Jan 24, 2013

Rare Photos Of Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore was born on 7 May 1861 in an old aristocratic family of nineteenth century Calcutta. His father Debendranath Tagore (1817-1905) was popularly known as ‘Maharshi’ for his saintly disposition and his grandfather, whose unbounded charity and lavish hospitality earned him the title ‘Prince’, always sought to promote the welfare and advancement of his countrymen.

Rabindranath Tagore was the fourteenth child of his parents. Among his brothers and sisters Dwijendranth, Satyendranath, Jyotirindranath and Swarnakumari distinguished themselves through their achievements. Dwijendranath was a renowned poet and philosopher, Satyendranath was the first Indian member of the Indian Civil Service, Jyotirindranath was a playwright and musician and Swarnakumari earned reputation as one of the early woman novelists of India. Thus the atmosphere of the Tagore family at the ancestral house of Jorasanko was charged with the cultivation of literary, musical and dramatic activities.

Rabindranath Tagore


Rabindranath Tagore Grand Father Dwarakanath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore Grand Father Dwarakanath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore Father Debendranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore Mother Sarada Devi

Rabindranath Tagore with Wife Mrinalini Devi

Rabindranath Tagore with Wife Mrinalini Devi & Daughter Madhurilata Devi (Bela)

Rabindranath Tagore with Wife Mrinalini Devi

Rabindranath Tagore with his Son Rathindranath Tagore & Daughter Madhurilata Devi (Bela)

Rabindranath Tagore with Daughter-in-Law Pratima Devi

Rabindranath Tagore with family members at silaidah

Rabindranath Tagore at Grand Daughter Nandini Devi Wedding Ceremony

Rabindranath Tagore with his Son Rathindranath Tagore & Daughters Madhurilata Devi (Bela), Mira Devi, Renuka Devi

Rabindranath Tagore with a fragment of Tagore clan

Rabindranath Tagore Son Rathindranath Tagore & Daughters Madhurilata Devi (Bela), Mira Devi, Renuka Devi

Rabindranath Tagore's youngest Son Samindranath Tagore


Rabindranath Tagore Childhood Pic

Rabindranath Tagore Childhood Pic

Rabindranath Tagore Teenage Pic

Rabindranath Tagore on stage as an actor


Rabindranath  Tagore with friend Lokendranath Palit In England

Rabindranath Tagore on stage as actor Raghupati

Rabindranath Tagore with elder brother Jyotirindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore with friend Priyanath Sen

Rabindranath Tagore with Maharaja Virchandra of Tripura

Rabindranath Tagore with literary companions Jnanadanandini Devi, Satyendranath, Kad



Rabindranath Tagore with Andrews at shalbithi

Rabindranath Tagore on stage as actor Raghupati

Rabindranath Tagore in Japan

Rabindranath Tagore with WW Pearson, Mr & Mrs Paul Risher at Tokyo

Rabindranath Tagore with son Rathindranath Tagore, Daughter-in-law Pratima Devi & C F Andrews


Rabindranath Tagore with Helen Keller

Rabindranath Tagore with Albert Einstein

Rabindranath Tagore as teacher

Rabindranath Tagore with Victoria Ocampo, Argentina

Rabindranath Tagore with Victoria Ocampo, Argentina


Rabindranath Tagore with Ramananda ChattopadhyaY & C F Andrews

Rabindranath Tagore with Tasher Desh Drama group

Last Birthday function at Santiiketan . Rabindranath Tagore's address

Rabindranath Tagore last Birthday function

Rabindranath Tagore's last Journey

Rabindranath Tagore's last Journey

Rabindranath Tagore Funeral

Deeply steeped in the Vedas and the Upnishads, Rabindranath Tagore’s father Debendranath Tagore founded in 1839 the Tattvabodhini Sabha, the Society for the knowledge of Truth and started a journal called Tattvabodhini Patrika. In 1842 he joined the Brahmo Samaj founded by Raja Rammohun Roy and in 1850 published his well-known treatise, Brahmo Dharma. Rabindranath Tagore was deeply influenced by his father and obviously inherited some of his spiritual zeal. Thrice he visited the Himalayas with his father and it is on way to such a visit that he came across his father’s ashram and it is Santiniketan where he was to establish his Visva-Bharati much later.

