What are The Universal Element's in Gitanjali?

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      The English version of the Gitanjali was published in 1913. The simplicity of words, the devotional theme, the reforming spirit and closeness with humanity all collectively charmed the readers of whole Europe and soon the Nobel Prize for Literature brought renown or fame for Tagore. Soon Tagore was a great poet in the eyes of whole Europe. The translation of Gitanjali into most of the important languages of world was sudden and Tagore become the universal poet, he no longer remained a poet of Bengal but became a poet of India and the world.

There are various reasons for the universal appeal and continuing popularity of the Gitanjali. The alluring and fascinating thing about the poems is that they are in the great Indian tradition of Bhakti. The devotional poetry has the unique Indian flavour and hence the familiarity accounts for its popularity in India and its apparent novelty brought the credit from abroad. The tone of prayer, pleading and reformation elevates the interest of readers. The mysticism, the profound thoughts are given such a simple treatment that it is easy to grasp the hidden meaning of each line by a common reader.
Rabindranath Tagore

Profoundness Expressed with Simplicity:

      There are various reasons for the universal appeal and continuing popularity of the Gitanjali. The alluring and fascinating thing about the poems is that they are in the great Indian tradition of Bhakti. The devotional poetry has the unique Indian flavor and hence the familiarity accounts for its popularity in India and its apparent novelty brought the credit from abroad. The tone of prayer, pleading and reformation elevates the interest of readers. The mysticism, the profound thoughts are given such a simple treatment that it is easy to grasp the hidden meaning of each line by a common reader. The relation between man and God is simply described as the "lute of reed" and the Eternal, Divine singer who breath through it "melodies eternally new". He is the great musician of musicians but he himself comes to the lowly cottage of His humble devotee. The idea is simple and clear that both aspire from each other equally. God needs the love of mortals so do the mortals need and they find it in the "immortal gifts" of God-in river, flowers, sunlight and trees.

"Yes, I know this is nothing but thy love, O beloved of my heart - this golden light that dances upon the leaves.. upon my forehead"

      The love comes from His heavenly abode to earth and man celebrates it thus:

"Light, my light, the world filling light, the eye kissing light, heart-sweetening light!"

      The Almighty Father is won over by the pure devotion of His son, man rather than scholarship. He dwells among humble and poor rather than temples. No other poet can express humanism in simple words as he does

"Put off thy holy mantle and even like him come down on the dusty soil."

"Our master himself has joyfully taken upon him the bonds of creation; he is bound with us all for ever"

      So how can man forget his relationships with another man. This omnipotent, inscrutable spirit is our friend, brother, father and mother too. When the man takes his birth:

"the inscrutable without name and form had taken me its arms in the form of my own mother."

      Similarly, the relation between man and God is described as the ecstatic relation between the lover and the beloved. The devoted love of Radha Krishna is being reminded by the poems of Tagore. This is another striking element that contributes to Gitanjali's appeal and popularity. The selfless beloved waits for her lover the whole day and when he comes she is unable to speak. The sweet music of his love makes her lost and she cries.

"I want thee, only thee".

      She like a bride waits for her bridegroom to come down to meet her she puts off all her ornaments so that sound may not disturb them in their sweet communion and she is filled up with joy when she feels that;

"Thou art ever coming nearer to meet me. Thy sun and stars can never keep thee hidden from me"

      Such beautiful ideas are suggested with simplicity, charm and refreshment. There are no long involved sentences and no complexity of any kind. The language is simple and melodious. It is poetic prose of the noblest kind. It is incantatory; it has the lift of a folk song. There are constant references to the simplest objects of Nature and life. He is the first of the mystics who has not refused to live. His poetry is deeply rooted in life, in the most common objects of life, and hence it comes home to man's bosom and business.

