Rabindranath Tagore – pioneer in rural education

Read “Exploring Tagore’s Santiniketan, a Unique Abode of Learning”
by Sanchari Pal on The Better India >>

A most important truth, which we are apt to forget, is that a teacher can never truly teach unless he is still learning himself. A lamp can never light another lamp unless it continues to burn its own flame. – Rabindranath Tagore quoted in Santiniketan (1961, p. 28)

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India celebrated the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore in 2010-11. Although Indians know him mainly as a poet, dramatist, composer, social reformer and philosopher of international repute, he also was a pioneer in rural education and village reconstruction on modern lines. Santiniketan, his world famous school, is now part of Viswa-Bharati University, an Institution of National Importance. An article by Amartya Sen outlines the poet-composer’s lifetime achievement in greater detail.

Tagore founded a centre for rural reconstruction to which the modern ecological movement owes so much. In the words of Satish Kumar, paying homage to Rabindranath Tagore in his capacity as Editor-in-Chief at Resurgence:

He not only healed the sorrow and suffering which he had experienced due to death, depression and disappointment in his own life but he worked too to heal the wounds of injustice and inequality within Indian society. …

The worldview of Tagore is seeing the unity of reason and religion, spirit and matter and letting them dance together. This is the big vision where science complements spirituality, art complements ecology and freedom complements equality.

The Wisdom of Tagore (Resurgence, Issue 266 May/June 2011)

More on Rabindranath Tagore and his projects for the development of rural education

  • Infusing the Santhali element in schooling
    “Gurudev Tagore’s approach to education, the ambience of the gurukul system, lack of rigidity in the curriculum, and the emphasis on holistic education made me realize the possibility of there being a lot of room for improvement in the prevailing system of education Santhal children were subjected to.”
    Infusing the Santhali Element in Schooling by Rina Mukherji
    Charkha e-newsletter/Bimonthly issue, May & June 2006
  • The Religion of an Artist
    “Of all living creatures in the world, man has his vital and mental energy vastly in excess of his need, which urges him to work in various lines of creation for its own sake […] Life is perpetually creative because it contains in itself that surplus which ever overflows the boundaries of the immediate time and space.”
    The Religion of an Artist by Rabindranath Tagore (in The English Writings of Rabindranath Tagore Vol 3 by Sisir Kumar Das (ed.), New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi 2006, pp. 687-8 and quoted by Pulak Dutta (p. 97) in:
    Santiniketan Birth of Another Cultural Space (free e-book)
  • Sriniketan
    A new type of school serving the special needs such as healthcare and economic welfare of Santal tribal communities and other neighbouring villages.
    Sriniketan | Institute of Rural Reconstruction founded in 1922
  • Visva-Bharati
    A central university and an institution of national importance
    “Visva-Bharati represents India where she has her wealth of mind which is for all. Visva-Bharati acknowledges India’s obligation to offer to others the hospitality of her best culture and India’s right to accept from others their best.”
    (Rabindranath Tagore in 1921)
    Viswa-Bharati | A central university and affiliated institutions
  • Dartington Trust
    An institution established to promote the Arts, Social Justice and Sustainability; founded by Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst; inspired by Rabindranath Tagore who stayed at Dartington Hall during his European tour in 1930.
    Dartington Trust (Devon, England)

Articles by authorities on Tagore’s lifetime achievements

  • Forests and freedom
    “2011 is the year of the forest. It is also Rabindranath Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary. Forests were central to Tagore’s works and institution building … Tagore encouraged his secretary, Leonard Elmhirst, to start a Santiniketan-like school in England. This is how The Dartington Hall Trust was established, from which grew Schumacher College, the first green college in the West. And back in India, Navdanya’s Bija Vidyapeeth was started by Satish Kumar and me as a sister institution of Schumacher College. All these institutions are thus connected, through the inspiration of Tagore, to the ancient culture of the forest.”
    Forests and freedom by Vandana Shiva
    Resurgence Magazine (Date Visited: 24 June 2011)
  • Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941)
    An article by Narmadeshwar Jha.
    Originally published in PROSPECTS: the quarterly review of education (Paris, UNESCO: International Bureau of Education), vol. XXIV, no. 3/4, 1994, p. 603–19 (Date Visited: 24 June 2011)
  • Tagore and His India by Amartya Sen
    Tagore was Asia’s first Nobel awardee (Nobel Prize for Literature 1913); this article by another Nobel awardee from India and former student at Tagore’s school was first published in The New York Review on 28 August 2001.
    nobelprize.org (Date Visited: 24 June 2011)

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