Click to view Profile
Falguni Piyush Desai

Mail to a friend

Falguni Piyush Desai : Floriography in Tagore’s Poetry

Image courtesy - A Japanese Catalogue of Tagore's Paintings, 1985

Floriography: Ecological Inscription in Tagore’s Poetry and The Mother’s Creativity – a Comparison


The paper spotlights on floriography in Tagore and The Mother formally by introducing the reader to an unpublished song The Language of Flowers because the focus of the paper is ecological floriography. It is a song with both words and music written by the English composer Edward Elgar and dated 29 May 1872, when he was only fourteen years old. It is unpublished and dedicated to his sister Lucy on her birthday.

In Eastern lands they talk in flow'rs
And they tell in a garland their loves and cares;
Each blossom that blooms in their garden bowr's,
On its leaves a mystic language bears.
The rose is a sign of joy and love,
Young blushing love in its earliest dawn,
And the mildness that suits the gentle dove,
From the myrtle's snowy flow'rs is drawn
Innocence gleams in the lily's bell,
Pure as the heart in its native heaven.
Fame's bright star and glory's swell
By the glossy leaf of the bay are given.
The silent, soft and humble heart,
In the violet's hidden sweetness breathes,
And the tender soul that cannot part,
In a twine of evergreen fondly wreathes.
The cypress that daily shades the grave,
Is sorrow that moans her bitter lot,
And faith that a thousand ills can brave,
Speaks in thy blue leaves "forget-me-not".
Then gather a wreath from the garden bowers,
And tell the wish of thy heart in flowers.
(Elgar, The Language of Flowers - Wikipedia)

The poem unfolds the mystery of flowers as inimitable creation of nature, for in their vital value they symbolize the psychic vibration in the plant kingdom, the contents of this poem identify with floriography of Tagore’s poems as well as the Mother’s language of flowers. These flowers as beautiful gifts of nature embrace and manifest an aspect and power of truth. This paper projects interest in flowers as a marker of greater sensitivities and sensibilities towards ecology. Flowers are the sign of a growing inner receptivity of mankind which is perhaps becoming more responsible towards the earth. Somewhere within us lie the key to a rediscovery of the signature of flowers and their manifold gifts to earth and humanity. The practice of assigning meanings to flowers is known as floriography; here a comparison is drawn on flowers, nature as signature in The Mother’s work and Tagore’s poetry.

The beginning of relationship between humans and plants can be traced back to the prehistoric times. The Indus Valley people used to live in villages, cities and towns, wore clothes, cultivated crops including wheat, barley, millet, dates, vegetables, melon and other fruits and cotton; worshipped trees, glazed their pottery with the juice of plants and painted them with a large number of plant designs. They also knew the commercial value of plants and plant products. There are sufficient indications to show that Agriculture, Medicine, Horticulture, developed to a great extent during the Vedic Period. The Rig-Veda divides plants roughly into three broad classes, namely, Vrska (tree), Osadhi (herbs useful to humans) and Virudh (creepers). Plants are further subdivided into Visakha (shrubs), Sasa (herbs), Vratati (climbers), Pratanavati (creepers) and Alasala (spreading on the ground). All grasses are separately classified as Trna, flowering plants are Puspavati, and the fruit bearing ones are Phalavati. (Chowdhury, 371-375.)

The Mother

I belong to no nation, no civilization, no society, no race, but to the Divine. I obey no master, no rules, no law, no social convention, but the Divine. To Him I have surrendered all, will, life and self; for Him I am ready to give all my blood, drop by drop, if such is His will, with complete joy, and nothing in his service can be sacrifice, for all is perfect delight. (The Mother, 1995, I)

Originally named Mirra Alfassa, the Mother was born in Paris on 21 February 1878. She was the daughter of Maurice Alfassa, a banker (born in Adrianople, Turkey in 1843) and Mathidle Ismaloun (born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1857). Her early education was given at home. Around 1892 she attended a studio to learn drawing and painting, and later studied at the Paris Salon. Concerning her early spiritual life, the Mother has written between 11 and 13 a series of psychic and spiritual experiences In her late twenties the Mother voyaged to Tlemcen, Algeria, where she studied occultism for two years with a Polish adept, Max Theon, and his wife.