Rabindranath Tagore was admitted to four schools— Oriental Seminary, Normal School, Bengal Academy and St. Xaviers School in quick succession, but dropped out of all four. Hence, placed under private tutors at home, he was taught among other subjects Sanskrit grammar, Bengali, English, Physics, Geometry, Arithmetic, History, Geography, Physiology and Anatomy. He also got training in wrestling and gymnastic.

By the age of 12 Rabindranath Tagore started writing poems. One of his earliest poems, ‘Abhilas’ (Desire) was published anonymously in Tattvabodhini Patrika in 1874. ‘Banaphul’ (Wild Flower), a long poem running into eight cantos, was the first to be published under his name in a magazine called Jnanankar in 1876. At this time he also composed some lyrics in the style of Vaishnava Padavali under the psendonym Bhanusinha Thakur.

In 1877, Rabindranath’s elder brother Dwijendranath Tagore (1840-1926) started a monthly magazine called Bharati in which the poet regularly contributed poems, essays and literary criticisms. His first book of poems Kabi-Kahini was published in 1878. In the same year Rabindranath Tagore sailed to England with his brother Satyendranath and started going to a public school at Brighton and later to University College, London. He stayed in London for two years studying English literature and European music. During this period he contributed a series of letters, Europe Prabasir Patra (Letters from Europe) to Bharati recording his impressions of England and the English people. It is here that he also started writing his first verse-play Bhagna Hriday (Broken Heart) published later in 1881.

Although Rabindranath Tagore returned from London without any professional degree, he came equipped with a sense of music and in 1881 wrote his famous musical drama Valmiki Pratibha (Genius of Valmiki) where the fusion of Indian and Western musical style was something unique. Valmiki Pratibha was staged at Jarasanko in presence of distinguished personages including Bankimchandra Chatterjee and Rabindranath Tagore himself played the lead role. This was the beginning of a long career in theatre and acting.

Poetry also started flowing from Rabindranath Tagore’s pen. In 1882 he composed Sandhyasangeet (1883) which contained the iconic poem “Nirjharer Swapnabhanga’ depicting how one morning he had a mystic vision of the world where nature and man were bathed in streams of joy. This experience gave him an insight into his own being and his poetic genius achieved its true liberation. He now published in quick succession a number of poetry collections and verse plays like Chhabi o Gan (1884), Prakritir Pratishodh (1884), Kodi O Komal (1886), Mayar Khala (1888) and Manasi (1890). Side by side he kept writing numerous essays, critical articles and two historical novels, Bouthakuranir Hat (1883) and Rajarshi (1887) modelled on Bankimchandra’s work.

Meanwhile, in 1884, Rabindranath Tagore married Mrinalini Devi when he was twenty-three. They had three daughters and two sons - and they were: Madhurilata Devi (Bela), Rathindranath Tagore (Rathi), Renuka Devi (Rani), Mira Devi (Atasi) and Samindranath Tagore (Sami). Apart from writing, he also started sharing his father’s vast responsibilities. He worked as Secretary of Maharshi Debendranath Thakur’s Adi Brahmosamaj and discharged his duties with responsibility. In 1891, his father entrusted him with the duty of managing the family estates at Silaidah, Shajadpur and Patisar. For this work he had to spend long days, sometimes even months on a houseboat in the river Padma. For the first time, Rabindranath Tagore came in real physical contact with the rural life of Bengal. From close proximity, he enjoyed the beauty of nature and at the same time got an authentic exposure to the life of the common folk - their rites and rituals, customs and social manners as well as their sorrows and sufferings born out of social evils. It is these observations that inspired Rabindranath Tagore to write his famous essay Swadeshi Samaj in which he set forth an elaborate programme for rejuvenating the rural Bengal by instilling the spirit of self-reliance among its people. His plan for mass education, village cooperative movements, local self-governance as laid out in this essay did not find much takers. Without being dejected, Tagore himself took up experimentations in the area of rural reconstruction first at his family estate and much later when he established Sriniketan at the village of Surul near Santiniketan.

