Saturday, December 29, 2012

Tagore's Gitanjali:Opening Lyric "Thou hast made me endless"

Thou hast made me endless , such is thy pleasure" this opening lyric of Gitanjali  may puzzle modern readers of Tagore's masterpiece . To Indian readers who are acquainted with the Bhagavat Gita and the Upanishads , the opening song may not be particularly hard to understand . What Tagore does in this lyric is to re-phrase  the cliché of Indian philosophy that the soul is immortal and that it casts off worn-out body like old garments . It is old thought , but a thought  never so well expressed! Abstrct philosophical thoughts are concretized when they are expressed in metaphors and similes . The density of imgery suffusing the starting lyric makes it  a fitting prologue to Tagore's immortal masterpiece.

Tagore uses the term "Thou" to refer to the Supreme Being who is immanent in the Universe . . The terms I and me are not personal , they are universal , representing the entire humanity . The second verse substitutes"frail vessel" for "old garments" to which Lord Krishna compares worn-out body in the Gita . Apart from this substitution of one metaphor for another is there anything else? You will see the amazing originality of Tagore 's mystic vision from the next verse onwards . --"this little flute of a reed "

Tagore's tone right from the beginning to the end of Gitanjal is one of absolute submission , the submission of the servant to his Supreme Master . The metaphor of the frail vessel accords with the little flute of a reed .They emphasize the need for man's total submission to the Lord . He is indebted to the Lord for every gift that he has received from Him . Though he is the humble flute of a reed , God has breathed through it soul-stirring music ! Man may be of earth , earthy , but he seems to have been fathered by the starry heavens  !

The first stirring of spirituality in man gradually marked him off  from the rest of animals   Man emerged from darkness to light . The history of man's advance is recounted through poetic imagery . God is the iinspiration behind music and poetry . Foreign readers of Gitanjali may not realize what spirituality means to to the Indian mind . It is contemplation of God that inspired Indian poets and musicians  to pour out their souls Indians consider poetry and music as the gifts of God .  Music  is not just a concord of sweet sounds , but it is the language of the soul .  Indian poets and music composers like Thyagaraja, dikshitar , Swatithirunal etc were all inspired by ardent  devotion .  Therefore, Tagore believes that poetic and musical  gifts have taken man to the pinnacle of  power and glory !  "
 Ages pass and still thou pourest "
Man has still heights to conquer . but still he needs God's  bounteous gifts to scale new heights . Materialism will only put back the clock of human progress .Spirituality   alone can ensure peace , progress and happiness for man This is the essence of  Tagore's vision as set forth inGitanjali

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 Prof , V,P,Rajappan