Rathindranath Tagore (1888-1961); son of Rabindranath by Christine Kupfer

Rathindranath was  born on 27 November 1888. He was Rabindranath’s oldest son (second child) and one of his first students at Shantiniketan. He was an agriculturist, carpenter, architect, writer, painter, teacher of genetics at Visva-Bharati and its first vice-chancellor after it became Central University.

Rathindranath Tagore
Rathindranath Tagore

Rathindranath, nicknamed Rathi, first lived in Kolkata, but in 1889, his father Rabindranath took his family to Sholapur, where his brother was judge, as his father had sent him to Sehlidah on zamindari work and their house was not yet built. In 1890, Rabindranath went to England for half a year and felt upset to leave his young family behind. When the house in Shelidah was completed, they finally lived together again.

At first, his father educated Rathindranath at home with the help of tutors. In 1901, his father started a school in Shantiniketan, where Rathindranath was educated. As the Visva-Bharati website claims:

“Rathindranath was not only one of the first five boys of the Santiniketan Brahmacharyasrama, he was also one of the reasons for its existence. Rathindranath was the most representative product of Rabindranath’s educational ideal.”

 

In 1902, Rathindranath’s mother died; only nine month later his sister Rani; and in 1907 his little brother Sami passed away. Some of the teachers at Santiniketan helped Rathindranath to prepare for his higher studies. His father wanted to send Rathi to a different country to study a technical subject, as he hoped that he would then teach this subject at Visva-Bharati.

Rabindranath Tagore, his son Rathindranath Tagore and daughter-in-law Pratima Devi in Germany, 1926.  Image credit: Visva-Bharati University
Rabindranath Tagore, his son Rathindranath Tagore and daughter-in-law Pratima Devi in Germany, 1926.
Image credit: Visva-Bharati University

On 27th of January 1910, Rathindranath (aged 21) was married to Pratima Devi (aged 16). Pratima had been married before, when she was eleven years old, but her husband Nilanath Chattopadhyay had died only two months later. This was the first time in the Tagore family – and very unusual in Bengal society – that a widow was re-married. Straight after the wedding, Rabindranath took the newly-weds to Santiniketan.

A little later, Rabindranath sent Rathi (together with Mira’s husband Nagendranath Gagnopadhya) to Illinois, America to study Agricultural Science. After Rathindranath received his Bachelor degree in agriculture, he travelled to Europe. He stopped in London and then briefly studied at Goettingen University, Germany.

Back in Calcutta, his father took him to his estates in Shelidah to make him the new Zamindar. Rathindranath tried to demonstrate the new farming methods he had learnt in America to the local peasants (e.g. experimential farming, new crops, small laboratory) and also tried to introduce methods of self-government. Rabindranath made it the main task of his son to develop the economic condition of the downtrodden of Indian society.

Rathindranath fulfilled what his father had asked of him and spent the next four decades of his life serving Santiniketan and Visva-Bharati and implementing his father’s plans. He also taught genetics at Santiniketan and worked at Sriniketan. Fifty years after his joining the Brahmacharyasram, when Visva-Bharati became a Central University, he became its first Vice Chancellor (ipacharya).

 

Bibliographical Notes

  • Dutta, Krishna, and Andrew Robinson. Rabindranath Tagore: The Myriad-Minded Man. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995.
  • Tagore, Rathindranath. On the Edges of Time. Westport,Ct: Greenwood Press, 1978.
  • Kripalani, Krishna. Rabindranath Tagore: A Biography. New York: Grove Press, 1962.
  • Visva-Bharati.