Returning to Paris in 1906, she founded her first group of spiritual seekers. She gave many talks to various groups in Paris between 1911 and 1913. At the age of thirty-six the Mother journeyed to Pondicherry, India, to meet Sri Aurobindo. She saw him on 29 March 1914 and at once recognized him as the one who for many years had inwardly been guiding her spiritual development. Staying for eleven months, she was obliged to return to France because of the First World War. She lived in France for about a year and then in Japan for almost four years. On 24 April 1920 she returned to Pondicherry to resume her collaboration with Sri Aurobindo, and remained here for the rest of her life. At that time a small group of disciples had gathered around Sri Aurobindo. The increase of disciples led to the founding of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram on the 24th Nov, 1926. From the beginning Sri Aurobindo entrusted the Mother with full material and spiritual charge of the Ashram. After almost 50 years of work at every level, the Mother passed away on 17th Nov. 1973, at the age of ninety- five.

Flowers bring a touch of beauty and joy lifting us beyond the sorrows and cares of daily life. It is interesting to know that the Mother even before being acquainted with this Indian tradition gave significances in consonance with this. The incisive psychological understanding of the different planes of consciousness and parts of the being, from Sri Aurobindo is evident in her works. The editors of the book ‘Flowers and their messages’, state, “When we study the messages given by the Mother to flowers we find that certain colours correspond to certain planes of consciousness, certain levels of the being. (The Mother, 1995, I.)

The Mother often used to communicate through flowers, we inherited from her a list with the occult meanings and descriptions she sensed in them, and their messages as well. Some samples of Mother's flower messages from Flowers and their Messages are illustrated as follows:
Garden Geranium- Spiritual Happiness- Calm and smiling, nothing can disturb it,
Lily – The Power of Purity- Purity is the best of powers,
Rose - Love for the Divine - The vegetal kingdom gathers together its most beautiful possibilities to offer them to the Divine. (The Mother, 2009)

Gentle and lovely, flowers share their beauty with us and bring us a touch of eternal things. According to The Mother, each variety of flowers has its own special quality and meaning. By establishing an inner contact with the flower, this meaning can be known. Flowers speak to us when we know how to listen to them, the Mother said that flowers have a subtle and fragrant language. As if to provide a key to this language, she identified the significances of almost nine hundred flowers. In the book these flowers and their messages are presented in the light of her vision and experience. Flowers and their Message is a 462-page book consists of two separately bound parts. In each of the twelve chapters, flowers of related significance are grouped together; these groups are then placed in a sequence that develops the theme of the chapter.

For each of the 898 flowers, the Mother's significance is given, her comment on the significance, the botanical name of the flower, and its color. Quotations from the works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother accompany much significance as an aid to understand the flowers. 630 colour photographs help to identify the flowers and bring out their beauty. The second part is a 138-page reference volume containing indexes, glossaries, descriptions of the flowers and other information. The three indexes make it possible to locate the flowers in Part 1 by the Mother's significance, the botanical name and the common name. The two glossaries – one of botanical terms, the other of philosophical and psychological terms – define the technical terms in the book. The largest section, Descriptions of the Flowers, provides detailed descriptions and full botanical information about the flowers. There is also a note on the symbolism of colours. The Mother in a comprehensive manner explains how one can understand the significance of flowers:

By entering into contact with the nature of the flower, its inner truth; then one knows what it represents. There is a mental projection when one gives a precise meaning to a flower. It may answer, vibrate to the touch of this projection, accept the meaning, but a flower has no equivalent of the mental consciousness. In the vegetable kingdom there is a beginning of the psychic, but there is no beginning of the mental consciousness. In animals it is different; mental life begins to form and for them things have a meaning. But in flowers it is rather like the movement of a little baby — it is neither a sensation nor a feeling, but something of both; it is a spontaneous movement, a very special vibration. So, if one is in contact with it, if one feels it, one gets an impression which may be translated by a thought. That is how I have given a meaning to flowers and plants — there is a kind of identification with the vibration, a perception of the quality it represents and, little by little, through a kind of approximation (sometimes this comes suddenly, occasionally it takes time), there is a coming together of these vibrations (which are of a vital-emotional order) and the vibration of the mental thought, and if there is a sufficient harmony, one has a direct perception of what the plant may signify. (Sharma, Preface)

