Mrinalini Devi (Raichoudhuri), 1872-1902; Rabindranath’s wife by Christine Kupfer

Mrinalini Devi was Rabindranath’s wife and mother to their five children. Mrinalini Devi was originally called Bhabatarini. She was born in 1872 at Fultala in Jessore (in present day Bangladesh). Debendranath Tagore knew her father Benimadhab Raichoudhuri, who worked as a clerk in his estate.

Rabindranath Tagore and Mrinalini Devi, 1883  Image credit: Ministry of Culture, Government of India
Rabindranath Tagore and Mrinalini Devi, 1883 Image credit: Ministry of Culture, Government of India

According to their fathers wishes, Bhabatarini was married to Rabindranath when she was only ten years old. The ceremony took place on 9 December 1883 at Jorosanko. Rabindranath himself was twenty-two years old.

The wedding was hurried and fell on an unfortunate day, as Rabindranath’s sister Saudamini Devi’s husband Saradaprasad Gangopadhyay died on this day. For this reason, Rabindranath’s sister, his father, and his brother Satyendranath were not present at the wedding.

As the name Bhabatarini was considered old-fashioned by some of the Tagores, Rabindranath, according to the suggestion of his brother Dwijendranath, changed her name to Mrinalini Devi  and sent her to Loreto School as she was illiterate at the time.

Mrinalini Devi

Their relationship has been portrayed in very different ways. While some biographers assume that Rabindranath did look after her dutifully but did not even mourn her death, others describe their relationship as caring and tender. They had five children together.

Mrinalini Devi fell ill in 1902, while the family lived together in Santiniketan. Doctors in Calcutta could not diagnose her illness. Her son Rathindranath later speculated that his mother had appendicitis. After three months, she died on 23 November 1902, aged 29. Rabindranath never remarried.

 

Bibliographical Notes

  • Kripalani, Krishna. Rabindranath Tagore: A Biography. New York: Grove Press, 1962.
  • Dutta, Krishna, and Andrew Robinson. Rabindranath Tagore: The Myriad-Minded Man. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995.
  • Radice, William. Deception: How Tagore’s wife had changed him. , 2012.
  • Tagore, Rabindranath. A Wife’s Letter. Translated from Bengali by Prasenjit Gupta. Parabaas: 2009.

 

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