Rabindranath turned his full attention to the Santiniketan school after withdrawing from the Swadeshi Movement of 1904-1905 which he had joined with great patriotic fervour. Till then he held his faith in the traditional Hindu Samaj but came in for a rude shock when he realized that, true to orthodoxy, the Hindu Samaj would not take the Muslims into its fold. He gave powerful expression to his disillusionment in the novel Gora while writing and serializing it during the years 1907-1909.
The novel’s hero ‘Gora’ was an orphan boy of Irish parents brought up by a Brahmin family as their own child. The boy grew up to be a fiercely patriotic young man and a defender of orthodox Hinduism.
But when ‘Gora’ finally discovered his foreign origins he also realised he would be rejected by orthodox Hindu society where he had invested his trust and his social commitment. That became his wake up call about the need to be an Indian without caste or creed. At the end of the novel we have ‘Gora’ saying,
“Today I am really an Indian! In me there is no longer any opposition between Hindu, Mussulman, and Christian. Today every caste is my caste, the food of all is my food!”
Rabindranath hit out against national chauvinism with that novel. Amid growing perplexities of the social, educational and political problems in his times, his mind had been turning to the past to discover in the history of India a central ideal for regulating our life and work. He expressed his inclusive humanism in a song with these words,
“Day and night, thy voice goes out from land to land,
Calling Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains
Round thy throne
And Parsees, Mussulmans and Christians.
Offerings are brought to thy shrine by
the East and the West
to be woven in a garland of love.
Thou bringest the hearts of all peoples
Into the harmony of one life,
Thou Dispenser of India’s destiny,
Victory, Victory, Victory to thee.”
This article was written by Uma Das Gupta
Professor Uma Das Gupta is a historian and a renowned Tagore biographer. She is the author of many books and articles on Tagore. Some of the most recent are: Rabindranath Tagore: My Life in My Words. New Delhi, Penguin Books, 2010; Rabindranath Tagore: An Illustrated Life. New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2013.