The Optimism: An Alluring Element of Poems:

      The optimism, positive approach towards life, the acceptance of worldly affairs and relations rather than negation, the love of senses rather than renunciation as asceticism makes Gitanjali a thing of renown interest and fame. The poet's attitude towards life attracts his readers. Though Tagore believes in spiritual life, he doesn't renounce the materialistic life altogether. He believes in work, relationships and senses. He believes in extending the bonds of love and sympathy. He feels the touch of Infinite in relating one with another. The love and service for mankind is the true worship of God. To become inactive and detach oneself from the bondage of relationship, work or worldly affairs is a kind of evasiveness from one's duties which is named as 'Liberation' by ascetics. But Tagore says that freedom lies in doing work and service for mankind out of joy and love. Tagore expresses his view that it is better to perform worldly affairs with infatuation rather than to be engaged in meditation and religious austerities. Humanism is the best way of realization of God. The oneness of man's soul with other souls of world is the spiritual humanism, and this is the way of salvation. Thus this humanistic and optimistic approach towards life is a fascinating element in his poems. Secondly, Tagore celebrates his love for senses. Unlike Sadhu-saints he says:

"No I will never shut the door of my senses. The delights of sight and hearing and touch will bear thy delight".

      He believes in sense organs, created by God to enjoy the form, color, beauty and taste which are revealed in the Nature. Whatever the ascetics would have thought about Tagore's approach towards life but common people of earthly life appreciates his positive attitude.

      Another poem where the poet celebrates the overall perfection and asks not to pine over what is imperfect and lost again strengthens the optimism in the life of commoners.

"Vain is this seeking! Unbroken perfection is over all!"

Richness and Variety:

      The poems are characterized by an immense variety and richness even a single theme is treated in a variety of ways. The relationship between God and man is treated in a variety of ways. He is father and man is His son, He is mother, the man is the infant. If He is the lover man is his beloved. He is musician, the man is flute. Somewhere man is devotee and He is the Lord. Another poem expresses a relation between man and God as subject and the king. The God is the boatman and man is the traveler. The another beautiful relationship is of bride and bride groom. Similarly, the love theme has different forms. The love of be loved for her lover, devotee's love for God, bride's love for bridegroom and on another hand the pure ecstasy of love between Radha, Krishna and Gopis. The most appealing element is the treatment of death in the last section of Gitanjali. Tagore's art of expressing one idea in myriad ways is impressive. Death, the king of the dark chamber is being welcomed by Tagore. One poem expresses it as the death-lessness, another says it is a completion of life, the whole life is the preparation for death. The inevitable death is the errand of our Divine Lover. It is the boat-man who lead out the boat of spiritual voyage to our ultimate destination. The Death is another sweet aspect of life, the another breast of mother. The inevitable messenger takes you away to the gates of Divine palace through the sea of eternity. The inevitable bridegroom comes to take its bride, the soul for divine communion. The creativity of words, images and symbols have presented a terrible aspect of life in peaceful, calm, courageous and acceptable mode. This is the another charm of Tagore's art or his poems which gives it a universal appeal.

Humanisation of Nature:

      The another factor of fame of his poems is his treatment of Nature in his poems in the Gitanjali. Nature is never hostile in his poems. Nature is a divine inspiration, an immortal gift, manifestation of God and expression of his love. The humanization of Nature in his poems is eye-catching. Thus the morning coming out of the east is likened to a maiden going out to collect the flowers and evening coming out of the west is represented as a maiden going out to fill her pitcher.

"There comes the morning with the golden basket in her right hand bearing the wrath of beauty, silently to crown the earth"

      W.B. Yeats and Ernest Rhys trace the uniqueness of these poems partly to the peculiarity of Bengali civilization in which poetry is intimately connected with daily existence; that is why this poetry is so closely in contact with fundamental things of life - leaves and grass, flowers and rivers, birth and death. Rabindranath seems to be the first among saints who have not refused to live. Yeats and many other critics find in the poems of Gitanjali another characteristic which is the result of the wedding of poetry to life. In these poems there is harmony between emotion and idea, between religion and philosophy. Says Yeats, "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 the noble." Rabindranath is in his view, a great poet partly because he is the poet of a poetical race.