The Mother identified colors and shapes of flowers as symbolizing the symmetry of nature and their aspiration with flowers. She said color alone does not determine the significances. The shape and size of the flower, the quality and intensity of its fragrance, even the time and manner of blossoming is important. The characteristic feature and trait of the plant is expressed through this significance. (The Mother, 1995, XI). The mother further reveals:

Look at the flowers and trees. When the sun sets and all becomes silent, sit down for a moment and put yourself into communion with Nature: you will feel rising from the earth, from below the roots of the trees and mounting upward and coursing through their fibers up to the highest outstretching branches, the aspiration of an intense love and longing, — a longing for something that brings light and gives happiness. There is a yearning so pure and intense that if you can feel the movement in the trees, your own being too will go up in an ardent prayer for the peace and light and love that are un manifested here (The Mother, 1995, I).

Few examples of Flower Remedies given by The Mother are as follows:

1. Peace in the cells (Ixora thwaitesii) - The indispensable condition for the body’s progress. It is an umbel shaped inflorescence of white star-like flowers with a strong fragrance. Its buds are curled up amidst the blossoming flowers and point beyond the inflorescence as if invoking peace. It brings peace, balance, quietness, harmony and freedom in the body and nerves. (The Mother, 1995, 165).

2. Peace in the physical (Calophyllum inophyllum; Alexandrian Laurel, Indian Laurel) -To want what God wills is its best condition. The Indian Laurel is a medium sized, strong tree with thick oval shaped leaves. The flowers grow as branching racemes. They are delicate white single rotate flowers with numerous yellow stamens and a strong fragrance. It balances the physical, vital and mental levels and centers them on the psychic. One feels suffused with peace. It opens one to higher things — one can now choose to become an instrument of the Divine. (The Mother, 1995, I).

3. Peace in the nerves (Guettarda speciosa) - Indispensable for good health. Guettarda speciosa is a tall delicate tree. The flowers are in cymes, tubular, white and delicate. People needing this remedy instinctively know their inner truth or that they want something more from life or that they need to change but cannot do so. This remedy if given at the right moment calms and clears the emotions bringing a sudden clarity, peace and order. Long standing problems are resolved in that instant. One opens to the beauty of one’s deeper self — the Divine source — like a bud opening to the sun. The effect is short and quick. Other remedies may be needed as a complement or follow up. A new cycle and a new life begin with this remedy bringing fresh energy. (The Mother, 1995, 44).

4. Silence (Pass flora incarnata; Kaurava-Pandava) - The ideal condition for progress. This is a heavy creeper with trilobate leaves. The flowers look like a clock. The outer multiple petals are purple and white in bands. Inside are 5 stamens and one pistil. The flowers start opening from 8-10 a.m. as the sun rises and close when the sun sets in the evening. The fragrance is strong and cleansing. In India, this flower is called ‘Kaurava-Pandava’ after the famous brothers of Mahabharata at whose centre stands the Divine, Krishna. This therapy is suited for people who are caught in the battle of life. They develop migraines with incessant thoughts, colic etc. They cannot act and are immobilized till ‘silence’ brings forth the deep inner quietness of the divine within giving sense to everything. All becomes quiet and free. Like Krishna speaking to Arjuna, life and action fall into place. This flower brings a deep quietness. Mental preoccupations are
silenced and there is freedom within. (The Mother, 1995, 109).

5. Psychological Perfection Plumeria rubra: Champa, Frangipani, Pagoda tree, Temple tree) "There is not one psychological perfection but five. They are sincerity, faith, devotion, aspiration and surrender." This beautiful, delightfully scented cream-yellow flower is used often in worship. The tree is grown in temple precincts and is considered particularly sacred to Krishna. It forms one of the five flower-darts of Kamadeva (Cupid). Rabindranath Tagore immortalized this flower in one of his poems too. It unites, to the soul within. The first quality according to the Mother is sincerity. She says,

For if there is no sincerity, one cannot advance even by half a step... But it is possible to translate it by another word, if you prefer it, which would be `transparency’. I shall explain this word: Someone is in front of me and I am looking at him; I look into his eyes. And if this person is sincere or `transparent’, through his eyes I go down and I see his soul — clearly. (The Mother, 1995, 187).

