16th March 2015: The River as a motif in Indian Literature and in Rabindranath Tagore’s Imagination by Prof. Amrit Sen

The nadi or the river is a continuous motif in Indian Literature and in Rabindranath Tagore’s literary works – in his numerous poems, songs, plays and prose pieces. This paper will show how the Indian literary tradition finds expression in Tagore’s work. 

Professor Amrit Sen
Professor Amrit Sen

Having grown up in Kolkata, Rabindranath was initiated to the magic appeal of the river while performing his duties as a landlord at Silaidaha and Patisar in the early 1890s. For Tagore, this was the period when the river became an integral part of his existence as he travelled in the boat named Padma across the length and breadth of the East Bengal riverine land.

This paper argues that the river was not merely a site of imagination for Rabindranath: he was rather engaging deeply with more political and social issues in his ideas of the baro (majestic) and choto (smaller) rivers in his later poems. A differentiation between these two kinds of rivers becomes a gateway into Tagore’s critique of Indian nationalism’s elitist nature.

Professor Amrit Sen is Professor of English at Visva-Bharati (Tagore’s University) and a visiting scholar on the UKIERI Knowledge Exchange project, which is a research collaboration between ScoTs and Visva-Bharati.


16 March 2015, 12.30 – 2 pm, Edinburgh University