During this period Rabindranath Tagore wrote best of his short stories, later published as Galpaguchcha, a pioneering work in Indian Literature. He also wrote a series of letters to his niece Indira, later compiled as Chinnapatra and Chinnapatravali (much later published in English translation under the title Glimpses of Bengal) which very evocatively captured the natural beauty of North Bengal. In the domain of poetry, he came out with a number of collections like Chitra, Chaitali, Sonar Tari, Kshanika, Kalpana and Katha o Kahini.

During late 1890’s and the first decade of 20th century, the country was increasingly charged with an upsurge of nationalist movement. As a lofty patriot, Rabindranath Tagore was always involved in spontaneous nationalist activities. Though he was not strictly in politics, he analyzed the political situation in a series of article published in Sadhana, Bangadarshan and Bharati. He inaugurated the Congress Session held in Calcutta in 1896 by singing the ‘Vandemataram’ song. When the Partition of Bengal came about in 1905, Rabindranath Tagore was drawn into the vertex of Swadeshi Movement and for a period of time even assumed its leadership.

In 1901 when Rabindranath Tagore relinquished his role of a zamindar and returned from Silaidah, he founded a residential school at Santiniketan, called Brahmacharyashram, with the help of Brahmabandhav Upadhyay, a Roman Catholic-cum-Vedantic Sanyasi. It was Brahmabandhav who first gave him the title ‘Visvakavi’. Tagore moved his family to Santiniketan and his son Rathindranath was the first pupil of the school which embodied the principle of an ancient Indian hermitage. The poets wife Mrinalini Devi looked after the students in the boarding house. But unfortunately, she passed away after a spell of ailments in 1902 and that marked the beginning of a succession of bereavements for Tagore. Death seemed to be stalking him— first Renuka his married daughter in 1904, followed by his father in 1905, then his young son Shamindranath in 1907. Even in the midst of these shattering personal misfortunes, Rabindranath Tagore carried on the work of the ashrama without breaking down.

The serene atmosphere of Santiniketan and the tremendous grief that he suffered impacted on Rabindranath Tagore’s creativity deeply. Gone was the phase of Silaidah where awareness of beauty all around as well as upheavals in contemporary society informed his poetry and other writings. Now came a phase of inward-looking poetry of Naivedya, Kheya and the masterpiece Gitanjali. It was clear that Tagore was moving towards a sphere of deep spiritual quest. In fiction, after the realism of Chokher Bali (1901), Naukadubi (1903), he wrote his masterpiece Gora (1910) marked by an interest in psychological analysis and treatment of diverse issues facing the nation at that time. His discovery of the eternal India transforming narrow nationalism was complete with the famous poem ‘Bharat-tirtha’:

“O heart of mine, awake in this holy place of pilgrimage In this land of India, on the shore of vast humanity”.

In 1912 Rabindranath Tagore again visited England accompanied by his son and daughter-in-law Pratima Devi. It is during this visit that he handed over to Rothenstein the manuscript of Gitanjali in English translation done by himself. They had known each other during Rothenstein’s visit to Calcutta in 1911 when Rathenstein had felt the magnetism of Rabindranath Tagore’s personality. Now, it is at Rathenstein’s residence that Rabindranath Tagore gradually came to know many English poets and intellectuals including W.B.Yeats and C.F.Andrews. Yeat’s introduction to the English Gitanjali enhanced its prestige. Andrews became a life-long friend. When Yeats read out Rabindranath Tagore’s poems in a select gathering, nobody doubted the fact that a great poet and visionary from the East had arrived.

From England, Rabindranath Tagore went to the USA on invitation from various quarters and delivered a series of lectures, addressing issues and concerns of human life and its relationship with the cosmos. These reflective and philosophical talks were later published under the title Sadhana (1913). Meanwhile India Society in London had come out with English versions of Gitanjali, Chitrangada, Malini and Dakghar . Tagore returned to India via England in October 1913 and a month later came the news of his winning the Nobel Prize.

