Yesterday was the 156th Birthday of the one and only, Rabindranath Tagore, a man truly ahead of his time. Tagore is known by his many avatars, philosopher, poet, author, musician. One thing that people don’t refer so easily to is the traveler in him. The man had traveled extensively, within and outside India, often deciding to stay put in a city of love, to write and chronicle. In reverence, some of these residences have been converted into museums. If you are an enthusiast who wants to delve deeper into this great man’s life, thoughts, and memories, then the following Tagore museums must be added to your bucket list:
Jorasanko Thakur Bari
The beautiful red gate heralds one to the ancestral home of Tagore, Jorasanko Thakurbari, north of Kolkata, West Bengal. To Tagoreheads, it is a Mecca of sorts, a place of calm and reflection. The 35000 sqm. estate, built in 1785, houses the Rabindra Bharati University today – an institution dedicated to Tagore’s principles of education, established on 8th May, 1961.
Jorasanko Thakurbari is the house in which the first non-European Nobel laureate was born. It is also the place where he spent most of his childhood and died on 7 August 1941.
The museum has three galleries dedicated to Tagore, members of his family and the Bengal Renaissance. The museum showcases intimate family photographs, personal items, and a chronicle of Tagore’s personal journey, from a poet to a philosopher.
The museum also celebrates the other magnanimous personalities of the family – Maharshi Devendranath Tagore, Jyotirindranath, Abanindranath and Dinendranath Tagore. But, the biggest feather on their cap is a collection of 40 original paintings of the maestro, that have been permanently loaned to the museum by the National Library. These are treasures worth a view.
Uttarayan Complex, Santiniketan
This is a small town near Bolpur in the Birbhum district, approximately 160 km north of Kolkata. It was established by Maharshi Devendranath Tagore, and later expanded by Rabindranath. Tagore had envisioned a portal of learning, untarnished by political, religious, or societal obstacles. He dedicated a part of his life to building this asylum of wisdom, in Santiniketan. His father was drawn to the erstwhile Bhubandanga (named after an infamous dacoit in the region) in 1861, and renamed it ‘Santiniketan’, to symbolize the calm that the place evoked in his soul. It soon became a spiritual sanctuary, and later in 1901, one of the earliest experimental schools set up by Rabindranath.
The focus of the education imparted in Santiniketan, following Tagore’s principle, remains oneness with nature, self-actualization, and free-thinking. Tagore had also invested time and resources for rural reconstruction in the region. His estate in the town has the following main landmarks – Uttarayan Complex, Santiniketan Griha, Patha Bhavan (has frescoes by Nandalal Bose on the walls), Natun bari, Dehali, Santoshalay, Singha Sadan, Dwijaviram, Dinantika (or Cha Chakra), Taladhwaj, Chaitya, and Kalo Bari. Each landmark has a history of its own, and houses remnants that are sure to spark deep curiosity in the visitors’ minds. A visit to the many houses, where Tagore lived and created, within the Uttarayan complex, is strongly recommended.
This is located in the Kumarkhali Upazila of Kushtia District in Bangladesh. The place is famous for Kuthi Bari; a country house made by Dwarkanath Tagore. Rabindranath Tagore lived a part of his life here, and created some of his memorable poems. The masterpieces created at Shilaidaha include Sonar Tari, Katha o Kahini, Chitra, Chaitali, etc. He also translated many of his creations in English at the place. Tagore composed most of the poems from Naibedya, Kheya and many of the songs from Gitanjali and Geetimalya here. It was here, in Shilaidaha in 1912, that he started translating his Gitanjali into English, which earned him the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913.
The building is now a museum, under Archaeology department of Ministry of Cultural Affairs, Bangladesh.
Rabindra Bhavan, Mungpoo
Mungpoo is a small town in the Darjeeling district of West Bengal. It is about 33 kilometres from Darjeeling, and about 52 kilometres from Siliguri. Tagore used to stay here in the summers, at the residence of his protege, Maitreyi Devi, who herself is a renowned poet and novelist (Read her chronicle, Mongpute Rabindranath to know more). The house overlooked sprawling cinchona plantations and a quinine factory. Maitreyee Devi’s husband, Manmohan Sen, was the Director of the quinine factory at the time. Tagore’s 80th birthday was celebrated with grandeur by the village, on which occasion, Tagore wrote his beloved poem, Jonmodin.
On his last visit to Mongpu in 1940, Tagore fell seriously ill and had to be shifted to Kolkata. He passed away the next year, leaving behind several of his possessions at the Mongpu residence. Later on, the bungalow was converted into a museum by the government and named Rabindra Bhavan. The museum displays several priceless memoirs such as Tagore’s original artworks, his handwritten documents and old photographs. Interestingly, the museum also has furniture that was designed by Tagore and carved by his son, Rathindranath Tagore. (Excerpt from this article here)
Shahzadpur Kuthibari, in the Sirajganj District in the Division of Rajshahi, Bangladesh, is one of the ancestral homes, and revenue offices of the Tagore family. Rabindranath Tagore created many of his literary works while living in this mansion. His grandfather, Dwarkanath Tagore purchased the estate in 1840, and Tagore would often visit in the late-1800s to escape the busier side of his life. Tagore wrote part of his creations, Bishorjon, Sonar Tori, Chitra, Chaitali, Golapguchchho, Chhinnapatra, Panchabhooter Diary and Meyeli Chhara in Shahzadpur.
The Kuthibari today is a museum that displays more than 300 relics of the life and times of the Tagores. It also has 20 rare paintings of the Gurudev. The museum hosts an annual celebration on Tagore’s birth anniversary.
As we remember the great sage, poet, and super-human, with love and reverence on his birth anniversary, we hope you are making plans for visiting a Tagore museum soon! See you there…