“Jibono Moroner Shimana Chadaye…Bondhu he aamaar royecho dadaye…” (Beyond the bounds of life and death, There you stand, Oh! my friend)!
Of course, these lines do not need any introduction. Rather one might experience a deep sense of awe, admiration and mind captivating sensation every time these lines are heard and repeated. Today, or to be specific Baishe Srabon, as the nation remembers the Bard on his 77th Death anniversary, perhaps Tagore’s own creations are the best way to comprehend his fascination with the theme of death.
Tagore’s first encounter with death occurred at the age of 14 when his mother, Sharada Devi, passed away. Later in life, he had to encounter a trail of deaths, listing many of his loved ones, one after another. The list included his sister-in-law Kadambari Devi, who was a dear friend and a significant influence, his wife Mrinalini Devi, his daughters Madhurilata and Renuka, and his youngest and most favorite child, Shamindranath.
Rabindranath Tagore has referred to death as the mystery. In fact, if taken a close look, Tagore ponders over the mystery of death in his poetry written during his teenage years as well as his later years.
It is not a mere point of contention that throughout his adult life, both in his prose writings and in his poetry, death had been a recurrent motif of his meditations. To support the fact, Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross, the author of the popular and widely influential On Death and Dying, believed that no one else had ever thought more deeply on death than Rabindranath Tagore. In fact, Tagore printed his quotations at the head of each chapter of her book.
Tagore’s preoccupation with death dates back to a traumatic event of his youth, the suicide of his Muse and the love of his life, his sister-in-law Kadambari, just three months post the poet’s marriage at the age of twenty-three. Here again, his grief becomes equivalent to the pain of another stalwart, the English poet, John Keats, whose painful experiences of the death of loved ones, including his father, mother, and brother, before his own first hemorrhage that was to kill him at the age of twenty-five.
The attempt to find a meaning in death is part of our universal heritage, as old as the human consciousness of mortality. Tagore supports the view with his insights that death has a meaning because of the existence of life.
Tagore penned down life as a contractual process in a stage of continuous movement, where life and death are two faces of the same coin and they cannot be separated. They can be interchanged, inter-converted and united to form a whole. There is only one inevitability, that death follows life.
Rabindranath Tagore has visualized life as a journey to an ultimate destination, unknown to man. During this voyage of life, man has to face the joys and sorrows, as life offers them to him. Tagore describes this cycle of life and death as a continues process. Life is incomplete without death and Death is the ultimate amalgamation of life, the union of the soul with God.
To conclude, Tagore saw death as the inevitable end, but however, that would again follow life. Thereby his thoughts on that can be comprehended by the words,
“Aachhe dukkho, aachhe mrityu, birahodahano laage….Tobuo shaanti, tobuo ananda, tobuo antajaage” (Despite misery, death and churning of the estranged heart, peace, and bliss prevail, hopes galore)