The literary graph of Rabindranath Tagore’s output has many turning points. By 1916, he again started breaking new grounds in the pages of Sabujpatra, a periodical launched by Pramatha Choudhury about that time. Here Rabindranath Tagore moved away from the spiritual aura of Gitanjali and wrote a series of poems propounding the idea of life’s essential dynamism, which were later collected in Balaka. Novels Chaturanga (1916) and Ghare Baire (1916) were serialized in Sabujpatra, revealing a transformation in Rabindranath Tagore’s outlook.

At this time, Rabindranath Tagore again took a voyage to foreign shores. He went to Japan in 1916 and from there to USA and was away from the country for long ten months. In a series of lecture in Japan , even in the face of stiff opposition, he fearlessly warned the people against the rise of fanatic nationalism and concomitant militarism in Japan and reminded her people of the noble aspects of Japanese culture. These important lectures were later collected in the volume Nationalism. In this journey, apart from Mukul De, he was accompanied by two of his best friends from England, William Pearson and C.F.Andrews. This foreign sojourn gave Tagore opportunity to think out many things afresh.

While in the USA, Rabindranath Tagore repeated his Nationalism lectures as well as a new series called the Personality (published in 1917). His exposure to the American way of life, which was gradually turning to be a melting pot of different nationalities, cultures and creeds, made Tagore think anew about the individual and his relationship with the world. This is when the seed of Visva-Bharati germinated in his mind, as can be seen from a letter written in October 1916 from Chicago. He pursued the idea vigorously on his return from USA in March, 1917 and declared that his Visva-Bharati would be an ‘international centre of humanistic studies’. The foundation of this world university was laid at Santiniketan on 24 December 1918.

Immediately after this, however, Rabindranath Tagore got caught in the political turmoil of the country. While efforts of gaining swaraj (self-rule) were going on through negotiations with the British under the leadership of Gandhi, a band of ardent youth were trying to gain freedom through armed revolution. The Rowlatt Committee was constituted by the British Government to prepare a report on the subject. The report was so negative and adverse that when published in 1918, if evoked strong protest all over the country. Gandhi gave his call for Satyapraha. On 13 April 1919 a public meeting was held in Jalianwalabagh in Punjab to condemn the Rowlatt Act. Bolting the entire courtyard from all sides, the police trapped the peaceful mass and opened fire on them mercilessly killing hundreds of people. The whole country was stupefied. In protest Rabindranath Tagore gave up the knighthood which had been conferred on him by the British Crown in 1915. In this connection the famous letter that he wrote to the then Viceroy Lord Chelmsford on 3 May 1919 has now become an important document of Indian political history.

Rabindranath Tagore, now approaching 60, devoted himself steadfastly to the work of building up his Visva-Bharati. The level of education was raised from that of primary education in Brahmacharyasrama to that of higher research and independent academic work. Two separate estabishments, Kalabhavana and Sangeetbhavana were founded for teaching music and fine arts respectively. The former was in the able hands of such famed artists as Nandalal Bose, Surendranath Kar and Asit Haldar while the latter was headed by Dinendranath Tagore, the Marathi-maestro Bhimrao Hashurkar and Manipuri dance-master Buddhimanta Singh. Two other important departments of Visva-Bharati, namely Department of Village Reconstruction and Rural Development also came into being at the same time. Tagore invited young Leonard Elmhirst, an American expert in rural reconstruction whom he had met at Illinois, to come and take charge of these departments in 1921. In 1922, the village reconstruction centre was started in Sriniketan , thereby fulfilling Tagore’s long-cherished dream of holistic attempt at village development. In his essay, ‘The Centre of Indian Culture’ Tagore has sought to propound the ideas leading him to establishing the new centre of learning.

Rabindranath Tagore’s urge for traveling the whole world was still undiminished. In 1920 he undertook another travel abroad and went first to England and then successively to France, Holland, Belgium and finally to the USA. This was his third American journey. He spoke at many places and everywhere made references to his Visva-Bharati. Lectures delivered during this tour have been compiled in Creative Unity which sounded the note of universalism and message of the unity of mankind.

