Category Archives: Rabindranath Tagore

Tagore and Kadambari Devi

Rabindra nathRabindra Nath Tagore at young ageKadambari+Devi+small
Kadambari Devi

The mystery that surrounds Tagore’s relationship with his sister-in-law Kadambari Devi has attracted biographers as well as researchers over the years. I was too curious knowing that she committed suicide after the marriage of Tagore with Mrinalini Devi. Curiosity lead me to go through articles here and there and added those pieces together to understand their relationship and the circumstantial facts behind her suicide.

Kadambari Devi was wife of Jyotirindranath Tagore, the elder brother of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. She was married to Jyotirindranath Tagore, on 5 July 1868 at the age of 9 years. Then Rabindranath was 7 years old. They were almost of the similar age group. When Kadambari came to in-laws house, Rabi being similar in age, became her playmate and companion. Tagore’s Biographer Prabhat Kumar Mukhopadhyay has written- “He had been her playmate and companion ever since her marriage.” They grew up to adolescent and then to their youth.

Jyotirindranath was a multi-talented personality having interests in theatre, paintings, translation and editing, music and also in business ventures. While staying in Ahmedabad (1867), with his elder brother Satyendranath Tagore, he learnt sitar and painting, picked up French and Marathi and he translated many books, mainly dramas, from different languages into Bengali. He also having some family businesses which were looked after by him. He ventured new business of shipping in Khulna (now in Bangladesh). There was stiff competition in the business and he incurred heavy loss due to competition and finally he opted out of that business in 1889. He served as secretary of the Adi Brahmo Samaj from 1869 to 1888.

Jyotirindranath was a open minded person. He supported the cause of education of women those days and he arranged for his wife Kadambari’s education. He not only arranged for her education, but also taught her horse-riding in the public grounds of Kolkata, defying the conservative society of those days. Later Tagore wrote in his childhood memory that Jyoti dada and Bouthan (sis-in law) used to take horse rides to Eden Garden through the Chitpur.

With this background of Jyotirindranath, it is understood that he hardly could spare any time for Kadambari. It is understood that she was a neglected and lonely lady.

At the age of 22 years, Tagore was suddenly and unexpectedly married (As per Biographer Mukhopadhyay, Tagore’s marriage at the end of 1883 had been “sudden and unexpected.”) to Bhabatarini Devi of 11 years age on 09 Dec 1883. She was renamed as Mrinalini by Tagore. After 4 months and 10 days of his marriage, on 19th April 1884, Kadambari committed suicide. The family might know the reason of suicide but it was suppressed and never made public.

Kadambari Devi’s death was profoundly felt by Tagore which  can be established through his own words. Much later, in 1917 Tagore said in a letter to Amiya Chakravarty : “Once, when I was about your age, I suffered a devastating sorrow, similar to yours now. A very close relative of mine committed suicide, and she had been my life’s total support, right from childhood onward. And so with her unexpected death it was as if the earth itself receded from beneath my feet, as though the skies above me all went dark. My universe turned empty, my zest for life departed.” Tagore was moved by the unexpected and sudden death of Kadambari Devi. He lost his companion, friend and what not because she was his total support for life as told in his above letter. There are number of poems that speak to or about the deceased Kadambari Devi. After 4 years of Kadambari’s death Tagore wrote a poem which is a well known Rabindrasangeet “Tobu Mone Rekho…”. This was written in her memory being in her place as if she is telling him –  ”Yet, do remember, if I move far from here, Yet, do remember. If the old love is smothered by a love’s new snare” and so on.

Marie Seton, in her book  “Portrait of a Director : Satyajit Ray” (1971) ,is all about Ray’s research on Tagore before his translation the “Nashtaneer” story into a film named “Charulata”. It was established that the story of “Nashtaneer” was written by Tagore keeping Kadambari in mind. It’s the story of Kadambari Devi, Her husband Jyotirindranath and himself. In this book Marie Seton at one place adds parenthetically that Bengal believed the sister-in-law “committed suicide following ‘Rabi’s marriage.”

Kadambari Devi never wanted Rabi to Marry and thats why she, once said, when she was told to search a bride for Rabi, that she did not get any bride for Rabi in Jessore (now in Bangladesh). But perhaps due to some unknown reason Tagore’s marriage was suddenly arranged by senior members of the family. Kadambari then secretly tried to stop it. Here we can understand her position, she did not want this marriage to happen but she was not in a position to oppose it openly or strongly which only indicate a doubtful relationship of her with Rabi. So she secretly tried to stop it but she could not. Finally Tagore was married to Bhabatarini Devi on 09 Dec 1883 and Kadambari committed suicide on 19th April 1884, after four months and 10 days of Tagore’s marriage.

After Tagore’s marriage, what was Kadambari’s feeling, her sufferings which led her to suicide, we don’t know. She has never scribbled anywhere. But analyzing the events it can be concluded that she did not approve the marriage because she by heart did not want her brother-in-law Rabi to marry Bhabatarini and she even tried to stop it. The way she ended her life after 4 months of the marriage, it was not the question of her wanting of the marriage, there was something more which we do not know but we have to take help of some imagination by joining pieces of events.  The marriage separated or distanced them from each other, there was no doubt in it. Rabi, the most dearer and nearer, her companion her playmate since childhood was no more with her and all of a sudden she lost all her un-written rights on Rabi which she gained over the years. All this she could not tolerate in her mind. All trouble because of Bhabatarini but nothing could be done to her.

