Rabindranath Tagore was born on the 7th of May, 1861. Today as we celebrate the 160th birth anniversary of this world-famous Nobel Laureate, I want to throw some light on Tagore as a traveller. He was one of the most travelled men of his time. He had been to 34 countries. Tagore travelled to most of the European countries, England, America, Latin American countries, China, Japan, Arab countries, Iran, Iraq, Russia and more. The stories of his travels across the globe would form a novel in itself. Yet natural beauty and quietude of some of the simplest places influenced him most. So I thought of bringing to you a list of 6 simple places associated with Rabindranath Tagore in India.
Rabindranath Tagore kept returning to the echoing silence of this place. The cottage where he stayed is now called ‘Tagore Bhawan’. Here he had written some parts of ‘Gitanjali’ for which he received the Nobel Prize in 1913. Nature played a pivotal role in his writings. The cool temperate climate and breath-taking views of the dense pine forests with the snow-clad mountain peaks at the backdrop were meditative to his heart and soul.
Almora (5200 feet) is a beautiful hill station of the Kumaon Hills of Central Himalaya in the state of Uttarakhand. The nearest railway station is Kathgodam, 90 kilometres from Almora. It is well connected from Delhi and Dehradun (Capital of Uttarakhand) by road.
Kumaon Himalaya is definitely one of the major places associated with Rabindranath Tagore. Besides Almora in the Kumaon Himalaya, he often visited Ramgarh, a small scenic town 30 kilometres from Nainital. Ramgarh too boasts of having influenced the poet to write parts of ‘Gitanjali’ during one of his stays here. Tagore first visited Ramgarh in 1903. The cottage where he then lived, now in ruins, is on a quiet hilltop, named ‘Tagore Top’. Later he stayed in ‘Writer’s Bungalow’ which is now a ‘Neemrana’ property.
One has to trek gently uphill from the ‘Writer’s Bungalow’ to ‘Tagore Top’. The hiking through the forested trail is a walk to remember for life. From the top, at an elevation of 7800 feet, unobstructed views of snow-capped ranges mesmerise visitors even today. Spectacular peaks like Nanda Devi, Panchachulli, Trishul, Pindari Glacier, Nandakot, Mount Kamet and Nandghunti can be seen from the 360 degrees open hilltop. Panoramic views of Chawkhamba to Nepal Hills just steal hearts. Taxis are available from the Ramgarh market to the Writer’s Bungalow. Ramgarh is the fruit bowl of the region popular for plums, apricots, peaches and apples.
The nearest railway station is Kathgodam, 45 kilometres from Ramgarh. Kathgodam is well connected by trains from across all major cities in India.
At Rilbong, Shilong, Rabindranath Tagore loved watching the sunrise through the gaps of tall deodar trees, feeling the clouds floating by and observing the fragrant and colourful rose, chrysanthemum, jasmine, and several unknown flowers bloom. He humorously wrote about them, “They are not afraid of my grey beard or flowing robes. They are full of merriment.” Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, was then the capital of undivided Assam. Tagore stayed in a cottage called ‘Brookside’, at the bank of Umshyrpi Stream. He had named the stream, ‘Nirjharini’.
Shillong hills top the list of places associated with Rabindranath Tagore. He wrote his famous play, ‘Rokto Karobi’ (‘Red Oleanders’) and poem ‘Shillong er Chithi’ (‘Letter From Shillong’). His novel, ‘Sesher Kobita’ (‘The Last Poem’), which he wrote in South India, was set across Shillong Hills. In the novel, Jogmaya, the protagonist’s house in Shillong had also been modelled on ‘Brookside’. Tourists, still today, visit the ‘Brookside’ to pay their tributes to the legendary man.
Shillong is a beautiful hill station with lush rolling hills, forested plains, pristine lakes and enigmatic waterfalls and streams. Meghalaya, the abode of clouds, as the name suggests, is the land of clouds playing hide and seek every now and then. The Umroi Airport, 30 kilometres from Shillong, is the nearest airport. Shillong is 100 kilometres from Guwahati, the gateway to India’s North East.
Kalimpong, West Bengal
Kalimpong definitely makes it to the list of places associated with Rabindranath Tagore. In the sprawling Kalimpong Gauripur house, Tagore spent many of his extended summer holidays including his 78th birthday. “When the light of a new dawn marks my time to leave” are the last line of the famous poem, ‘Janmadin’ (‘Birthday’) which he had written on that day. He had even recited the poem for All India Radio from Kalimpong. What remains of the house still boasts of its magnificent structure looking out to the mighty Kanchenjunga. Tagore was moved by the hills, brooks and woods around the Gauripur house. Kalimpong, nestled in the northeastern Himalayan Hills of Bengal, at 4000 feet, is one of India’s favourite hill stations. Tea gardens, streams, orchids and the view of the majestic Kanchenjunga make the place magical.
New Jalpaiguri (NJP), 72 kilometres away, is the nearest railway station. Bagdogra Airport, 76 kilometres away, is the nearest airport.
Mongpong/Mongpoo, West Bengal
This little known Himalayan hamlet was the much loved summer retreat of the legendary poet, playwright, composer, author, artist and philosopher. The quaint little Himalayan hamlets are some of the most noteworthy places associated with Rabindranath Tagore. He visited and kept returning to Mongpong on the invitation of Maitreyi Devi. She was a renowned poet and novelist, best known for her ‘Sahitya Akademi Award’ winning novel, ‘Na Hanyate’ (‘It Does Not Die”). She recorded Tagore’s stay at her house in Monpong in her book, ‘Monpoote Rabindranath’ (‘Tagore by the Fire Side’). He used to cherish sitting by the fire place at the imperial bungalow of Maitreyi Devi’s husband, Dr. Manmohan Sen, the director of the quinine factory. The bungalow had a sprawling garden looming into cinchona plantations and the factory. It is converted to ‘Rabindra Museum’ and is well maintained. Mongpong is 50 kilometres from Kalimpong.
Shantiniketan, West Bengal
Tagore’s land Shantiniketan in Bolpur, Birbhum District, is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre. This university town was established by Maharshi Devendranath Tagore, Rabindranath’s father. Later Rabindranath established the Visva-Bharti University. The unconventional ways of education and a blend of art and education make this University unique and an alternative to the colonial forms of education. Innumerable legends from all across the world have set foot here, either as teachers, students or as Rabindranath Tagore’s guests or friends. Among all the places associated with Rabindranath Tagore, Shantiniketan is the most celebrated one.
The calmness and simplicity of Shantiniketan moved Tagore. The rustic red soil and the Bauls of the soil (concentrated in Birbhum District of Bengal) allured him. The patchy forests, rivers and rivulets and the villages around often found place in his writings. It was 25th July, 1941, when he left Shantiniketan, his abode of peace, for the last time and never to return again. The train in which he travelled back to Kolkata had a special saloon with reading room, two bed rooms and two bathrooms and a kitchen for him. He was brought back to his Jorasankho house in Kolkata for treatment where he expired on 7th August, 1941.
A versatile writer and travel freak, discovering the world in her own casual way. Loves to immerse into the core of Mother Nature and extract her inherent beauty.