Rabindranath Tagore returned to India after fourteen months’ travel abroad in July 1921. On 6 September 1921 at the Vichitra Bhavana of Jarasanko the historic conference between Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi was held. Rabindranath Tagore had first met Mahatma Gandhi in 1914 when the latter, at the initiative of C.F.Andrews brought the students of the Phoenix school of South Africa to Santiniketan. Mahatma Gandhi urged that the inmates of the ashram, and not the servants, should themselves perform all their daily chores. The idea won Rabindranath Tagore’s approval. Since then every year the 10th of March is celebrated as Gandhi Punyaha at Santiniketan through self-service. Thereafter Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi met from time to time and Mahatma Gandhi used to call him ‘Gurudev’, following the asramik manner. Though Tagore differed from Gandhi on ideological ground, especially on the plank of ‘charkha’ and the latter’s non-co-operation movement, the two great men retained mutual admiration for each other throughout their life.

The year 1922 also saw the publication of Muktadhara, Rabindranath Tagore’s first play expressing his thoughts on nationalism and his search for achieving redemption of human civilization from the ravages of World War I. He followed it up by publishing his most famous play Raktakarabi in 1924 expressing the essence of his philosophy of life. In the same year Tagore went abroad again, this time to China, accompanied by Kalidas Nag, Nandalal Bose, Leonard Elmhirst and Kshitimohan Sen. A resurgent China under the inspiring leadership of Sun Yat-sen attracted his attention. However, in his speeches to the young students of the universities of Hangchow, Sanghai, Nanking and Peking, he spoke about the eastern ideals and took the risk of being unpopular by cautioning them against excessive materialism. On return to Calcutta via Japan, he again undertook a longer trip to South America on invitation from Peru to participate in the celebration of hundred years of her independence . But he could not reach Peru owing to sudden illness and broke journey at Buenos Aires in Argentina where hospitality and care was offered to him by Victoria Ocampo, a distinguished Spanish poet, intellectual and aristocrat. This gave rise to a life-long relationship between the two souls and Tagore immortalized Victoria Ocampo in the poems of his famous poetry-collection Purabi.

 In between 1926 and 1930, Rabindranath Tagore again started writing tirelessly and published two of his well-known novels Jogajog, and Sesher Kabita, two plays, Tapati and Seshraksha, one volume of poetry, Mahua and one musical drama, Rituranga. Besides he prepared many lectures and articles, the most famous being, ‘Philosophy of our people’ and The Religion of Man. The second one , delivered in England in 1930, powerfully articulated his now well-entrenched idea of the indivisibility of the human race.

It is during this tour of Europe that Tagore the painter emerged to the world. An exhibition of his paintings was held at Pigalle Gallery in Paris. When Rabindranath seriously applied himself to this branch of art, he was well beyond sixty. This had originally started in the form of doodles in the manuscripts and gradually grew into pictures. As the exhibition traveled to England to Germany to Denmark, the whole world was amazed at this stunning display of a new facet in Tagore’s creativity.

When Rabindranath Tagore was in Geneva, he received an invitation from Russia and immediately accepted it. He had already visited Italy and personally met Mussolini and Benito and was impressed by the work of the Fascist Party. In Russia, Bolshevik Revolution had already taken place and despite an iron curtain, news of communist Russia’s rapid progress in the field of education, co-operative forming and economic production has reached the world in bits and pieces. Rabindranath Tagore was fascinated by these reports. During his fortnight stay in Moscow, where his paintings were exhibited, he had extensive discussions about the post-czarist modern Russia with distinguished citizens there and wrote a series of letters narrating the impact the union of efforts in Russia made on him. The letters were later collected in a volume entitled Russiar Chithi. From Russia Rabindranath Tagore took his paintings to USA and from there he returned to India in January 1931. This was to be his last journey to the west.

1931 was also Rabindranath Tagore’s seventieth year which was celebrated in a big way. The most important landmark of this celebration was the publication of The Golden Book of Tagore in which many great men and women of the world paid glowing tributes to the poet.