So the therapy in a very simple way helps one to connect to one’s soul. But the problems
of the ego can surface and raise obstacles. To overcome them one must have trust or faith in the Divine. As she says, Depending on the circumstances and need of the people this flower remedy brings an understanding and deeper faith. It helps to overcome the little egoistic outlook of life and the universe. One hears a bird sing, sees a lovely flower, looks at a little child, observes an act of generosity, reads a beautiful sentence, looks at the setting sun, no matter what, suddenly this comes upon you, this kind of emotion — indeed so deep, so intense — that the world manifests the Divine, that there is something behind the world which is the Divine. (The Mother, 1995, 196).

6. Divine Love (Punica): These are the flowers that, for us, express and hold the Divine Love. This is the flower of a type of pomegranate tree. The petals of this flower are innumerable and crinkled a brilliant vermilion colour. It connects one to the Truth removing all that is unreal. The difference between vital and psychic love is disclosed. A deep joy ensues. (Vijay, 22).

7. Mental Simplicity Thymophylla tenuiloba; Dahlberg daisy; Hymenatherum) The Mother says, I have always found that this one (Mental Simplicity) has a cleansing fragrance; when you breathe it, ah, everything becomes clean — it’s wonderful! Once I cured myself of the onset of a cold with it — this can be done when you catch it at the very beginning. It fills you completely, the nose, the throat and does not like complications. (Vijay, 25). It is a very inconspicuous yet powerfully attractive flower. This is a strong flower remedy which clears and makes transparent the mental will. A great clarity and simplicity in the mind ensues so that the body can be at peace. As she says, that as soon as all effort disappears from a manifestation, it becomes very simple, with the simplicity of a flower opening, manifesting its beauty and spreading its ragrance without clamour or vehement gesture. And in this simplicity lies the greatest power, the power which is least mixed and least gives rise to harmful reactions.... Simplicity, simplicity! How sweet is the purity of Thy presence! Thus it brings great changes in life patterns. (Vijay, 204).

8. Integral Progress (Catharanthus — white; Sadabahar, Mudagascar Periwinkle). Progress — the reason why we are on earth. (Vijay, 238). Integral progress — cannot be satisfied except by integrality, it is the best way of progressing quickly. This is a perennial plant growing in the wild, in any nook and cranny, in the toughest conditions. The plant has been used in Ayurveda for many medicinal preparations especially for diabetes and cancer. Recently it has been used for extracting the anticancer drug ‘Vincristine’. This is a simple flower remedy questioning one’s potentials, habits, desires and ways of being. The remedy clears old patterns so that one can now open to something new and vast — if the person listens and is ready. Healing is a complex process which includes many things: the faith of the person, his or her receptivity, the stage of development etc. The ultimate healer is within each one of us. Flower Remedies are only aids for its discovery. They are not a panacea. The work is still in its inception. The findings need to be replicated in a larger number of subjects at different places and monitored over long periods of time. (Vijay, 34).

The Mother on Significance of flowers says, “have you ever watched a forest with all
its countless trees and plants struggling to catch the light-twisting and trying in a hundred ways to be in the sun? That is precisely the feeling, of aspiration in the physical-the urge, the movement, the push towards the light. Plants have more of it in their physical being than man. Their whole life is a worship of light. Light is of course the material symbol of the Divine, and the sun represents, under material conditions, the supreme Consciousness. The plants feel it quite distinctly in their own simple, blind way. Their aspiration is intense, if you know how to become
aware of it. (Vijay, 38).

Rabindranath Tagore

When I am no longer on this earth, my tree
Let the ever-renewed leaves of thy spring
Murmur to the way-fares
The poet did love while he lived.
(Tagore Trans. Ghosh, 739)

The above lines were written in Balaton on 8th November, 1926 in the memory of great seer Maharsi Debendranath Tagore the architect of Santiniketan. Santiniketan, the abode of peace, evokes the image of a garden campus under an open blue sky. The story of the growth of flowers at Santiniketan is as old as the birth and growth of Santiniketan itself. It started with but a pair of chatim trees (Alstonia scholaris) on an open wasteland of eroded soil, stretching as far as the horizon. In the course of his travel to the Himalayas in 1863 for meditation, the Maharsi more or less accidentally visited this place. This is how Tagore later described the place “A solitary world of red gravels enchanted by a play of light and shade, where there was no flower, no fruit, no vegetation and no abode of any animals. (O'Connell, 2003)

In Santiniketan the poet gradually brought the children into intimate contact with a group of creative artists and thinkers who provided an incentive for them to express themselves in poetry, music and fine arts. These ideals of the institution did not remain static but grew and developed with the growth of Tagore's own life. What at first started as a pioneer co-educational institution in India ultimately developed into an international university known as Visva-Bharati, a centre of eastern study, and a meeting place of -the East and the West. (O'Connell, 2003).