Mythopoeic Element:

      Another source of the eternal fascination of Gitanjali lies in the use of myths and parables. The mythopoeic style of Tagore is an added advantage to the fame. The myth of love of Radha Krishna, the interesting myth related to the God and stars in the poem no 78, the myth in the another work of Tagore, Urvashi, all collected to give Tagore a frame of great Indian poet. The beautiful myth which speaks the words of the Bhagvad Gita:

"By this shall ye propagate, be this to you the giver of desires"


      One gets in proportion to what one sacrifices. There is a mythical background to the episode, the parable of Krishna and his friend Sudama, whose stale corn meal eaten by Krishna gives Sudama, the poor, wealth and splendor. These mythical background of the poems and the influence of Upanishads marks a charm and fame.

The Closeness with the Ultimate Aim:

      Such is the might of Tagore's lines in the Gitanjali that we feel closeness with the all pervasive spirit, the God. This divine, inscrutable, immanent, almighty, omnipotent force is present everywhere. It is not an abstraction nor it is an incarnated thing to be worshipped in idol. He is to be seen in the myriad forms of Nature in the heavens or on the earth. Sometimes He comes with the sweet perfume of the lotus, at other times He plays on this harp as the poet sleeps, and he hears His melody in a sleep. It is His call which the poet hears in the myriad voices of Nature. Sometimes He is a stranger coming to the poet's house, at other times He is a lover. The all-pervasive presence of God is suggested through a host of images taken from the common, familiar things of life. Many of his images create the impression of the vastness and majesty of God, as the image of giant bird spreading its wings on its flight across the sea. The outspread wings of the divine bird of Vishnu - a figure familiar in Hindu mythology suggests an idea about the Almighty's sword.

The Abundance of Vast Imagery and Symbols:

      Gitanjali is a storehouse of vivid, picturesque imagery. It abounds in concrete sensuous myths and images. The distinctive features of Rabindranath's Nature-myths are their vividness and simplicity. A maiden feels gratified when she is asked to give water to a thirsty traveler in Gitanjali. She feels a thrill of joy at this unexpected call which transforms her whole existence. The rustling of leaves, the sweet song of cuckoo, the perfume of the babla flowers shows the uniqueness of girls emotion. Similarly the calm and peace of mind burst out from the beautiful death imagery which turns the terrible aspect of death to the eternity. The sense of languor is described thus-

"The morning hour is late, the birds sings in weary notes, neem leaves rustle over head and I sit and think and think."

      The sense of calm and satisfaction is described thus-

"The repose of the sun-embroidered green gloom slowly spread over my heart. I forgot for what I have traveled, and I surrender my mind without struggle to the maze of shadows and songs".

      Another secret of the peculiar charm and fascination of Gitanjali lies in its quiet and calm atmosphere. It has intensity of passion, it has poignant yearning, it has richness and variety, but even then the final impression it leaves is one of quietness. The poet even conveys his agonized cry for meeting with God so gently that the peace and quiet of atmosphere is not disturbed. In Gitanjali, in poem no XXXVIII his intense yearning is expressed by the repetition "I want thee, thee only thee and its full intensity is conveyed by the images of the night seeking union with light and the storm seeking its fulfillment in peace against which it has rebelled. The images are striking and picturesque, but even more striking is the restraint, the economy in decoration. By the use of Such imagery the poet succeeds in vivifying highly abstract concepts.

A Universal Poet:

      Tagore's pure, beautiful and universal poetry, his poetic prose reached deep and far because he spoke to us of mind and soul, leading the human spirit towards God. Tagore's words - the tools-which he used are words of beauty, sensuous but not sensual, comprehending not only love of God and relationship between man and God but human love. The profound sense of beauty pervades Tagore's work and ennobles that and makes it understandable to every heart. The world needs such poets. His eyes were fixed upon the future of mankind. His heart and words were drowned in the real liberty of man, the emancipation from the meshes. His aim was removal of illiteracy, poverty and ignorance not only from Bengal or India but from the whole world. He thought of a future when goodness and beauty shall flower out of inspired love. But he lived in the present and his words are valid for present.

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