In 1932 the country was witnessing the spread of the poison of communalism, thanks to the divide and rule policy of the British. The government announced its mischievous communal award, in protest against which Mahatma Gandhi undertook a fast unto death in Jarbeda Jail. Rabindranath Tagore wrote a letter to Mahatma Gandhi expressing respect for his decision and also solidarity with him. But still he felt restless and ultimately rushed to Jarbeda to be at Mahatma Gandhi’s side. When a settlement was reached and Mahatma Gandhi broke his fast, Rabindranath Tagore sang for him his famous song ‘When the heart is hard and parched up’. It may be mentioned here that Mahatma Gandhi made his last visit to Santiniketan in Rabindranath Tagore’s life-time in 1940. It is at that time that Rabindranath Tagore expressed his last wish that after he departed, Mahatma Gandhi should look after his Visva-Bharati.

The last decade of Rabindranath Tagore’s life was richly filled with both constructive work and creative flow. In Visva-Bharati two new departments were inaugurated – Cheena Bhavana (1937) and Hindi Bhavana(1938). During Rabindranath Tagore’s visit to China in 1924 he came in touch with Tan Yun Shan who came and joined as the first director of Cheena Bhavana. Professor Tan had collected the necessary fund for this institution from China. Hindi-speaking wealthy merchants combined to fund the Hindi Bhavana of which Hazariprasad Dwivedi, the eminent Hindi littérateur became the first director. Thus Santiniketan evolved as a centre for the cultivation of diverse branches of learning, attracting students and teachers from all over the world.

In the field of literature, Rabindranath Tagore published 15 volumes of poetry in this decade, three novels , a number of dance-dramas, travelogues, critical and reflective essays and songs. This was a period when modernity in Bengali literature was in full play. Young poets like Jibananda Das, Buddadev Bose, Sudhindranath Datta, Bishun De---all of whom became famous later----were creating waves by opening new vistas of poetry. The vogue of verse libre (free verse) came into being. Rabindranath Tagore absorbed all these developments and himself adopted free verse in Punascha (1932) and continued with it in Sesh Saptak (1934), Patraput (1936) and Shyamali (1936). He also experimented with writing songs in prose. Another marvelous creation of his was the dance-drama. He transformed his old poems into dance-dramas and thus Chitrangada, Chandalika and Shyama were composed. Among the novels of this decade, only Char Adhyay(1934) can match with his earlier creations in that it addresses the issue of man-woman love against the backdrop of sacrificing one’s life for the motherland.

As Rabindranath Tagore approached his last days, his mind was restless, anticipating a crisis in human civilization. In the East Japan invaded China and in the West a Russian bomb demolished Finland. The civilization of man stands self-condemned if one nation leads an aggression on another. ‘Crisis in Civilization’ (1941) was his last testament-a message he read out on the occasion of his last birth anniversary.

In September 1940 Rabindranath Tagore went on a visit to Kamimpong where he fell ill. Since then his health started failing. On 25 July 1941 he was brought from Santiniketan to his ancestral home at Jorasanko, Calcutta, where Rabindranath Tagore breathed his last on 7 August 1941.


  1. very good info!

  2. A great legend has been nicely presented both in writing and images. A millennium even is not sufficient to give a totality comment on Rabindranath Tagore, yet study of his writings gives a line of imagination about the height of his knowledge. He is the property of all nation, he is the Treasure of Humanity, morality and the heritage of India. I bow to his personality. ---- Nishit Ranjan Das, Bongaigaon Assam.

    1. Truly informative one...
      Photo gallery is extraordinary

  3. outstanding pics........wordless 4 it.....

  4. Excellent images.
    Many thanks to Mere Pix.

    For future cooperation, contact-- jibon2040@gmail.com

  5. biswa kabiguru rabindranath thakur aamar jibon. jagarane-shwayane-swapane aamar rabindra nath.


  6. Would anyone know who the photographer was of a signed print that I own? The photgrapher signed the print, but I cannot quite decipher it. It can be seen at:

    www.mackeonis.com/art/Ichiro Hori_Photograph_of_rabindranath_tagore.JPG.

    Is it by New York Photographer Ichiri Hori?

    Thanks in advance,

    Santa Cruz,CA

  7. I am working with Eternal Ganges, a publishing house -- we wanted to know where you sourced these pictures from. Could you kindly send us the contact details. Sumita Mehta