A Biographical Chronology

1861: Rabindranath Tagore, the fourteenth child of his parents Maharshi Debendranath Tagore and Sarada Devi, born at Jorasanko, Calcutta on the 7th of May.

1863: Tagore’s father bought seven acres of barren land from the zamindars of Raipur, Birbhum, West Bengal, which later came to be known as Santiniketan.

1873: Traveled to the Western Himalayas with his father. On their way to the Dalhousie Hills, Rabindranath stayed at Santiniketan for the first time with the Maharshi. This is where he wrote his first drama Prithvirajer Parajay (The Defeat of Prithviraj). Unfortunately, no copy of this work exists.

1874: First publication of his poem Abhilasha in Tattwabodhini Patrika.

1875: Death of his mother. Recited his own patriotic poem ‘Hindumelar Upohar’ (The gift of the Hindumela) at the Hindu Mela, which is considered to be his first public appearance.

1878: Stayed with his elder brother Satyendranath Tagore in Ahmedabad just before his departure for his studies at the University College of London as a student of Law.

1879: First visit to London.

1880: Returned to India without completing his formal course of study. His first book Sandhya Sangit (Evening Songs) was published.

1881: Wrote his first musical drama Valmiki Pratibha.

1883: Married Mrinalini Devi.

1884: Sister-in-law Kadambari Devi committed suicide.

1886: Birth of first child, Madhurilata.

1888: Birth of elder son Rathindranath.

1890: Assigned the job of managing the Tagore Estate at Silaidah (now in Bangladesh).

1891: Birth of second daughter Renuka.

1892: Advocated education in mother tongue, rather than in English. He criticized the prevalent system of English education in India in his essay Sikhshar Herfer (Vagaries of Education).

1894: Birth of youngest daughter Mira. Elected Vice- President of Academy of Bengali Letters and became the editor of Sadhana, the new family journal of the Tagore family.

1895: He started a Swadeshi store in Calcutta for the promotion of indigenous goods and business among the youth of Bengal, and a jute-pressing factory in Kushtia, the district town adjacent to their estate in East Bengal.

1896: Birth of youngest son Samindranath.

1898: Sedition Bill passed; arrest of Bal Gangadhar Tilak; Tagore read his paper Kantharodh (The Throttled) at a public meeting in Calcutta.

1899: Moved to Santiniketan with his wife and children.

1901: Revived Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s monthly journal, Bangadarshan. Established a school for children called the brahmacharyashrama on the model of ancient Indian forest school at Santiniketan with approval of his father. Wrote the poems of Naivedya.

1902: Mrinalini Devi, his wife, died.

1903: His second daughter, Renuka, expired.

1903-1904: He started taking serious interest in the political problems of the country and wrote his seminal essay ‘Swadeshi Samaj’ (Our State and Society, 1904).

1905: His father, Debendranath Tagore, died at the age of 88. Launch of the Swadeshi Andolan (Independence movement) protest against Lord Curzon’s proposal to partition Bengal. Tagore advocated the policy of constructive non-cooperation against the British Raj.

1907: Youngest son, Samindranath, died. Tagore, disillusioned over the political exploitation of the Hindu-Muslim conflict, withdrew himself from the swadeshi andolan.

1908: Presided over the Bengal Provincial Congress session in Pabna, East Bengal and delivered his speech in Bengali, breaking away from the tradition of delivering speeches in English at these sessions.

1910: Bengali Gitanjali published.

1912: Met British painter William Rothenstein in England. Rothenstein was instrumental in arranging for the publication of the English Gitanjali, with an introduction by W.B. Yeats, by the India Society of London. Visited USA for the first time.

1913: Gitanjali, Crescent Moon, The Gardener and Chitra published by Macmillan, London. Tagore was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature as the first Asian recipient of the award.

1915: Received Knighthood. He met Gandhi for the first time at Santiniketan. Stayed in the Surul village near Santiniketan, and wrote his novel Ghare Baire (Home and the World).

1916: Traveled to the USA via China and Japan giving lectures on Nationalism.

1918: Foundation stone of Visva-Bharati, an international university was laid.

1919: Renounced his Knighthood in protest of the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, where an unarmed gathering was brutally shot at by the British Brigadier-General, Reginald Dyer, killing nearly 1000 people and injuring more than 1500.

1920: Left for England on a lecture tour to raise funds for Visva-Bharati. During this trip he traveled to France, Holland and America.

1921: Visited England, France, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, Austria and Czechoslovakia.

1922: On February 6, the Institute of Rural Reconstruction was established in Sriniketan with the participation from Rathindranath Tagore, Leonard Elmhirst and William Pearson.

1924: Visited China and Japan. Almost immediately after returning from this trip he sailed for South America, particularly for Peru. However he fell ill and was confined to Buenos Aires as the guest of Victoria Ocampo, where he engaged himself in the art of doodling connecting the accidental erasures in his writings which finally gave birth to his paintings.

1924-1925: Began a political debate with Gandhiji on the Charkha campaign which invited tremendous criticism from people like Prafulla Chandra Ray and others for his non-participation in it. He replied with an essay titled ‘Swaraj Sadhan’ (Attaining Swaraj) where he argued the futility of the practice of Charkha as a means to attain Swaraj.

1925: Mahatma Gandhi visited Santiniketan. Tagore turned down his request to join his political campaign.

1926: Traveled to Italy as the guest of Mussolini, though his choice was misguided by others. Mussolini told him, “I am an Italian admirer of yours, who has read every one of your books translated into the Italian language”. He also traveled to Switzerland (where he met Romain Rolland), Austria, England, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany (where he met Albert Einstein), Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Greece and Egypt.

1927: Staged Natir Puja in Calcutta where he acted the role of the Buddhist monk. Went for a trip to South East Asia, including, Myanmar, Singapore, Java, Bali, Malaya, and Siam.

1928: Took up painting.

1930: Made his eleventh foreign tour. Delivered the Hibbert Lectures in Oxford (published as the book The Religion of Man). His solo exhibition of painting was held in France followed by other exhibitions in England, Germany, Switzerland, and USA.

1931: Letters from Russia published.

1932: He led the massive protest meeting against the Hijli Detention Camp shooting incident and condemned “the concerted homicidal attack, under cover of darkness, on defenseless prisoners undergoing the system of barbaric incarceration and a nerve-racking strain of an indefinitely suspended fear”. Tagore had his last overseas visits to Persia and Iraq.

1937: Hall of Chinese Studies, or the Cheena Bhavana, was inaugurated in Santiniketan. Tagore fell seriously ill.

1938: Exhibition of his paintings held in London.

1940: Oxford University conferred Doctorate on Tagore through a special convocation at Santiniketan. Tagore wrote a letter to Mahatma Gandhi requesting him to take charge of Visva Bharati.

1941: His final lecture, Crisis in Civilisation, written during the heydays of the Second World War, was read on his eightieth birthday at Santiniketan. He was taken to Calcutta being seriously ill on the 25th July from Santiniketan. Tagore breathed his last on the 7th of August at the age of eighty.

(Source: „A Biographical Sketch of Tagore“ (Purba Banerjee), INDIA PERSPECTIVES, VOLUME 24, NO. 2/2010, pp.128-132)