Maharsi passed away in 1905. But since 1901, with the prior consent of his father, Rabindranath had taken over the responsibility of reshaping the Ashram on the basis of his philosophy of education in which nature and forest had a predominant role to play as educators. This creative reshaping partly manifested itself in the establishment of the present Visva-Bharati, where the whole world meets in one nest and partly in the gradual unfolding of a scenario in which the garden with its trees and flowers provided the necessary backdrop. The love and care with which the poet took up the program of developing the garden which he had inherited from his father can be seen from the trees and flowers that abound at Santiniketan. It was Tagore’s long- herished desire that in this short span of life with its smiles and tears, not wealth nor fame but a shelter at a corner of the earth under the shade of a tree where he could enjoy nature, the beauty of stars and fragrance of the chameli flowers from his window. The poet-did not want any pomp or grandeur to be associated with his memorial service. Instead he assigned the parting role to the dear trees of his garden —

Let not the pomp of memorial meeting
create sorrow's trance
May the forest trees at the gate of escape
raise the earth's chant of peace/in the dumb cluster of foliage.
(Humayun Kabir Trans. Narvane, 27)

This poem illustrates on what a pedestal of love and reverence the poet placed the trees of his gardens and what an honor he bestowed on them at the moment of his departure from this cosmic world. The love and care with which the poet took up the agenda of escalating the gardens which he had inherited from his father can be seen from fact that in 1931 he composed his volume of verse Bana-Bani on trees, shrubs and flowers This was to encourage tree-planting in Santiniketan and all over India on a large scale. The opening poem the poet addressed the tree as a valiant son of soil and as imparting vitality to the cosmos; he mentioned the immense part of trees in beautifying this earth and sustaining life thereon and constantly helping mankind with their varied gifts. The poet writes —

...From the realm of man,
I come to you, O tree, as a messenger I speak for him —for man who is animated by
your breath who rests in your cool loving shade,
who wears your flowery garland.
O friend of man,
I am a poet charmed by your music,
And I bring to you with humble greetings his verse-offering.
(Tagore Trans. Ghose, 1961, 947).

This gratitude took practical shape when the poet introduced tree-planting at Santiniketan on 21st July, 1928 as a festival. Tagore gives Ceremonial welcome to young guest in following lines:

It has offered blooming flowers,
Its branches are laden with fruits
Layers of cool shades it has cast
and gifted nests to the birds,
it has supplied nectar to the bees
And set up a music of murmur on the leaves.
(Tagore Trans. Ghose, 1989, 110).

The poet was not satisfied only with planting trees. Tagore was a keen observer of nature since his boyhood years. This made him restless and thirst for the infinite. This energizing empathy with nature complete with the various colors and fragrance filled he poet's earthly existence to the edge and produced an illumination of love and joy. It also imparted a youthful vigor to his ingenious mind all through his life and accelerated the tempo of is mental growth which was in direct proportion to the growth of his magnificent gardens. These flights of imagination did not abandon the poet even at the age of 79 when he wrote his book Aakash Pradip. In his imagination he still saw himself seated as a child playing truant from school under the shade of an ancient tree in the gardens of his ancestral home, and he wrote —

Unseen, that silent tree
Spreads, in the garb of wide leisure
Subtle relationships in the sky
Earth and air/with its million cups of leaves
Drinking from the primal force.
(Tagore Trans.Ghose, 1989, 110).

His ideals of his innermost life were love and delight which found their full and natural expression whenever he came into contact with nature, the trees and flowers of his gardens. He asserts this repeatedly—

That O tree is why I come and sit in front of you
I want my words to grow easy
I under your deep shade...
Today in the twilight hour
Let all thoughts and sorrow of this life gather close to my consciousness, and
Blaze forth like the evening star the last utterance of this life —‘I love '
(Tagore Trans. Ghose, 1989, 90).

