Statement of the aims and rationale for the book:Sociology in particular and social science in general have not taken in earnest Rabindranath's acquaintance with the grist and grind of people's life and the social and economic ills which had the country in its grip. It is the prime duty of Social scientist to re-look/revaluate the works of Rabindranath Tagore, especially at this juncture, because India is now being treated as a monolith in its cultural influences. For understanding India it is necessary for us to the vision of Rabindranath Tagore that give us the realization as to how the mode of imagining the unity of natural and sacred space had crossed the great oceans to reach distant parts all over the world.
Rabindranath in many ways represented the zenith of the nineteenth century renaissance spirit who was aware, way ahead of his time, that nature to be the best teacher. Therefore, moving away from the contemporary practice of erecting walls both metaphorically as well as practically around children, he earnestly began the practice of holding classes in the open with trees to provide the shade and the distant horizon to provide the ingredients of learning for children. In an environment so surcharged with the raw elements of nature, education could take place both in arts and sciences naturally. A citizen of his country and of the universe, Tagore is still a precious guide today, when so many people still believe that those two kinds of citizenship are mutually exclusive and even contradictory. Opposed to those obscure and obscuring views, Tagore held that promoting one’s own culture and approving the cultures of the others could be one and the same attitude. Embracing dialogue, Tagore heralded the rapprochement of cultures. This took courage: he not only had to argue with the colonial powers to have them acknowledge the dignity of every culture – he also had to argue with his fellow compatriots. His thought, philosophy and works represent, as in the words of his biographer Krishna Kripalini, "He strove to build up, through social participation and service, a living communication between the students of his school, the budding intelligentsia who might become the active leaders of tomorrow, and the peasants rooted in the soil, the solid core of Indian economy and society. So long as the core remained unchanged, India would remain static whatever the seeming progress among the intelligentsia in a few big cities like Calcutta or Bombay" (Krishna Kripalini, Tagore — A Life, New Delhi: National Book Trust 3rd edn. 1986). Tagore had an early grasp that development had to be human-centred and that only through education could sustainable social transformation be achieved. A son of the elite, Tagore did not entertain elitist views on education – in which he differed from many of the progressive thinkers and politicians of his time. Reflecting on India’s plight as a colony under foreign dominion, he understood, just as Gandhi did, that violence was a path unworthy of humanity. Tagore was deeply aware that India needed more than a change of political regime: “there can be no question of blind revolution, but of steady and purposeful education.” For society to thrive, people should discover the bond that holds them together as a community. It is our view that modern society could be interpreted, if not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially, as interplay of multiple and competing universalisms as envisioned by Tagore.
May 7, 2011 marks the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, one of India's most important cultural touchstones. To mark the occasion many notable events are taking place around the country, and even outside of it. 150 years later Tagore is not only an intellectual forerunner, but also he remains a steadfast companion to many in the midst our contemporary endeavours and challenges. Born in Kolkata in 1861, Tagore expressed himself as a novelist, playwright, poet, musician, artist, social reformer, and a central figure in the Indian modernist movement. He was a visionary educationist who set up the futuristic Visva-Bharati University in 1901 in Santiniketan, at Bolpur, in Birbhum District, in the state of West Bengal of India. Tagore won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the first non-European, in 1913. ‘Gitanjali’ (1910), his famous collection of poems that he himself translated, was the key component for his Nobel. For him, the “highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence.”
To mark the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore many notable events with innovative ways are being organized all around the world. However it has to be remembered, celebrating Tagore’s One Hundred Fiftieth anniversary touches our past, the present and indeed our future. Accelerated change, brought about by globalization processes, by developments in science and technology and by dangers affecting the environment and life itself, the world currently is witnessing a global crisis of immense proportions. Sociological Re-look of Rabindranath Tagore can allow us to refocus our priorities around sustainable values, social solidarity and scientific humanism. All over the planet, people face critical challenges which call for a new solidarity pact between human beings and our planet, and the formulation of new paradigms based on humanism and a re-evaluation of the relationship between culture and development. Taken together, the works of Rabindranath Tagore encapsulate this spirit for us to take.
In context of the above, it is proposed an anthology be produced revisiting the works of Rabindranth Tagore commemorating his 150th birth anniversary
Ramanuj Ganguly, Ph.D
Department of Sociology
West Bengal State University
Barasat, Calcutta, West Bengal
India, PIN 700126
Phone: +91-9831623471 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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