ABANINDRANATH TAGORE: WRITER AND PAINTER
Abanindranath Tagore, one of the most talented members of the Jorashanko Tagore family, leaves his marks both in the fields of literature and painting. The question that becomes almost apriori in studying personalities like Abanindranath, who have more than one artistic self, is whether the artist prioritizes one of those selves, or his artistic qualities co-exist in a balanced manner. In my paper I will try to show how the two artistic selves of Abanindranath Tagore- the writer self and the painter self, merge together and become equally important in giving his thoughts entirety.
It is the cultural background of the Tagore family that helps in the natural outcome of Abanindranath’s genius in writing and painting. In the case of literature it is Rabindranath who urges Abanindranath to start writing. Abanindranath’s favourite Robi ka’s inspiration makes him so enthusiastic that he produces Shakuntala (1895), his first literary work within a brief period of time. Afterwards he enriches the Bengali literature with his exclusive creations likeKhirer Putul (1896), Raj Kahini (1909), Bhutpatrir Desh (1915), Nalak (1916), Pathe-Bipathe (1919), Khatanchir Khata(1921), Buro-Angla (1941), Jorashankor Dhare (1944), Apon-Kotha (1946), Mashi (1954) etc.
One of the important characteristics of Abanindranath’s writing is colloquialism. Not only in his fictions but also in his serious non-fictional writings like Bageswari Shilpa-Prabandhabali, he is found to write in colloquial language. It is his spontaneity in language that turns him into a storyteller from a writer. This storytelling factor which is often found in poetry and rare in prose brings a pictorial quality in Abanindranath’s writing. Almost every text by Abanindranath provides the readers with the visual representation of the characters, dramatic situations, landscapes within the texts. This pictorial quality is noticed excessively in Abanindranath’s fictions namely Raj Kahini, Nalak, Buro Angla, Khirer Putul etc.
In Raj Kahini a tale based on the history of the kings of Rajasthan, Abanindranath’s way of depiction helps the readers to visualise the history of Rajasthan through a series of pictures; characters like Bappaditya, Goho, Shiladitya, Rani Padmini become alive in the author’s hand. Abanindranath’s detailed description of Padmini’s reflection in the mirror can be taken as an important example of his picturesque language:
“aMe l¡e¡ i£j B¢m®f¡ ®c®nl fËL¡ä HLM¡e¡ Bue¡l pÇj¥M ®b®L HLV¡ flc¡ p¢l®u ¢c®me- L¡LQr¥ S®ml j®a¡ ¢eljm ®pC Bue¡l ¢ial f¢cÈe£l l©®fl RV¡, q¡S¡l q¡S¡l h¡¢al B®m¡ ®ke B®m¡ju L®l fËL¡n qm! h¡cn¡ ®cM®a m¡N®me ®p ¢L L¡®m¡ ®Q¡M! ®p ¢L p¤¤V¡e¡ i¥l¦! f®cÈl jªZ¡®ml j®a¡ ®Lje ®L¡jm c¤M¡¢e q¡a! hy¡L¡ jm fl¡ ¢L p¤¤¾cl c¤M¡¢e l¡P¡ f¡! d¡e£ l®Pl ®f®n¡u¡®S j¤®š²¡l g¥m, ®N¡m¡f£ Jse¡u ®p¡e¡l f¡s, f¡æ¡l Q¥¢s, e£m¡l Bwnb¢V, q£®ll ¢QL! h¡cn¡ BÕQk q®u i¡h®me- H¢L j¡e¤o e¡ fl£?”
Through the beautiful language of the author the description of Padmini seems to be a portrait rather than a mere narration. Abanindranath’s painterly self is reflected in his writings as he continuously tries to draw the readers’ attention towards the pictorial quality of his texts. It becomes evident in other texts by Abanindranath as it is in Raj Kahini. In Nalak Abanindranath gives an account of Goutam Buddha’s life through a little boy Nalak. After Nalak’s guruDebolrishi sets out for Kapilavastu in order to have a sight of Buddha, Nalak sees the entire life of Buddha in his spiritual insight:
“”pæÉ¡p£ Bpe ®R®s E®W cy¡s¡®me, e¡mL®L hm®me- “L¢fm¡hÙ¹¥®a h¤Ü®ch SeÈ ®e®he, B¢j ay¡l clne Ll®a Qm®mj, a¥¢j p¡hd¡®e ®bLz’
h®el j¡T ¢c®u ByL¡hy¡L¡ pl¦ fb, pæÉ¡p£ ®pC f®b Ešl-j¤®M Q®m ®N®mez e¡mL Q¥f¢V L®l hVam¡u dÉ¡®e h®p ®cM®a m¡Nm- HL¢Vl fl HL¢V R¢hz”
Abanindranath’s emphasis on the word “R¢h’ (‘chhobi’) can be clearly noticed in the passage. In this text the concept of visualization is being highlighted by the author through Nalak’s spiritual insight in order to make the readers aware of the visual potential of the text.
