Tagore's relevance to the world in new millennium

Translated by A Z M Haider

The inexorable march of human civilisation is inevitably directed to the fulfilment of man. Explaining the dynamics of civilisation, the German philosopher Hegel Said human civilisations is interspersed with conflicts and clashes between man and man, nation and nation, country and country. Thus the march of civilisation is never smooth. It is frequently impeded by numerous bottlenecks.

Tagore is a great humanist like Tolstoy. Roman Rolland and others. He therefore vehemently opposed conflicts and conflagrations in all their forms and manifestations everywhere in the world, because they retard progress of civilisation. A glaring instance of the poets deep aversion and hatred against discord and destruction found expression in his address entitled Crisis in Civilisation delivered to mark the 80th anniversary of his birth. Incidentally, this was his last public address.

In that address Tagore dwelt at length on the political situation prevailing all over Europe at that time and decried the imperialist countries of that continent perpetrating their exploitation and oppression over their colonies in Asia and elsewhere in the world. A scion of the landed aristocracy, Rabindranath Tagore right from his early youth used to look down upon British imperialism although he had deep regard for Britian and considered it a blessed land providing safe sanctuary to oppressed and exploited people from all parts of the world.

Making a pointed reference to Manu, an authority on Hindu scripture, the poet came to recognise human civilisation as sume total of codified good conduct. His interpretation of civilisation was accepted with good grace by members of his family as well as by teachers of other religions. The poet noted with deep anguish that Britain subjugated India by means of mechanised power, but did not deploy it for the welfare and progress of India.

The British imperialists, however, deployed their mechanised might to exploit their subject race in India. Subtle and sophisticated as they were, the British imperialists settled down on the Indians like heavy weight through an administrative system which was by all means highly cultivated and civilised.

During the British rule in India. people's conditions concerning food clothing, shelter, medicace were utterly precarious. But the nest painful aspect of the story was that different communities in India' were brought at daggers drawn to each other. The frequent communal conflagration between the Hindus and the Muslims of India were without a parallel in the history of the world. The poet visited Soviet Union where he noticed complete peace and harmony between the Hindus and the Muslims who merged themselves politically with Soviet people. The ties between all the communities were so strong that they unitedly fought the autocratic powers unitedy and drove them out.

The British imperialists kept all movements for self-rule in India suppressed ruth lessly in the name of maintaining law and order. Throughout the we world repression on mankind assumed such a frightful proportion that it vitiated the atmosphere in Europe.

The poet in this public address predicted disgraceful exit of the British imperialists from India. When the administrative system introduced by the British rulers will come to an end in India. Indians will have to carry on their shoulders unbearable burden of dirt and quagmire of their (British rules) failures and frustrations.

Right at the outset of his life the poet accepted with high hope the spiritual wealth of Europe which was its out-standing contribution to human civilisation. Today with the depletion of that spiritualism mans faith in Europe stands shattered, Spiritually Europe is now bankrupt. Today the Bard views the world around him as lost in darkness of despair. He does not have glimpse of light at the end of the dark tunnel. But the poet is not dejected and dispirited due to descending darkness all around him. He has deep and abiding faith in man's ability to dispel darkness and transform this planet of ours into a blessed abode of peace and love.

Thus in his address on his 80th birthday, poet presents his pragmatic analysis of the contemporary realities of life as well as gives us an insight into the future lying in store for mankind. He stood baffled and bewildered at the futile arms race which, he thought, would push the world to the edge of a precipice. A visionary idealist. Tagore prognosticated a world order based on tension, dismay and anxiety cused by arms race, Fortunately for him, he did not live long enough to hear the dropping of atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki which eventually culminated in the invention of nuclear arm and dangerous warheads of varied ranges for delivery of that deadly bomb. He anticipated disastrous consequences of nuclear race which might rope in certain nations to it establishing their hegemony over the world.

A bold optimist, Rabindranath Tagore, notwithstanding his demise sixty years ago, is still relevant to the emerging society in the new millennium. Man's inhumanity to man, which brought countless thousands to mourn human life, failed to suppress his deep longing and everlasting love for mankind and he kept visualising for him a world of bliss and happiness. The exquisite lines that follow contain his last message to mankind.

Lo! the great man is coming

All around green turfs on dusts

of this mortal world are

trembling with

thrill of joy

All conch shells in heaven


to play all of a sudden,

All the bugles on earth start


heralding victory

the moment of great birth


In this deep dark night

All the gates of fortresses

collapsed to dusts


Source: The New Nation, April 11, 2002

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