Rabindranath Tagore – Concept of Nationalism

by Giz TimesJune 11, 2015

Rabindranath Tagore’s Concept of Nationalism

Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore

The First World War raging in Europe must have made Rabindranath Tagore turn his attention to the cult of nationalism. Instead of literature and art, Tagore focused his penetrating insights into what he felt was wrong with the western civilization. Rabindranath Tagore in one of his letters to his son Rathindranath wrote-

“I want to make that place beyond the limits of nation and geography.”

This shows his dedication and desire to see the world beyond the sense of nationalism and everyone finding one resolution in humanism. The idea that east and west complemented each other forms the basis of Tagore’s idea of Nationalism. According to one of his essays which he wrote at the age of 17, fullness will emerge from a synthesis of the East and the West ideologies. Thus he believed in “One World” and not separate nations. He stresses on the need to see racial cooperation rather than economic exploitation.

Rabindranath Tagore’s view on Nationalism is that it is the training of a whole person for a narrow ideal – that of prosperity of a nation becoming strong and efficient. It is restrictive, a menace and a false sense of exultation and spirituality. It feels no compunction in destroying other states and colonizing them in the name of a nation. In Rabindranath Tagore’s perspective, people should not assert their superiority by asking questions that are questions for themselves.

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Rabindranath Tagore also lays paramount emphasis on the fact that we all must find a basis of unity which is not political. According to him there is only one history- “the history of man” and all national histories are merely chapters in the larger one. Rabindranath Tagore says that each individual has self love because of which he fights. But he also has a higher instinct of sympathy and mutual help because of which he can exist in harmony. Man will have to exert all his power and learn to make moral adjustments which will comprehend and consolidate the whole world of men and not merely groups of different nationalities.

Tagore also believes that nothing is inferior or superior. They are just different. He emphasizes on the fact that Nationalism exists only on the ground mundane level. The morals and ethics within us that we are utilizing in this lower cause should be put in the higher field of spirituality because when higher motive is achieved the lower ones are automatically achieved. This is the main theme of Rabindranath Tagore’s essay on Nationalism.


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