Jyotirindranath Tagore (1849–1925), brother of Rabindranath by Christine Kupfer

Jyotirindranath was a playwright, a musician and composer, an editor and scholar, and a painter. Jyotirindranath was born in Jorosanko, Calcutta, in 1849. He was primarily taught at home by his elder brother Hemendranath. At first he studied for Fine Arts but was then attracted to theatre and left his studies  to practice and stage dramas at home.  His cousin Ganendranath had established the Jorasanko Natyasala in 1865.

Jyotirindranath Tagore
Jyotirindranath Tagore

In the first play that was staged, Krishnakumari by Michael Madhusudan Dutta, Jyotirindranath took part in in the role of Ahalyadevi, a brave queen. This confirmed Jyotirindranath in his aspiration to become a playwright. The plays he wrote are Purubikram (1874), Sarojini (1875) – which features a song that Rabindranath wrote for it — Ashrumati (Woman in tears, 1879),  and Swapnamayi (Lady of Dream, 1882).

In 1867 Jyotirindranath stayed with his elder brother Satyendranath in Ahmedabad. While he was there, he learnt to play the sitar, started to paint and draw (around 2,000 sketches are preserved at Rabindra Bharati University) and learnt French and Indian.

While he was there, he also translated many books, such as Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, novels, and books on plays, history, philosophy, from English and French into Bengali. Later on, he also translated many Sanskrit dramas such as Kalidasa’s Shakuntala into Bengali. He also wrote several satires. In 1877, Jyotirindranath founded the new magazine Bharati with his brother Dwijendranath.

Jyotirndranath played the piano, harmonium, violin, and sitar and was the one who played the most important role in creating an atmosphere of music at Jorosanko. Often he composed a tune and his friend Akshay Chandra Chaudhuri, and later Rabindranath, wrote the lyrics to these songs.

Rabindranath’s drance drama Mayar Khela relies heavily on Jyotirindranath’s tunes. Jyotrindranath also continued to develop his elder brother Dwijendranath’s efforts to find notations for Bengali music. He founded journals and a society to develop and popularize this work. Jyotirindranath’s businesses first involved jute and indigo cultivation and then steamers.

Sitting - Jyotirindranath Tagore. Standing - from right - Kadambari, wife of Jyotirindranath, Satyendranath Tagore, Jnanadanandini, wife of Satyendranath. Image credit: Ministry of Culture, Government of India.
Sitting – Jyotirindranath Tagore.
Standing – from right – Kadambari, wife of Jyotirindranath, Satyendranath Tagore, Jnanadanandini, wife of Satyendranath.
Image credit: Ministry of Culture, Government of India.

He was secretary of the Adi Brahmo Samaj from 1869 to 1888. He also helped to organise the Hindu Mela in Kolkata, wrote the opening song for it in 1868, and was later elected its secretary. Furthermore, he instituted the secret society Sanjibani Sabha in 1876, which was dedicated to the improvement of the country.

Jyotirindranath was married to Kadambari Devi on 5 July 1868. As he was in the forefront of the movement for women’s education and emancipation, he arranged for her education. Kadambari Devi committed suicide on 19 April 1884. After that, Jyotindranath was very close to Satyendranath and his children. Jyotindranath died on 4 March 1925 in Ranchi, Jharkhand, where he had built a house in later life.

 

Bibliographical Notes

  • Banerjee, Hironmoy & Biplab K. Majumdar 1995. The Tagores of Jorasanko. New Dehli, Gyan Publ. House.
  • Mitra, Rajyeshwar, “Music in Old Calcutta.” In Calcutta, the Living City, Vol. I, edited by Sukanta Chaudhuri, p. 179–85.
  • Ghosh, Siddhartha, Calcutta’s Industrial Archaeology, in Calcutta, the Living City, Vol I, edited by Sukanta Chaudhuri, p. 250

 

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