Historical Context

Indian Nationalism and the Bengal Partition
As much as Tagore and others like him preferred to spend their time in contemplation of their God, the political situation in India often affected them or their poetry. In “60,” Tagore writes: “Tempest roams in the pathless sky, ships get wrecked in the trackless water, death is abroad and children play. On the seashore of endless worlds is the great meeting of children.” Images like these, while certainly containing religious significance, also speak of instability in general. They also hint at the idea of a coalition, a “great meeting.” For Tagore, these themes often came from issues associated with the British control of India. Mary M. Lago says, speak- ing generally about Tagore’s life and work in her chapter on “Tagore’s Traditions” in Twayne’s World Authors Series Online: “The basic theme . . . was constant: the search for ways to keep civilization, in the East and in the West, unified in a world increasingly divisive and contentious.”

Tagore was an activist at the time that he wrote many of the poems in Gitanjali. In 1905, Tagore joined the nationalist movement to block the partition of Bengal. Prior to this event, certain groups had opposed British rule, but many citizens did not get involved. However, when the British government attempted to divide the province of Bengal, in an administrative move that was meant to increase the government’s efficiency in the province, it did not take into...

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