Another interesting aspect of Abanindranath’s writing is his use of simple present tense, which in my observation is the author’s conscious choice. The author’s use of simple present tense not only shows the immediacy of the incidents, but helps in creating the visual in the readers’ mind:
“”L¢fm¡hÙ¹¥l l¡Sh¡¢sz l¡Sl¡Z£ j¡u¡®ch£ ®p¡e¡l f¡m®ˆ O¤¢j®u B®Rez…Hje pju j¡u¡®ch£ ®S®N E®W hm®Re, “jq¡l¡S, ¢L QjvL¡l üfÀC ®cM®mj!…
l¡S¡-l¡Z£ ü®fÀl Lb¡ hm¡h¢m Ll®Re, C¢aj®dÉ pL¡m q®u®R, l¡Sh¡¢sl ehvM¡e¡l hy¡¢n h¡S®R, l¡Ù¹¡ ¢c®u ®m¡LSe Qm¡®gl¡ Ll®R, j¢¾cl ®b®L ny¡M-O¾V¡l në Bp®R, A¾cljq®m l¡Sc¡p£l¡ ®p¡e¡l b¡m¡u f¤®S¡l g¥m …¢R®u l¡M®Rz l¡e£l ®f¡o¡ ju§l R¡®c H®p hpm, ®p¡e¡l My¡Q¡u öLn¡l£ M¡h¡®ll SeÉ c¡p£®cl p®‰ TNs¡ öl¦ L®l ¢c®m, ¢i¢Ml£ H®p “Su l¡e£j¡’ h®m clS¡u cy¡s¡mz…”
Reflection of the pictorial quality can be noticed also in some of his non-fictional works, and most important among them is ‘Haoa-bodol: Sobdochitro’. This travelogue, written in the form of a diary, in which Abanindranath captures his experience in Karshiong, seems to be the best example of the author’s dealing with the theme of nature. As the very title ‘Haoa-bodol:Sobdochitro’ suggests, the author tends to draw the landscapes, natural beauty of Karshiong through words.
The form of the book plays an important role in bringing the pictorial quality in the text:
®m¡q¡l T¡T®ll TevL¡l, a¡¢l am¡u fcÈ¡l ¢ebl Sm l¡¢œl pj¡e e£m Ù¹ìz L¨m ®eC, ¢Le¡l¡ ®eC, O¡V BO¡V Blñ ®no ¢LR¥ f¡C®e, öd¤ f¡C ®cM¡ c§l ®b®L HLM¡¢e ®e±®L¡l j¡T c¢lu¡®a- ®p O¤®j i¡¢l m‰l e¡¢j®u ¢ÙÛl q®u®R!
c¤d¡®l j¡W h®m E®W®R l¡a L¡Vm- ®lmN¡¢s qy¡f¡®a qy¡f¡®a R¥®V®R Cp¢V®p®el O¢s ¢L h®m a¡C ®cM®az
¢cec¤f¤®l ¢eö¢al¡®al L¡SmY¡m¡ Nqehez h®el am¡ ®l¡®c ¢TL¢TL, N¡®Rl BN¡ Qy¡®c ¢QL¢jLz N¡R ®h®s®R l©fLb¡l l©®fl ma¡, g¥m d®l®R pL¡m ®hm¡l påÉ¡j¢ez
BL¡®nl e£m, f¡q¡®sl N¡®u N¢s®u f®s®R, f¡q¡®sl e£m h®el d¡®l ¢h¢R®u ¢N®u®R; h®el e£m h¡¢mu¡¢sl h¤®Ll f®b hC®R L¨mq¡l¡ pj¤âS®ml üfÀ ®cM®a ®cM®a!
pL¡®ml L¥u¡n¡ ¢q®j j¿Ûl- j¡W ®R®s ®p ®k®aC Q¡ue¡! h¡¢ml h¤®L ec£l d¡l¡ n£®a j¿Ûl-Qm®aC Q¡ue¡ f¡q¡sa¢m ®R®sz N¡¢s R¥®V®R ®a¡ R¥®VC®R-b¡j®aC Q¡ue¡!
The readers often get the feeling of watching a large collage from this kind of passages in the text. Besides the form, the use of different colours quickly draws the readers’ attention toward the pictorial quality of the book:
“”®N¡m¡¢f O¡Ol¡, e£m Jse¡, e£m O¡O¢l a¡l Ef®l S¡gl¡¢e ®O¡jV¡-Hj¢e e¡e¡ l®Pl fËS¡f¢al j®a¡ f¡q¡¢s ®j®u Q¡ h¡N¡®el ph¤S ®T¡®fl Ef®l E®s h®p®Rz e£m BL¡®nl B®m¡ e£®Ql f¡q¡®s ®h…¢e l®Pl N¡t fË®mf j¡¢M®u ¢c®u®R, Ef®ll f¡q¡®s L¢Q f¡a¡l l®P ®R¡f¡®e¡ ®l¡®cl ®O¡jV¡, pjÙ¹ Q¡ ®ra…®m¡ ®ke ®Nl¦u¡l Ef®l Q¡L¡ Q¡L¡ ph¤®Sl ®R¡f-dl¡®e¡ …m-h¡q¡l HL HLM¡¢e n¡¢s, A¢a k®aÀ j¡e¤o f¡q¡®sl N¡®u S¢s®u ¢c®u®Rz…’’
The author’s intense desire of expressing his painterly self through his writing is revealed in the passage quoted above. Abanindranath use of colour, his sense of colour contrast and blending of different colours turns the written text into a painting.
After noticing the excessive influence of painting on Abanindranath’s writing, critics often consider painting to be the dominant art form in Abanindranath’s life; however a close reading of his paintings may contradict such argument posed by the critics.
Abanindranath’s interest for art went back to his childhood. His grandfather Girindranath Tagore was a trained artist who painted landscapes and portraits in watercolours and oils in the western style. His father Gunendranath and uncle Jyotirindranath were among the eatly students of the Calcutta Art School. However none of them took art seriously. Abanindranath’s career in painting began as an illustrator around 1891 when his first work- his illustration for Dwijendranath’s poem ‘Swapnaprayan’
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