11 March 1840: Dwijendranath Tagore, Bengali poet, philosopher and musician, was born

Dwijendranath Tagore, a quintessential Bengali Renaissance man who, among other things, was a poet, composer, mathematician and philosopher, was born on 11 March 1840.

Dwijendranath’s father and grandfather were Debendranath and Dwarkanath Tagore, respectively. Debendranath Tagore was a social and religious reformer and one of the founders of the Hindu reformist movement Brahmo Samaj. Dwarkanath Tagore was among the first Indian industrialists.

Dwijendranath’s younger brothers included Satyendranath, Hemendranath, Jyotirindranath and Rabindranath.

After his initial schooling at home, Dwijendranath studied at Calcutta’s (now Kolkata) St. Paul’s School and Hindu College.

The most well-known of his brothers, the poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath, was born in 1861. By then Dwijendranath had already translated Meghaduta, a classical Sanskrit work, into Bengali. It was the first such translation.

In 1875 he published the poetry collection Swapnaprayan, which is about a young man who travels to several places. In it his proficiency in using various rhythmic styles comes to the fore, and it is considered to be an important work in Bengali literature.

At the time when Dwijendranath started writing poetry, the poet Michael Madhusudan Dutta’s influence on Bengali literature was strong. Michael Madhusudan regarded Dwijendranath as the poet to watch out for.

Dwijendranath translated the Upanishads and the Brahmo Dharma Grantha (a prayer book of the Brahmo Samaj) into Bengali as well. 

Though very talented, Dwijendranath was not organised, and pages of Swapnaprayan would often float around the house, his brother Rabindranath later recalled. 

Dwijendranath helped establish the National Society and the Biddvajjan-Samagam. He studied the Bhagavadgita in great depth. 

The three-volume Tattwabidya (‘Knowledge of Principles’) is considered to be a pioneering work in Bengali. His other important works on philosophy include the Adwaita Mater Samalochana, and Aryadharma O Boudhya Dharmer Ghat-Protighat.  

He edited the Tattwabodhini Patrika for over 20 years and founded the Hitabadi.

He was the president of the Bangiya Sahitya Parishad from 1897 to 1900. He pioneered the Bengali shorthand and the use of notations in Bengali music.   

Between 1866 and 1871 he was secretary of the Adi Brahmo Samaj.

Dwijendranath’s works include Bhratrbhab, Tattvabidya, Sonar Kathi Rupar Kathi, Aryami ebang Sahebiana, Advaitamater Samalochana, Brahmajnan O Brahmasadhana and Prabandhamala.

He also composed many devotional and patriotic songs.

He spent the last two decades of life in Santiniketan, close to nature. Many visitors would come to meet him there. He died on 19 January 1926 at Santiniketan. A man of many talents, Dwijendranath Tagore enriched Bengal’s intellectual and creative life during the British Raj.

Also on this day:

1915 — Vijay Hazare, Indian cricketing legend, was born

1942 — Captain Amarinder Singh, Chief Minister of Punjab, was born

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