Secondly, it is also said that she was a neglected (by husband) and lonely lady. She was also issueless. In this situation, there was nobody near her other than Rabi to be  her companion in her youth too. That Rabi too was no more her companion after his marriage. We know Tagore gave her a nickname “Hecate” the name of a Greek Goddess, linked to moon but also to witchcraft and magic. It shows that they were enjoying the teasing relationship which normally exists in this relation with sister-in-laws. This relation is a beautiful one which we can find it in Bengal and some other places of India. In this relation, there always be affection towards brother-in-law (husband’s younger brother). Society never minds with this type of relationship, and they are allowed to mix freely in the family. But at the same time it may turns to be dangerous too.  This relationship might evolve out of affection into love by crossing the fine line of the “affection”. This what happened to Charu in the film “Charulata” (Directed by : Satyajit Ray) which is the story of Tagore himself, his sister-in law Kadambari and her husband. So it can be concluded that love blossomed in them and they were having a play tonic love.  It was a natural thing to evolve love because she was lonely and starved for companionship. When Tagore got married to Bhabatarini Devi, she might felt deserted again and she lost her companion forever to a much younger woman. She might have thought of not to die by inches but to die forever because there was no solution in sight to her problem which led her to the extreme step.

 Read the Bengali version (বাংলায় পড়ুন)


Posted by on 09/05/2015 in Rabindranath Tagore


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Pachise Baishakh – a tribute to Tagore

A Tribute to Rabindranath Tagore on his 148th birthday on Pachise Baishakh as per Bengali Calender, which falls on 08th May 2008.

Rabindranath Tagore is the first Asian person to be awarded with the Nobel prize in 1913 in literature for his book “Gitanjali” and probably the most prominent personality in the cultural world of Indian subcontinent. He is mainly known as a poet, but his multifaceted talent showered upon different branches of art, such as, Poetry, novels, short stories, articles dramas, essays, painting etc. He was a social reformer, patriot and above all, a great humanitarian and philosopher. To understand his multifaceted talent, his works, one has to do research work on him. It is amazing the way he has written so much in his life time. Here is a piece of his work from his “The  Gardener” :


by: Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)

In the dusky path of a dream I went to seek the love who was mine in a former life.

Her house stood at the end of a desolate street.

In the evening breeze her pet peacock sat drowsing on its perch, and the pigeons were silent in their corner.

She set her lamp down by the portal and stood before me.

She raised her large eyes to my face and mutely asked, “Are you well, my friend?”

I tried to answer, but our language had been lost and forgotten.

I thought and thought; our names would not come to my mind.

Tears shone in her eyes. She held up her right hand to me. I took it and stood silent.

Our lamp had flickered in the evening breeze and died.

Bangla culture, especially music of Bengal (India) and Bangladesh too has been greatly influenced by Rabindranath Tagore – by his thousands of songs and poetries. The songs known as Rabindrasangeet is still popular. The songs of Tagore have an eternal appeal and is permanently placed in the heart of the Bengalis. In Bengal its like a rituals in their lives that in every house children learn and practice Rabindrasangeet.

Amartya Sen in his book “Tagore and His India” says : “Rabindranath is a towering figure in the millennium-old literature of Bengal. Anyone who becomes familiar with this large and flourishing tradition will be impressed by the power of Tagore’s presence in Bangladesh and in India. His poetry as well as his novels, short stories, and essays are very widely read, and the songs he composed reverberate around the eastern part of India and throughout Bangladesh.”



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Bhuban dacoit & Shantiniketan


Once upon a time today’s Shantiniketan was known as BhubanDanga, which was the den of a local dacoit named Bhuban. “Danga” means a vast unfertile plane land. The land was owned by the Tagore family. Rabindranath Tagore’s father, Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, renamed it as Shantiniketan, which means abode (niketan) of peace (shanti).

Shantiniketan1bu2.jpgPath Bhavan (Above) & Basant Utsab during Holi, festival of colours

Rabindranath Tagore started an open air school there for children named as “Path Bhavan”. Tagore’s idea was that of learning in a natural environment, in the open, under the trees, would be more closer to nature. Classes in the open still in vogue there.

Khowai, Shantiniketan

Khowai, Shantiniketan

After Tagore received the Nobel Prize in 1913 for literature (for the book Gitanjali), the school was expanded into an university named as Visva Bharati. Today Visva Bharati is one of the renowned universities, which attracts thousands of students each year. Shantiniketan is also a tourist attraction because Rabindranath wrote many of his literary classics here.

Shantiniketan3aThis building was built by Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, father of Rabindranath Tagore

First woman Prime minister of India, Indira Gandhi, renowned film director Satyajit Ray and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen are among its most illustrious students.

Rabindra Bhavan, the useum from where the Nobel Medallion was stolen

Rabindra Bhavan, the useum from where the Nobel Medallion was stolen

Adda during Off period

The most prestigious possession of Shantiniketan, the pride of the nation, the “Nobel Prize” medallion of Kabiguru Rabindranath Tagore which was in display in the ‘Rabindra Bhavan’ (Museum) till it was stolen in the beginning of 2006 and it was done so precisely that country’s top investigating agency too failed to trace it.

Though BhubanDanga has undergone lot many changes in the past but Bhuban dacoit, it seems, has left his legacy and still alive through his modern day decoits who unlike Bhuban decoit, are with us in the society, in disguise. These decoits are more dangerous than the Bhuban decoit because they are in disguise and CBI too failed to find them.

UNESCO will soon declare Shantiniketan as a world Heritage site.

(Visited Shantiniketan  in March 2008)(Some picture taken from Times of India)



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