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Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Window to Science’

2 December, 2020 14:35:10
Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Window to Science’

Rabindranath Tagore himself was an influencer down generations. But interestingly, he himself was deeply influenced by Mustafa Jalaluddin Rumi, who was born in Kabul, but lived in Persia, now Iran, about 800 years ago. Rumi is considered to be founder of Sufi philosophy and Tagore was so influenced by his thoughts that he twice visited Iran. Many believe his interest in Bauls of Birbhum and including Baul Sangeet in Poush Mela and otherwise, were born from his interest about Sufism.

Those who have read Tagore’s Visva Parichay, the book on his conversations with renowned scientist Albert Einstein, will be aware of Tagore’s deep interest in elements of science. Einstein was a reluctant believer in quantum mechanics, but astonishingly, Tagore had open-mindedness to its ramifications. Even without any formal training of science, he had raised issues on concepts like ‘Observables,’ ‘Wave Particle Duality’ etc. Thus, Tagore viewed science not as a subject disjointed from Liberal Arts and Music, but as a complementary pursuit of knowledge.

Tagore with Rothenstein

While discussing with Einstein, he had borrowed his views from the Upanishads which lays stress on Aham – the self and interaction of that self with its creator. It is the constant link between Self and Nature that characterizes the marvel of creation. Even in case of less-evolved creatures, he speaks of vibrations and the dormant energy in each life. His ideas on science as reflected in Visva Parichay, interestingly has a direct link to the recent exploration of God Particle. At the twilight of his life, several scientific discoveries had activated his mind. 

Those who have read Tagore’s Visva Parichay, the book on his conversations with renowned scientist Albert Einstein, will be aware of Tagore’s deep interest in elements of science. Einstein was a reluctant believer in quantum mechanics, but astonishingly, Tagore had open-mindedness to its ramifications.

In his own words as written to famous Indian physicist Satyen Bose: 

‘Any educated person must enter the arena of science if not the core of science, and in this regard it is no shame to take the help of Literature. I am not a serious student of science but I had this endless temptation for tasting the juice of science from my very childhood. I was then about twelve when I had gone with my revered father to the Dalhousie Hills. After the day’s hard work we would settle on a divan in the verandah. The sun provides a curtain of light around the Earth and therefore we are unable to visualize the Universe beyond, during the day. The Day ends and the Sun sets, the lid of light disappears, and it is then innumerable stars lit up the dark sky.

I could realise that the boundary of the Universe extends far beyond our Earth. Gradually and beyond the periphery of mountain peaks, underneath the blue sky descends the stars. Father would introduce me to them, to the planets. Not merely an introduction, but he would also tell me the distance of their orbits from the sun, the time-period of revolution.

Amongst the stars in the middle of the night sky, one finds patches of light plastered around, called The Milky Way. Powerful telescopes have revealed that the Milky Way comprises billions of stars --- there is really nothing called Darkness. Those which are invisible also possess light. There is incessant emanation of radiation of different colours, even from the dark ends of the Universe.

Though a far distance away, stars make their presence felt through light --- some visible, some however invisible to the naked eye – question then arose, what is the mode of travel of light? The answer is a fascinating story – light travels as waves. It is difficult to fathom the nature of this wave.’

(Inspired by A random walk in Santiniketan Ashram by Sushanta Dattagupta, and other related publications on Santiniketan)

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  • Rabindranath Tagore

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