Vrindavan, 2018.04.08 (VT): Rabindranath Tagore is most famous for being a great poet and the composer of India’s national anthem, but, from a young age, Tagore wrote about Braj and expressed his desire to become a resident of Braj.
Among his collected works, there are several poems written in praise of Braj. Tagore wrote about Braj in the Brajbuli language – an artificial literary language that is a mix of Bengali and Brajbhasha. Under the pen name, Bhanu Singh, Tagore wrote Bhanusimha Thakurer Padabali (The songs of Bhanushingho Thakur) at age 16.
The Songs of Bhanushingho are about Radha-Krishna and Tagore kept returning to these early works, revising them several times. There is nothing to suggest that Tagore ever came to Braj, but, through his poetry, he helped to continue the tradition of the strong connection between Bengal and Braj.
Not surprisingly, other poets also wrote of their desire to be reborn in Braj. Ras Khan wrote in ‘Rachnavali’, “If I, Ras Khan, am reborn as human, I wish to be a cowherd in the village of Gokul in Brajbhumi. If born an animal, I would like to be a cow in the herd of Nanda, grazing blissfully all day”
Tagore was inspired by Thomas Chatterton, a child prodigy who was able to pass off his poetry as medieval writing. Like Chatterton, the young Tagore enjoyed creating poetry in the style of other poets and wanted to be a “second Chatterton”. Using the Brajbuli language, which was used by Medieval Bengali poets including Narottama Dasa, Balarama Das, Jnanadas, and Gobindadas Kabiraj, Tagore wrote:
यदि पर जन्में पाइ रे, होते ब्रजेर राखाल बालक।
तबै निबिए देवो निजेर घरे सुसभ्यतार आलोक।।
(If I am reborn again, I want to be reborn in Braj, this would bring great honour to my family)
The collection of poetry in Brajbuli was published in 1884, when the poet was 24 years old.
The poetry and devotional sentiments of this great patriot remain an inspiration to people throughout India. Scholars such as Pragati Sharma are currently researching Tagore’s poetry and, this research is helping to shed light on Tagore’s attachment to Radha-Krishna’s pastimes in Braj.