By Quinn, Nation, and Millett
Published here with authors’ permission
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Rabindranath Tagore was one of the most famous Indian writers of the 20th century. He wrote thousands of poems, stories and songs in both his own language, Bengali, and in English. Today his writing is still widely read all over the world and his books can be found in many other languages. However, Tagore did not become famous for his writing worldwide until he was fifty-one when he started to write his poetry in English.
Tagore was born into a rich family in Calcutta, India in 1861. When he was still very young, he was already interested in reading, writing and music. He wrote his first book of poems when he was only seventeen years old. He liked to watch the things around him: the trees, the birds, the sky, the flowers and the grass. All these things were beautiful for him. He was interested in God and how people could live their lives in the best way possible.
When he was old enough to go to school, his father sent him to a school in his town but he did not like it. He did not like his lessons and he did not like his teachers’ way of teaching so after a short time he left the school. His father then found him a teacher and together they studied at home. Later his father sent him to England to study law. However, Tagore did not want to study law so he came back to India before he finished his study.
In 1901, Tagore started a school outside Calcutta. His school was different from other schools because in his school the teachers taught in a different way. The students had to ask questions and the teachers answered them. In this way Tagore taught the students how to think. Both the students and the teachers liked this way of teaching. Some of Tagore’s students were rich and some of them were poor but all the students had to live together. They lived together, learned together and played together. Everything was free in Tagore’s school. The students did not have to pay for their lessons or their food so Tagore needed to find money for his school. He used his own money from his writing and some of his father’s money. As well as working at his school he continued his writing and became a great thinker and a leader in his country. Much of his thinking was based on the old Indian ideas of thousands of years ago.
Tagore travelled to Europe and the United States of America where he taught in many universities. He talked about India and the Indian people, and about his writing and his ideas. He also talked about his school. Many of the people he met were interested in his school and they sent him money so that the school could continue.
Tagore continued writing and in 1913 he won the Nobel Prize. He was given this prize because he was judged the best writer in the world for that year. In 1921, Tagore’s school became a university and students came from all over the world to study there. But, he did not stop working. At the age of 68 he became a painter.
Tagore spent most of his life trying to unite the ideas of East and West. He died in 1941 at the age of 80.