In a poem in Trantik (1938) the poet goes even farther and perceives the image of salvation in the trees in an effort perceive the intangible—

Today I see before me the complete image of salvation in this tree,
Lifting its eager branches above in the autumn morning
Touching the great intangible in its quivering leaves.
(Tagore Trans. Williams, 39).

He sings the glory of flowers in his poems few illustrations are as follows:

1. Kadamba flowers: Tagore writes poems in glory of Kadamba flowers. It is usually associated with Lord Krishna who played with his beloved Radha under the flowers of Kadamba tree. It is a temple tree held sacred by the Hindu and the Buddhist monks of India. When the rains set in and the mind was transported with joy and his heart danced like a peacock he could think of no better place than the woods and the Kadamba flowers, He writes-

Rain clouds wet my eyes with blue collyrium
I spread out my joy on the shaded
new woodland grass
My soul and Kadamba trees blossom together.
(Tagore Trans. Williams 34).

2. Madhuca indica Gmel. : The poet is intimate with the trees and addresses one of the tree flowers of Madhuca indica Gmel, by Indian name Madhuca. He compliments her by saying that although hers is a somewhat rustic name yet she has all the bearings and dignity of a royal consort. Her flowers attract the bees. From her wine-bowl they collect wine on a festive full-moon night. Then the poet draws nearer and endearingly whispers into her ears —

O Mahua, the day I shall meet my Love
I shall also call her by your name. (Tagore, 1936, 157).

3. Palash: One day the poet sat on his veranda watching beautiful santhal girl toiling at her task hour after hour and wrote the poem 'Saonthal Meye'. Since the santhal girls love red color, she has been associated in this poem with flaming red flowers —simool and palash in order to give the setting a realistic touch. The santhal woman hurries up and down the raveled path under the simool tree, a coarse grey sari closely twines her slender limbs, dark and compact; its red border sweeping across the air with the flaming red magic of the Palash flower.( Chanda Rani Trans. Ghosh, 144).

4. Rajanigandha (Polianthes tuberso L.): Arranged on a long stalk emerging from the center of the cluster of leaves which are long and linear. It flowers between April and September. It commands wide sale in the flower market as excellent cut- flowers on all festive occasions. The plant is propagated through bulbs. Tagore associates the sweet fragrance of the Rajanigandha with his festive romantic mind in this poem —

They call me romantic and I have accepted that…
As emerge from your door
And sing in tunes of the morning Bhairab,
gentle breeze blowing from the spring woodland
fills your room with the fragrance of Rajanigandha.
(Tagore, 1936, 127).

5. Rose (Rosa species and hybrids): This perennial shrub of the genus Rosa has come to
India from China and Europe. The stem is prickly and the leaves are alternate and innately compound. The leaflets are rather oval and sharply toothed.

I plucked your flower, O world!
I pressed it to my heart and the thorn pricked
When the day waned and it darkened,
I found that/the flower had faded, but the pain remained
More flowers will come to you with perfume and
Pride, O world!
But my time for flower-gathering is over, and through
The dark night I have not my rose, only the pain remains.
(Tagore Trans. Ghosh, 1961, 846).

6. Nilmonilata (Petrea volubilis Jacq): In this philosophical poem on rose the poet reflects on the ephemeral of earthly pleasure. He says that this happiness is as transient as the fragrance and beauty of the rose. Nilmonilata (Petrea volubilis Jacq) — Knowing that had great fascination for blue flowers his close friend, Dr W. Pearson, brought this creeper from America, the poet named it nilmonilata and gave it a unique place in his poetry —

O Blue Jewel! You are a new arrival
A messenger of afar away land
Like the blue expanse of the sky your voice is transparent and pure.
It seems time and space could not bind
You into the cobweb of history,
you appear like a divine voice in this colourful universe
An arrival without introduction, who knows why....
(Tagore, 1936, 157).

6. Asoka blossoms: Tagore's love for the beautiful earth is reflected in his poems. He considered this earth to which he became was so close eighty years of his creative life as the most beautiful place to live in. He expressed his feelings in these words in the poem 'Farewell'-

It is time for the bird to leave.
Soon the forest winds shall scatter to the ground
the nest bereft, shaken, songless with the dried leaves and flowers,
I shall be swept away at the day's
end to the pathless wastes of space beyond the setting sun.
For ages this friendly earth has been my home
I have heard the call of spring full of gracious gifts
And sweet with the mango buds
The Asoka blooms have yearned for my songs
And I have filled them with my love.....
(Ghosh, 1966, 157).

