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What are the major achievements of Rabindranath Tagore?

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Lynnette Wofford eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Rabindranath Tagore was a Bengali writer and artist who was born on May 7, 1861, in Calcutta and died there on August 7, 1941. Born to a wealthy Brahmin family, he was tutored at home and traveled and read widely; despite limited formal schooling, he was widely educated in many disciplines. He is best known for his work as a writer and artist and for being the first person from India to be awarded a Nobel Prize, which he won for literature in 1913. During the period from 1901 to 1932, he founded and ran an ashram, an experimental school. Although from an upper-class family himself, he was aware of the injustice of the caste system and advocated for an end to discrimination against dalits.

Tagore is best known as a writer for his poetry, which was influenced by Sanskrit literature. Gitanjali or Song Offerings (1910) was the poetry book for which he won the Nobel Prize. Some of his other well-known works were Manasi, Sonar Tori ("Golden Boat"), and Balaka ("Wild Geese").

As well as poems, he wrote numerous songs, including "Jana Gana Mana," the national anthem of India. He also wrote numerous essays and short stories and traveled and lectured widely. He was a strong voice supporting world peace.

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Esmeralda Keene eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Great question—and a difficult one to answer succinctly, as Tagore (1861-1941) was considered a polymath (a person who is an expert in many fields, not just one).

For the sake of simplicity, let us narrow down his expertise into a few categories: literature, music, and art. We will go over his key achievements in each of them.

LITERATURE

Tagore was the author of eight novels, four novellas, and several collections of poetry. His subject matter ranged from political topics to his personal life. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913. He was the first non-European to earn this honor.

MUSIC

Tagore was also a prolific songwriter. He wrote approximately 2,230 songs in his lifetime, and he is considered a major force in changing the style of Bengali music by incorporating influences from a wide range of musical traditions. His compositions were chosen as the national anthems of two countries: India and Bangladesh.

ART

Tagore was an artistic revolutionary. He rejected rigid structures that were commonplace at the time and experimented with naturalism and other elements he liked from a wide range of sources. In the latter part of his life, he started drawing and painting. However, when we talk about his "art," we are mainly talking about his larger contributions to the field of music and literature.

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