Because Debendranath wanted his son to become a barrister, Tagore enrolled at a public school in Brighton,
East Sussex, England in 1878. He stayed for several months at a house that the Tagore family owned near
Brighton and Hove, in Medina Villas; in 1877 his nephew and niece—Suren and Indira Devi, the children of
Tagore's brother Satyendranath—were sent together with their mother, Tagore's sister-in-law, to live with
him. He briefly read law at University College London, but again left school, opting instead for
independent study of Shakespeare's plays Coriolanus, and Antony and Cleopatra and the Religio Medici of
Thomas Browne. Lively English, Irish, and Scottish folk tunes impressed Tagore, whose own tradition of
Nidhubabu-authored kirtans and tappas and Brahmo hymnody was subdued. In 1880 he returned to Bengal
degree-less, resolving to reconcile European novelty with Brahmo traditions, taking the best from each.
After returning to Bengal, Tagore regularly published poems, stories, and novels. These had a profound
impact within Bengal itself but received little national attention. In 1883 he married 10-year-old
Mrinalini Devi, born Bhabatarini, 1873–1902 (this was a common practice at the time). They had five
children, two of whom died in childhood.)
In 1890 Tagore began managing his vast ancestral estates in Shelaidaha (today a region of Bangladesh); he
was joined there by his wife and children in 1898. Tagore released his Manasi poems (1890), among his
best-known work. As Zamindar Babu, Tagore criss-crossed the Padma River in command of the Padma, the
luxurious family barge (also known as "budgerow"). He collected mostly token rents and blessed villagers
who in turn honoured him with banquets—occasionally of dried rice and sour milk. He met Gagan Harkara,
through whom he became familiar with Baul Lalon Shah, whose folk songs greatly influenced Tagore. Tagore
worked to popularise Lalon's songs. The period 1891–1895, Tagore's Sadhana period, named after one of his
magazines, was his most productive; in these years he wrote more than half the stories of the
three-volume, 84-story Galpaguchchha. Its ironic and grave tales examined the voluptuous poverty of an
idealised rural Bengal.
In 1901 Tagore moved to Santiniketan to found an ashram with a marble-floored prayer hall—The Mandir—an
experimental school, groves of ktrees, gardens, a library. There his wife and two of his children died.
His father died in 1905. He received monthly payments as part of his inheritance and income from the
Maharaja of Tripura, sales of his family's jewellery, his seaside bungalow in Puri, and a derisory 2,000
rupees in book royalties. He gained Bengali and foreign readers alike; he published Naivedya (1901) and
Kheya (1906) and translated poems into free verse.
In November 1913, Tagore learned he had won that year's Nobel Prize in Literature: the Swedish Academy
appreciated the idealistic—and for Westerners—accessible nature of a small body of his translated material
focused on the 1912 Gitanjali: Song Offerings. He was awarded a knighthood by King George V in the 1915
Birthday Honours, but Tagore renounced it after the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Renouncing the
knighthood, Tagore wrote in a letter addressed to Lord Chelmsford, the then British Viceroy of India, "The
disproportionate severity of the punishments inflicted upon the unfortunate people and the methods of
carrying them out, we are convinced, are without parallel in the history of civilised governments...The
time has come when badges of honour make our shame glaring in their incongruous context of humiliation,
and I for my part wish to stand, shorn of all special distinctions, by the side of my country men."
In 1919, he was invited by the president and chairman of Anjuman-e-Islamia, Syed Abdul Majid to visit
Sylhet for the first time. The event attracted over 5000 people.
In 1921, Tagore and agricultural economist Leonard Elmhirst set up the "Institute for Rural
Reconstruction", later renamed Shriniketan or "Abode of Welfare", in Surul, a village near the ashram.
With it, Tagore sought to moderate Gandhi's Swaraj protests, which he occasionally blamed for British
India's perceived mental – and thus ultimately colonial – decline. He sought aid from donors, officials,
and scholars worldwide to "free village[s] from the shackles of helplessness and ignorance" by
"vitalis[ing] knowledge". In the early 1930s he targeted ambient "abnormal caste consciousness" and
untouchability. He lectured against these, he penned Dalit heroes for his poems and his dramas, and he
campaigned—successfully—to open Guruvayoor Temple to Dalits.
Twilight years: 1932–1941
Dutta and Robinson describe this phase of Tagore's life as being one of a "peripatetic litterateur". It
affirmed his opinion that human divisions were shallow. During a May 1932 visit to a Bedouin encampment in
the Iraqi desert, the tribal chief told him that "Our Prophet has said that a true Muslim is he by whose
words and deeds not the least of his brother-men may ever come to any harm ..." Tagore confided in his
diary: "I was startled into recognizing in his words the voice of essential humanity." To the end Tagore
scrutinised orthodoxy—and in 1934, he struck. That year, an earthquake hit Bihar and killed thousands.
Gandhi hailed it as seismic karma, as divine retribution avenging the oppression of Dalits. Tagore rebuked
him for his seemingly ignominious implications. He mourned the perennial poverty of Calcutta and the
socioeconomic decline of Bengal, and detailed these newly plebeian aesthetics in an unrhymed hundred-line
poem whose technique of searing double-vision foreshadowed Satyajit Ray's film Apur Sansar. Fifteen new
volumes appeared, among them prose-poem works Punashcha (1932), Shes Saptak (1935), and Patraput (1936).
Experimentation continued in his prose-songs and dance-dramas— Chitra (1914), Shyama (1939), and
Chandalika (1938)— and in his novels— Dui Bon (1933), Malancha (1934), and Char Adhyay (1934).
Tagore's remit expanded to science in his last years, as hinted in Visva-Parichay, a 1937 collection of
essays. His respect for scientific laws and his exploration of biology, physics, and astronomy informed
his poetry, which exhibited extensive naturalism and verisimilitude. He wove the process of science, the
narratives of scientists, into stories in Se (1937), Tin Sangi (1940), and Galpasalpa (1941). His last
five years were marked by chronic pain and two long periods of illness. These began when Tagore lost
consciousness in late 1937; he remained comatose and near death for a time. This was followed in late 1940
by a similar spell, from which he never recovered. Poetry from these valetudinary years is among his
finest. A period of prolonged agony ended with Tagore's death on 7 August 1941, aged 80. He was in an
upstairs room of the Jorasanko mansion in which he grew up. The date is still mourned. A. K. Sen, brother
of the first chief election commissioner, received dictation from Tagore on 30 July 1941, a day prior to a
scheduled operation: his last poem.
I'm lost in the middle of my birthday. I want my friends, their touch, with the earth's last love. I will
take life's final offering, I will take the human's last blessing. Today my sack is empty. I have given
completely whatever I had to give. In return if I receive anything—some love, some forgiveness—then I will
take it with me when I step on the boat that crosses to the festival of the wordless end.