Examine the meaning of Song 36 from Gitanjali.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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As with the all of the songs in Tagore's work, there is a calling towards the divine in Song 36.  The opening lines construct the divine as a form of power that has the capacity to transform.  It is in this light that Tagore asks the divine to "strike at the root of penury in my heart."  It is interesting to note that Tagore sees the key element for restoration and hope as lying within. Liberation of a group cannot take place until individuals liberate themselves. This idea of internalizing the divine and then seeing change and transformation from this point is a part of Song 36.  To remove the impoverished condition of both heart and nation starts from within.  From this, Tagore calls out for different forms of help in enabling himself to be better than he can be.  

There is an allusion to the lotus in Song 36.  Tagore was conscious of the Gita Govinda, which serves as the Vaishnavite call to praising Lord Vishnu in the form of Krishna.  Tagore understood that the premise of the Gita Govinda was a praising of the divine in the hopes of making the individual better than they are. Symbolically, the lotus grows amongst filth and muck but does not take the form of the world around it.  It arises to the heavens despite being placed in the mire.  The lotus is a significant aspect of the Vaishnavite mode of worship, as Lord Vishnu is often described in lotus terminology.  This aspiration to the heavens while being tethered to the mundane is a significant part of Song 36.  Tagore constructs Song 36 with this lotus symbolism in mind, reflecting how he calls out to the divine in the hopes of being better than he is and as good as he can be, reflected in the idea of linking his "strength" to "thy will with love."

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