Unity in India: The Message of the Forest

A special feature of the shellac records in the the Humboldt University Sound Archives is the Tagore’s signature engraved in the wax plate of the recording. Wilhelm Doegen always added his signature too. These closing words of a speech that Tagore gave in English were recorded in the university’s main lecture theater on June 1, 1921 (and again the following evening in view of the interest shown in it).

Tagore at Humboldt University in Berlin
Tagore at Humboldt University in Berlin

In his speech, The Message of the Forest, which Tagore gave in many places on his travels around Europe and North America, he refers to the vision of a world university where people from different cultures and religions form an academic community. Later that year he founded the Vishva Bharati University in Shanti Niketan, India.

The final sentence of his speech is “India’s great achievement, which is still stored deep within her heart, is waiting, to unite within itself Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Christian, not by force, not by the apathy of resignation, but in the harmony of active co-operation.” In 1913 Tagore was the first non-Western person to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature:

 

 

“The idea of freedom to which India aspires was based upon the realisation of the ritual unity. It is India’s duty to be loyal to this great truth, and never allow it to be extinguished by the storm of passion weeping over the present day world. That is why we must be careful today to try to find out the principle by means of which India will be able for certain to realise herself.

That principle is neither commercialism nor nationalism, it is not nearly self determination, but self conquest and self dedication. The voice of this truth was heard in India’s forests of old above the din of race conflict. It was declared in the Upanishads and expounded in the Gita, Lord Buddha renounced the world that he might make this truth a household word for all mankind, Kabir, Nanak, and other great spirits of India continued to proclaim its message.

India’s grand achievement, which is still stored deep within her heart, is waiting, to unite within itself Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Christian, not by force, not by the apathy of resignation, but in the harmony of active cooperation.”

Rabindranath Tagore, 4th of June 1921. Berlin University

 

 

The audio recording was drawn from the collections in the Humboldt University archive and restored by Alex Dunedin: https://www.lautarchiv.hu-berlin.de/en/collections-and-catalog/examples/famous-people-rabindranath-tagore/

 

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