society neglected the understanding and cultivation of the many forms of man-wards awareness. And, they key to man-ward awareness is Tagore’s Gora. Gora’s philosophy of life “peace is in Brahma, and goodness is in Brahma and the unity of all beings”. And, his self-realization that past is not country. What matters is human relationships. He understands the importance of love. As soon as he discovers his story of his birth, he runs first Paresh Babu and requests him to lead to the goddess who does not discriminate between man of different caste and creeds. In the evening he rushes to his mother, Anandmoyi, who always loved him and his friend. After the self-realization he is able to see goddess Bharat in his mother. The two characters who are holding the torch of secularism in Tagore’s world of characters are Paresh Babu and Anandmoyi.

The religion that makes Harimohini selfish, the same religion easily creates goddess like Anandmoyi. Religion cannot be ignored. Though sometimes religion creates rift, religion also works for peace. What one needs to do is bring fusion. Tagore is a man of fusion. He tries to bring the East and West together. He wants science and religion to come together. Man needs to a have a religion which unites. What Jonathan Swift said harshly is said by Tagore poetically. Jonathan Swift said on religion: “We have enough religion to hate one another, but not enough to love another.” Shallow religious faith makes man dogmatic, which result into religious conflict.

Rabindranath Tagore says: “Form is in matter;

                                              Rhythm in Force,

                                              Meaning in the person” (205, /Fireflies)

But, we are quarreling because we are seeing form in person, rhythm in matter and form in force. The outward appearance of man has no place in the spiritual journey. But, still we see that religions give more weight to the look. Tagore translated some of the poems of his favorite poet and saint, Kabir. Tagore writes: “The images are all lifeless, they cannot speak; I know, for I have cried aloud to them. ..The Purana and the Koran are mere words; lifting up the curtain, I have seen” (42, Poems of Kabir).

Tagore was a man of union. He did not believe in excluding what had already had mingled. He was of the opinion that the original identity and the past should not be forgotten. Tagore in his novel ‘Gora’ names his protagonist and the novel significantly. The meaning of Gora is white, which is symbolic of the British color and the other hint is of the Hindu Saint, the great Chaitanya who was called Gouranga or Gora. Gora who was very proud of his religion, his identification with the great Indian past is snatched away from him. He loses his identity with self-realization. He realizes that the doors of all the temples are closed for him. He can no longer dine with any caste. The rules which he himself had loudly advocated are preventing him from entering a temple or following a custom. His pages are removed the history. He is left alone. What he claimed to be the true identity of an individual and society was no more his identity. With the disappearance of past from his life, he is released of the burden. With a light heart he goes to Paresh Babu. He knew that he was now only an Indian. He was relaxed that the doubts which he always kept to himself were no more his liability. He was free from caste culture, which he seriously doubted. He announces his new birth as freedom. He was now free to merge with India. What earlier was not possible because of his caste consciousness was now possible. He had become a pure Indian. He was unable to look at the image of Bharat which he worshipped in his heart. He had kept his image of Bharat in the fort of his heart. The fort of caste and birth bondages were no more there to keep his image locked. He thinks that the true story of his life has made him free to do what he wanted to do a long time back. He was now a representative of Hindus, but now he represented the twenty-five crores of Indians. In the new birth of Gora we see a reconciliation of the experience and the desire. All the divisions of the Hindu caste had vanished. He was now not afraid of the change. He asks Paresh Babu to introduce him to the common God of all Hindus, Muslims and Christians. Now he has a clearer picture of the goddess. The secular image of his country was realized. He talks of the temple of the goddess Bharat “who is not the god of Hindus but is the god of all Indians”. His new birth is not only unfolding the story of his birth, it also reveals his true character. The first thing he does is that he goes to meet Paresh Babu, and in the evening he returns to his mother, Anandmoyi. Both are the secular characters in the novel. They never had any problem with anyone’s caste or religion. They welcomed all and respected other’s right to worship religion of choice. They were not prisoner of the narrow domestic walls. Their knowledge was free. The meeting in the evening is presented very poetic. The protagonist of the story finds his true mother in Anandmoyi. She becomes for him a symbol of goddess Bharat: ‘Mother, you are that mother of mine. I searched for her everywhere and all the time she sat at home, waiting for me… you have no caste, no laws, no hatred, you are the image of love. You are my Bharatbarsha.” And, the change is not outward. The change should and is also inward. He has been changed in and out and still he has not lost what he actually was. Only the barriers have been broken. He asks his mother to call her maid, Lachhmia, and give him water. When there is love there are no barriers. There are no walls. The walls are fallen and become bridge. Communal is changed to secular. He realizes that India is not only past, but a nation is also made of people who must be loved.

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). Tagore’ s Concept of Religion. PHILICA.COM Article number 333.

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