The prized possession, perhaps, of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the replica of the first edition of Rabindranath Tagore’s anthology of poems Gitanjali (Song Offerings) published in London during November 1912 along with the original script of the poem in Bengali Chitto Jetha Bhayshunyo hand-written by Tagore which is famously quoted from Gitanjali, “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high… Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake” (poem 35 of 103 poems) presented to him by the Acharya of Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan, during its 49th Convocation held on May 25.
This took my memory back to when I had bought Gitanjali of 1962 edition, over 55 years ago at the city’s News Paper House in Lansdowne building. The photo above is the opening page of the book. I consider this as my prized collection among other books I have.
It is worth mentioning Irish poet W.B.Yeats’ 16-page introduction to Gitanjali in September 1912. To quote, he writes: “I have carried the manuscript of these translations about with me for days, reading it in Railway trains, or on the top of omnibus and in restaurants, and I have often had to close it lest some stranger would see how much it moved me.”
Again, “…Mr.Tagore, like the Indian civilisation itself, has been content to discover the soul and surrender himself to its spontaneity.”
Its popularity can be made out by countless reprints from 1912 to 1962 in several years by Macmillan and Company, London. It will be interesting if readers having the earliest edition come out with their response.
– K. Vijaya Kumar, V.V. Mohalla, 27.5.2018
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