Significance of the environment in the songs of Rabindranath Tagore

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Reba Som


Born in a family of fourteen siblings Rabindranath Tagore spent a lot of time alone though not lonely. From his childhood he had been a lover of nature. The large expanse of meadows in Santiniketan, the wide stretches of the river Padma at Shelidah skirted by the murmuring rows of coconut palms made him feel that he was part of a universal oneness. Tagore’s philosophy behind his school in Santiniketan was to enable his students to relate to the environment. With an unorthodox approach to education he encouraged them to walk bare footed to feel the dust under their feet and experience the touch and feel of trees which they could climb. Rabindranath’s model was the forest dwellings of ancient times – the tapoban – which Kalidasa had immortalised in his epic works. Most of Tagore’s Gitanjali songs were composed in Santiniketan and spoke of a deep spiritual presence in nature’s harmony amidst the diverse moods of the seasons. To celebrate the environment Tagore organised several festivals in Santiniketan and composed songs especially for them such as Basant Utsav (for spring), Barsha Mangal (for the monsoons), Sharad Utsav (for autumn) and Ritu Ranga (for all the seasons). He also introduced the colourful festival of tree planting (Briksha ropan) from a Bali dance tradition. Harvest was celebrated with Halakarshan when agricultural fields were symbolically ploughed. In the school song ‘Santiniketan’, students sang of their communion with nature, nurtured by groves and protected by an embracing sky.

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