Ashis Sanyal

    Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, always looked upon himself as one who grew under the influence of poet , playright and nobel laureate Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore. Nehru once confessed in a speech on Tagore, that he felt nearer to the poet than to Mahatma Gandhi, for Nehru's mind had some of the majesty of the mind of Tagore. Though Jawaharlal admitted that Tagore's influence on him was not so sudden as Gandhiji's, "And yet, like the coming of the dawn in the mountains, it crept on us and permeated us. I belonged to a generation which grew under his influence".

Shantiniketan Visit

    Nehru visited Santiniketan at least twice between 1921 and 1934. But his visit to Santiniketan in 1934 was significant in many ways. That year he visited along with his wife, Kamala Nehru with a purpose. He wrote -"She (Kamala) had come specially to see the place as we were thinking of sending our daughter there. Indira was going to appear for her matriculation soon afterwards, and the problem of her future education was troubling us. I was wholly against her joining the regular official or semi-official universities, for I disliked this. ..... Santiniketan offered an escape from this dead hand, and so we fixed upon it."

    On their arrival in Santiniketan on January 19, 1934 they were received with the chanting of Vedic mantras. The next morning Nehru addressed students and faculty members. During this period a difference of opinion cropped up between Mahatma Gandhi and Gurudev. Mahatma had described the Bihar earthquake of 1934 as a punishment for the sins of untouchability. Tagore criticized this point of view. Pandit Nehru also wrote in his 'Autobiography' about this: "I read with a great shock Gandhiji's statement to the effect that the earthquake had been a punishment for the sin of untouchability. This was a staggering remark and I welcome and wholly agree with Rabindranath Tagore's answer to it. Anything more opposed to the scientific outlook would be difficult to imagine".

Kamala's Death

    In 1934, Kamala Nehru became seriously ill. Nehru was in prison at that time while his presence was urgently needed at his wife's bedside. On September 2, 1935, Tagore sent a telegram to the Viceroy of India to release Jawaharlal. The next day Nehru was released. Kamala Nehru died in Europe on February 28, 1936. Rabindranath Tagore was deeply shocked to hear the news of her death and arranged a condolence meeting at Santiniketan. He told the inmates of his ashram in a talk in memory of Kamala Nehru: " Today is the day of our Holi festival, the festival of spring. In the midst of the fallen and sere leaves,nature is making preparations to mark the death- triumphing entry of a new life, to which the newly sprouted leaves bring their offerings of joy. On this occasion it will be meet to associate the stirring of new life in the nation with that of the springtime. And Jawaharlal is the Rituraj, representing the season of youth and triumphant joy, of an invincible spirit of fight and uncompromising loyalty to the cause of freedom."

    On receiving a copy of the speech of Tagore, Jawaharlal wrote to him: "How much strengthened I feel by your blessings and by the thought that you are there to keep us, erring ones, on the straight path". He compared the life of Kamala Nehru with Chitrangada (The English version is entitled 'Chitra'), one of Tagore's plays. Jawaharlal wrote in his "Discovery of India" : "Like Chitra in Tagore's plays, she (Kamala) seemed to say to me: I am Chitra. No goddess to be worshipped, nor yet the object of common pity to be brushed aside. If you design to keep me by your side in the path of danger and daring, if you allow me to share the great duties of your life, then you will know myself. But she did not say this to me in words and it was only gradually that I read the message of her yes".

Mutual Liking

    In 1936, Tagore wrote a brief letter to the man he called Rituraj, the Prine of Spring, about the Autobiography written by Nehru, which he had finished reading : "I have just finished reading your great book and I feel intensely impressed and proud of your achievement. Through all its details there runs a current of humanity which overpasses the tangles of facts and leads us to the person who is greater than his deeds and truier than his surroundings".

    To Nehru, Tagore was a great personality who overshadowed his life by his greatness and magnificence. Nehru wrote "He (Tagore) was no politician, but he was too sensitive and devoted to the freedom of Indian people to remain always in his ivory tower of poetry and song. Again and again he stepped out of it, when he could tolerate some developments no longer, and in prophetic language warned the British Government and his people."

Foreign and Economic Policy influenced by Gurudev

    India's foreign policy which has been by and large shaped by Jawaharlal Nehru after Independence, his internationalism, his endeavour for peace and harmony among warring nations and his vision about new social order for under-privileged nations which became free from colonial shackles, were largely influenced by the ideals of Rabindra Nath Tagore. In 1939,Nehru decided to visit China. Tagore had also visited China in 1924 and felt "China and India should draw closer to each other". When Rabindranath came to know about Nehru's proposed visit, he immediately wrote to him, "I feel proud that new Asia will be represented through you and our lost traditions of Indian humanity and their voice during your contacts with people of China. He hoped: "I cannot help hoping that as a messenger for India's youth you would give strength to the historic forces of Asiatic Unity, bringing new urge of neighbourly understanding to our Eastern peoples'.

    Jawaharlal Nehru, the architect of planning and development process in independent India was also indebted to Tagore in many ways. Tagore repeatedly reminded politicians as well as political and social thinkers that education, family life, office, factory jobs, industry, agriculture, everything needed to be coloured by a spirit of joy, creativity, well being and a sense of fulfilment both individually and socially. Tagore also influenced Nehru to shape the future economic planning of independent India. In January 1939, Jawaharlal came to Santiniketan to attend the inaugural ceremony of Hindi Bhavan where Subhas Chandra Bose, the then President of the Congress, was also invited. Rabindranath had a meeting with both of them and discussed in detail the future economic planning of India. Jawaharlal became the Chairman of the National Planning Committee earlier at the request of Tagore. Independent India followed the path of planned development, later.

    Tagore passed away on August 7, 1941. In his condolence message Nehru expressed his deep respect to Tagore's ideals. The ideals of Tagore inspired Jawaharlal throughout his life. A proper analysis of the evolution of Jawaharlal will be incomplete without a proper estimation of Tagore's influence on Jawaharlal. (PIB)