Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore

Gitanjali, Rabindranth Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore, translated by William Radice
Penguin Books India, 2011 – 257 pages

It seemed mandatory, to me, to have read the Gitanjali before visiting Shantiniketan.

Many a times, while absorbing poetry, I feel as though I should be moved after reading certain works, but the words remain, they remain stiff, holding on to the paper, refusing to stir, they don’t matter, they don’t mean. They don’t mean more than the stubborn scribbling of black ink on white. I am not sure what I expected from Gitanjali but I am surprised I ended up liking it, as much as I did.

A collection of songs and poems, the book mainly deals with nature and spirituality. The introduction is lovely and illuminating, the book simple and unassuming. I wasn’t really in a spiritual state of mind and was relatively stoic towards some pieces which would otherwise have had a greater impact. The book, however, definitely did succeed in creating a sense of calm and peacefulness which permeated from the words and transcended the physicality of the book ( During my visit to Shantiniketan it wasn’t particularly difficult to imagine Tagore roaming the streets, the forest, the university in a calm poised way wondering about God, His creations, writing poems and whatnot). Also, I am not sure why I feel that anything written, especially poetry, should transcend its physicality, that it should mean more than what is printed, that it does mean more than what is being explicitly stated.

I read the book in one go and that isn’t necessarily the best way to read any sort of poetry. I don’t think I have taken everything the book has to offer, or grasped all of its meaning, or understood completely why it is so revered here, but maybe I will come back to it. I would like to, perhaps in a few years, when I have brushed up my Bengali, I would like to read the original and read it slowly and let it awash me.



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