Friday, 3 February 2017

Is ' Gitanjali ' Plagiarised?

French scholar and the exponent of de-construction, the late Jacques Derrida wrote in a French daily that almost all the poems, 103 precisely, of Rabindranath Tagore's Gitanjali are plagiarised!! This may sound a sheer sacrilege to the Bengalis, who worship Tagore. But when you dispassionately analyse Tagore's poetry, not just in Gitanjali, you've a feeling that there's a very palpable influence of Persian mysticism on Tagore's poetry. It's worthwhile to note that Tagore's father Mahrishi Debendranath Tagore was an ardent admirer of Persian poet and mystic Hafiz Shirazi, who he read in original Persian.

 Tagorean mysticism therefore often seems like a shadow of Persian mysticism.
Mysticism or'rahsyavaad'  was alien to Indian poetic milieu before Tagore. Toru Dutt, a Bengali poet and the earliest Indian poet to write in English, wrote some mystic poems in the mid 19th century, having been influenced by the Persian speaking British professors like Gilbert, Mackenzie, Tolchard, Hendricks and Grearson at Fort William College, Calcutta. But Dutt's mysticism was very juvenile because he couldn't fully grasp the ethos of Persian mysticism. Tagore refined it as he was surely a far better poet than Toru Dutt. Moreover, Tagore belonged to Brahmo Samaj, a non-religious spiritual community comprising intellectuals who rejected the excessive rituals of Hinduism.

Brahmo Samaj's core philosophy had some resemblence to Islam, especially the mystic Islam, propounded by the Sufis. So Tagore was all the more interested in it because he could relate to Persian mysticism. When Tagore says, " I'm able to love my god because he gives me freedom to deny him," one spontaneously thinks of Hafiz's same thought, " In my denial lies the divine love," or Tagore's striking gem," In a heart's perspective, a moment's absence seems like centuries." Now pit it against Shirazi's thought, " Moments turn into centuries when heart's unable to meet its beloved." William Butler Yeats, the man who promoted Tagore in the West and got him the Nobel for literature in 1913, counted 271 similarities in Hafiz and Tagore's poetry, especially in Gitanjali.  He got disillusioned with Tagore because of the latter's ingratitude and wrote a scathing piece in 1935, condemning Tagore and all other 'fake Indian poets writing in English' like him.

The repetitively common vein in Hafiz Shirazi and Tagore's poems cannot be a coincidence as Hafiz preceded Tagore by 600 years! One must remember that Tagore never acknowledged the fact that his stale English was corrected and bettered by Yeats, Morris Wilson (of MaCmilan), Andrew Clines, Ezra Pound and T S Eliot. It was the then influential British lobby of literary giants who tried tooth and nail to get Tagore the Nobel. Allama Iqbal was also in the fray but was overlooked because of his religion.

 I don't understand, why this fact being known to the scholars all over the world, Tagore's still considered an original poet. But then the West, never considered him to be an exceptional poet either. 

                ----Sumit Paul



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