Gitanjali-Song Offerings, by Rabindranath Tagore


Gitanjali is a collection of poems authored by Rabindranath Tagore. Originally written in Bengali, the poems were based on medieval Indian lyrics of devotion. Their translation to English in 1912 garnered wide popularity among European audiences.

How was Rabindranath Tagore and his work received by readers and critics?

The publication of Gitanjali in English led Tagore to become the first non-European to win a Nobel Prize for Literature. The committee summed up their reasons as follows:

because of his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West.[1]

The award also gave rise to attacks from some literary figures, however. D H Lawrence argued that Tagore was a fraud and his idolisation was ‘disgusting’.[2]

In spite of this, the negative responses were often overshadowed by Tagore’s apparent lionisation. Due to his early success as a poet, Tagore was able to tour continents with his work and became a close associate of intellectual powerhouses such as W B Yeats, Albert Einstein and Mahatmas Gandhi – bonding over subjects including music, art and the Indian nationalist movement.

[1] 'The Nobel Prize in Literature 1913', Nobel Media AB 2014[accessed 02/06/2017].

[2] D H Lawrence to Lady Ottoline Morrell, quoted in Kripalani, Krishna, Rabindranath Tagore (Calcutta, 1980), p. 291.

Full title:
Gitanjali-Song Offerings. By Rabindranath Tagore. A collection of prose translations made by the author from the original Bengali, with an introduction by W. B. Yeats [and a portrait of the author by W. Rothenstein].
1912, London
Rabindranath Tagore, Royal India and Pakistan Society, William Rothenstein
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library

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