Eco- insight of Tagore and The Mother: a comparison

Ecology is scientific studies of natural interdependencies: of life forms as they relate to each other and their shared environment. Creatures produce and shape their environment, as their environment shapes them. The word ecology is frequently used in connection with ‘green’ movement. Deep ecology proposes drastic changes in our habits of consumption, not only to catastrophe but as spiritual and moral awakening. (Waugh, 535-36).

According to the above description Tagore as well as The Mother echo in their work that we as human beings co-exist with natural world; we cannot wholly do away with use of nonhuman sphere of nature. Non-human sphere of nature bears the burden of cultural productions of all sorts which necessitate use and to some extent exploitation of nature. Even maximum awareness to conserve nature cannot turn us away from not ‘using’ nature totally. In the works of Tagore and The Mother there is clarity on term nature which designates green pastures, forests and trees flowers or even cultivated gardens, parks and orchids. More clarity is necessary on meaning of nature otherwise the call for return to nature will remain ambiguous. We find the proper direction of call for nature in their works that is we discover our relation to nature- in relation to our interdependence on ecosystem and this makes us eco-conscious.

Nature conservation, according to Tagore and The Mother begins with the love and devotion to nature and the natural. In their works we find the idea of conservation and preservation. We overexploit our natural resources and remorselessly indulge in species obliteration, incurably poison our rivers and seas over and above damming and polluting them, smoke out holes in our atmosphere, and engage in a hundred different ways of self-destruction, we need to sit up and take stock before things go out of our hands. Now, if only we listen to our great thinkers like Tagore and the Mother we can positively inculcate eco-insight which is need of the time. And the point is that they had perhaps resorted to the heart rather than the head. And that is where it all leads us to. West or East, ecological acumen had always been there, but then it was buried under the debris of destructive and exploitative viewpoint. Eco-feeling, for Tagore and The Mother transformed into thoughts and shifted in their creative works to reach us and make us feel what they felt in communion with nature, trees and flowers. Their affection to nature made them decipher the language of nature thus the semiotics of flowers reached us through their imaginative strives. They started by loving nature and the natural, and begin to care for what they loved and cherished. Religious thought, the world over, unite with that of the nature lover, because religion in its beginnings and ends has a bearing on nature.

To consider Michael Foucault and Edward Said, it is impossible to think of any social situation without relating it to the politics of power and oppression. And of course after the great movements in Feminist thinking it is virtually impossible to understand any situation without relating it to the ideas of gender and politics. In such a situation how could we relegate the idea of nature? What we understand by nature most certainly has a bearing on what we make of ourselves. And our understanding needs necessarily be holistic and not discriminative. The oughts of great thinkers like Tagore and The Mother enabled us to understand the reflective implications of the natural environment and our ways of responding to it. (Said 72, 88). Thus in our understanding of the world we live in we need to reorient ourselves with regard to the values and our ways of response. Their aesthetics belongs to the order of values of which ecological value as well form a significant part. In fact the value which we attribute to the environment cannot be seen distinct from our general -ethical frame of reference.

What came to be called Deep Ecology evolved primarily from the work of the Norwegian
philosopher Arne Naess, we find the same deep eco- sentient sensitivity in Tagore and The Mother they find that the aim of supporters of the deep ecology movement is not a slight reform of our present society, but a substantial reorientation of our whole civilization, actually it is an ecosophy. It concentrates on the human relationship with the natural world and supplies a substantial reorientation to a world run astray. This ecosophy is found in ideas of The Mother and Tagore as the practitioners of deep ecology, broad-spectrum in common to works of both are as follows:

1. A repudiation of anthropocentrism. All life on earth has an inbuilt worth irrespective of the human angle.

2. Nature is valuable in itself and humans have no right to diminish this diversity. We humans must expand unearthing, in sense of discovery with semiotics of all live existence on this earth.

3. Caring for the other life forms is part of individual self realization. While dealing with nature individual thinking and action are of utmost significance and later it becomes the collective and the social endeavor.

