Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Tagore’s philosophy expressed in the selected songs of Gitanjali:

Tagore’s philosophy expressed in the selected songs of Gitanjali:

“Scepticism and agnosticism have become attractive to the modern mind. In the struggle between the skeptics and agnostics who doubt whether there is anything behind the universe, and the spiritual positivists who affirm that the most vital reality is behind the universe, Rabindranath is with the latter”

Truly in a world of growing materialism, spiritual chaos and atheism, Tagore’s philosophy and songs offer panacea where modern man may soothe his tormented soul. His songs reflect his personal thoughts and philosophy which transcend all sorts of skepticism and nihilism and affirm the existence of a Supreme Being. This Supreme Spirit manifests itself in each living being. Man is unable to see Him because he is bound by the chain of his material desires. His personal ego prevents him from his union with the Supreme Being. But if a man sacrifices his desires and ego and lead a humble life, God makes himself accessible to him. Then he can realize that his own soul is a part of the eternal spirit that pervades the universe. But an unhesitant expression of such philosophy in art may appear absurd and discordant with the modern notion for the modernists believe that the appearances in human idealism are deceptive and the underlying mud is real. They tend to strip life of its glory and idealistic pretension and present man as isolated and alienated on the naked platform of harsh reality. But to these modernists, Tagore’s reply is:

“This defiant distrust and denigration of reality too is only a subjective reaction and a passing perversion of the spirit…If you ask me what true modernism is, I will say it is to look at the world with a detached objective vision and not with personal bias and prejudice. Only such a vision is luminous and pure and results in pure spiritual bliss.”
The poems collected in Gitanjali (1910) for which Tagore won Noble Prize are the supreme expression of Gitanjali. It aptly captures the vein of Tagore’s poetry. It has its roots in –
“A tradition, where poetry and religion are the same thing, has passed through the centuries, gathering from learned and unlearned metaphor and emotion, and carried back again to the multitude, the thought of the scholar and of the noble”(W.B. Yeats: Introduction to Gitanjali). This religious poetry tradition in India was divided in two groups with regard to the treatment of God. Whereas sage Ramprasad, folk-poet Bijoy Sarkar, Rasik Sarkar offered their songs to an invisible, distant celestial being,  Tagore and Chaitanyadev sought for union with Almighty in this human world in human form. In Vaishnav tradition God is considered to be Lord Krishna and all human beings are his beloved women. Their sole aim is the union with this supreme Lord. The western people can hardly nourish such feelings and so Yeats says: “We had not known that we loved God, hardly it may be that we believed in Him.”

            Thus humanization of the divine is one of the significant aspects of Tagore’s poetry. In his poetry, God is presented as existing among the simple, poor and humble people. So to ignore them is to ignore God. In Song No. X, Tagore says:
“Here is thy foot stool and there rest
            thy feet where live the poorest, and
            lowliest and lost” (X)

            Though Rabindranath imagines God in the tangible human form, he does not forget the immortality of God and human soul which is also a part of Him. He says in Song No. I:
“Thou hast made me endless, such is thy
pleasure. This frail vessel thou emptiest again
and again, and fillest it ever with fresh
life.” (I)
Here the metaphor of “frail vessel” is used to signify transitoriness of human existence as contrasted to immortality of the soul.

            Vastness of this eternal spirit is emphasised in human being’s limitation to catch hold of it. The poet repeatedly confesses his own limitation to harmonise himself with this grand spirit. In Song No. I, he says that he is incapable of receiving the infinite gifts showered by Gods:

“Thy infinite gifts come to me only on these
very small hands of mine. Ages pass, and
still thou pourest, and still there is room to fill” (I)

God is presented as a profound singer whose engrosses the poet as he says:
            “I know not how thou singest, my master! I ever listen in silent amazement.” (III)

But in the same song he says that he cannot take part in God’s singing:

            “My heart longs to join in thy song, but vainly for a voice.” (III)

            Material desires and ego are the main barriers in the path towards God. Man is chained by the shackles of desire and ego. Until and unless he sacrifices his desires, he cannot have a glimpse of God. In Song No. IX, the poet says:

            “Thy desire at once puts out the light
 from the lamp it touches with its breath.” (IX)

In Song No. X, he says:
            “Pride can never approach where
Thou walkest in the clothes of the
Humble among the poorest, and lowliest and lost.” (X)

In Song No. VIII, he uses the symbol of a child clothed in a highly decorated garment to reveal the truth that material wealth is a hindrance to spiritual progress:

            “The child who is decked with prince’s
            robes…loses pleasure in play…it
            is of no gain…if it keep one shut
            off from the healthful dust of the
            earth, if it rob one of the right of entrance
            to the great fair of common human life.” (VIII)

That is why he feels the need to keep his mind sacred and away from all kinds of evil as he knows that human mind is the temple of God:

            “I shall ever try to drive all evils away
from my heart and keep my love in flower
knowing that thou hast thy seat in the inmost shrine of my heart.” (IV)

            Though the poet cannot reach God due to his limitation, it is his work of art – his songs can touch the feet of God. His songs are simple. Non-ornamental and devoid of meretricious embellishment as the poet says:

            “My song has put off her adornments. She
            Has no pride of dress and decoration.
            Ornnaments would mar our union; they
            Would come between thee and me; their
            Jingling would drown thy whisper.” (VII)

During this union his poetic pride also dies and he completely sacrifices himself at the feet of God. He calls God a “master poet” and pleads for simple and humble life so that he may be instrument of God’s melody.
            Ecstasy of his union with God is so intense that he forgets all earthly sorrows, pains and harsh elements:

            “All that is harsh and dissonant in my
            Life melts into one sweet harmony.” (II)

 He forgets his own limitation and calls God his friend:

            “Drunk with the joy of singing I forget
            myself and call the friend who art
            my lord.” (II)

            Thus the infinite makes himself accessible to the finite human being and the poems collected in Gitanjali captures the entire gamut of emotions felt by the poet during his ecstasy of union.

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