Pearls of Wisdom / Review

Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore

Has it ever happened to you that someone says aloud your thoughts, while you were trying to formulate them, attempting to find out exact words, and all of a sudden, someone else communicates the same, and you are left amazed at the coincidence?

Yesterday, I was idly leafing through Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore, trying to ascertain whether I should read it or move on to Greek and Roman Mythology, and at that opportune moment, I chanced upon the following lines:

“The song I came to sing remains unsung to this day.
I have spent my days in stringing and in unstringing my instrument”

As I read the lines and re-read them, I found an echo in my heart. Isn’t it what I have been feeling till now, as if I am stranded in the mid of a deep ocean, in a rudderless boat, with absolutely no sense of direction? Isn’t the real purpose of life lost behind insane worries and unworthy pursuits? We are often diverted from our real path, wasting our time in binding and unbinding ourselves from false relations, while forgetting the real goal. How true seem the above lines. Now, as I recollect those moments, I feel nobody else but only Gurudev could so easily have said, what I always felt, but never actually been able to understand.

If you have been following my reviews, it is no secret that I am a die-hard Tagore fan. He first enunciated me into the world of fiction with his Yogayog, and be it a voluminous novel or a short pithy story, Rabi Da never failed to impress me. So, it is but natural that I could at once form an emotional bond with his fantastic poetry as well. Though, I could only read the translated prose English version of Gitanjali, I am more than satisfied with these creative attempts by the Great Sentinel himself.

For the uninitiated, Gitanjali is a collection of 103 poems, originally composed in Bangla by Rabindranath Tagore, and were later translated into English by himself, for the benefit of those who are not able to understand the vernacular edition. Tagore won Nobel Prize in 1913 for this collection and as I read these poems a hundred years after their creation, they instantly clicked and seem as fresh and invigorating, as they must have been in their prime.

The poems cover diverse topics, ranging from beauteous nature to deep meaning spirituality, from disapproval of mock rituals to total surrender to God, from simple pleasures to great sacrifices, from innocent children to cunning fools. In short, as W.B.Yeats, says in the introduction, “all the aspirations of mankind are in his hymns”, captured in the most romantic mood, presented in the easiest manner.

Some poems are just a passing thought, while others tell a short story, but each piece is invariably precious. As Tagore says, “From the words of poets men take what meanings pleases them;yet their last meaning points to thee”, I think, each individual is free to form his opinion about these hymns. But, whatever way one understands it, Gitanjali remains true to its name, ‘Song Offerings’ which though dedicated to God, do a great service for the humanity. As the edition I read, just gave the number of poems, instead of any name, I will enlist a few of my favorites to give an idea of what to expect and hope that you would enjoy them as much as I could do.

Poem I “Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure”

Poem XIV “My desires are many and my cry is pitiful, but ever didst thou save me by hard refusals”

Poem LX “On the seashore of endless worlds children meet. They seek not for hidden treasures, they know not how to cast nets”

Poem LXXXVI “Death, thy servant is at my door”

Poem LXXXIX “No more noisy, loud words from me-such is my master’s will. Henceforth I deal in whispers”

Poem XC “On the day when death will knock at thy door what wilt thou offer to him?”

Poem CII “I boasted among men that I had known you”

Gitanjali has garnered a permanent place on my reading shelf, and I really hope that one day, I would be able to enjoy the hymns in their original version, where as opposed to free verse, nuances of rhythmic melody is evident, making the poems even more pleasant.


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