4. As can be seen for them concept of deep ecology is akin to the spiritual for them. What is aimed at in their works is life ornamental qualitative values of nature very much similar to spiritual enlightenment or artistic fulfillment.

5. In relation to nature life becomes meaningful only when we start to live fully and selflessly.

6. They have pointed out that our thinking and perception have been determined by the technological environment rather than the natural. There is apparently little of nature that is left in us. Technology has taken over. This has become a mechanical cosmos for us.

7. Our milieu and our lives are confiscated from the organic unity of the poetic and the spiritual and so how could we sense and see the elemental harmony that is so apparent to The Mother and Tagore.

8. Eco-critical reading of the works of The Mother and Tagore is an attempt to systematize and recognize the human and non-human interactions and interrelationships.

9. It is further an attempt to reintegrate the human and the non human, to retrace the lost links between human compassion and the natural sphere.


Drawing from the above discussion I point out that if some entities were favored by nature at the expense of others, the integrity of nature: its unity, wholeness, and interconnectedness would be immediately destroyed and this would destroy its balance. Thus RTA is harmony between eternal Prakriti & Purusha, this relates to Radford Ruther (1996), referring to nature facilitating us to learn how to harmonize. The creative writing of Tagore and The Mother lead us to this ultimate harmony. Tagore’s eco- insight bears a close resemble that experienced by The Mother one more divine soul. Like Tagore The Mother made a profound study of flowers and discovered the connotation of each flower and tree through a process of mystic love and communion with nature. According to them the best way of opening ourselves to profound power of flowers is to love them. It is thus that we enter into psychic contact with bionetwork and know the power of prayer that represents the natural world. Today changed man's ecological status replaces power of muscles with the power of machine, knowingly or unknowingly we transform our competence to intervene in natural process of every kind. We changed not only the lives of the entire populace but also our relationship with every other part of the eco-system. For enhanced existence of mankind and to heal future generation of ecophobia on this planet we communally need to explore the profound green thinking in literature of divinities like Tagore and The Mother.


Chanda Rani, Gurudev, English rendering by P K Ghosh, Visva-Bharti, Calcutta,1983. 144.

Chowdhury, K. A. Botany: Prehistoric Period in A Concise History of Science in India. Ed. Bose D. M., Sen S. N. and Subbarayappa B.V. New Delhi: Indian National Science
Academy, 1971.

Edward Said, ‘Michael Foucault, 1926–1984’ (1984), in Jonathan Arac, ed., After Foucault: Humanist Knowledge, Postmodern Challenges Rutgers University Press, New
Brunswick and London, 1988;

------- Representations of the Intellectual: The 1993 Reith Lectures, Vintage, London, 1994. 72-82.

Elgar Edward. 29 May 1872, The Language of Flowers - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.htm. 2010, 10 May 2010 < http:/The Language of Flowers - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.htm>.

Ghose Sisir Kumar, One Hundred and One Tagore Poems, Asia Publishing House, Bombay, 1966.157.

Ghose Sisir Kumar, The Later poems of Tagore Sterling Publishers, New Delhi 1989. 90.

Humayun Kabir, “One hundred and One poems,” Sahitya Akademi, Delhi, 1961. 27.
O'Connell, K. M. (2003) 'Rabindranath Tagore on education', the encyclopaedia of informal education, .

Radford Ruether, R. Ecofeminism: Symbolic and Social Connections of the Oppression of
Women and the Domination of Nature, This Sacred Earth: Religion, Nature,Environment, (Part IV
) Routledge. 1996. 24-29
Riley, S.S. Ecology is a Sistah’s issue too: The Politics of Emergent Afrocentric Ecowomanism, This Sacred Earth:Religion, Nature, Environment, (Part IV) Routledge, 1996. 61-66

Sharma, P.V. Puspayurvedah. Varanasi; Chaukhambha Visvabharati, 1997, (preface).
Tagore Rabindranath, “Aghat; Rabindra Rachanabali” Vol.2 English rendering by P K Ghosh Birtish Centenary Publication, West Bengal Govt., 1961. 947.

Tagore Rabindranath, Asramer Rup-O-Vikas, Rabindra Rachanavali Vol. 11, English rendering by P K Ghosh, Birth Centenary Publication Govt. of West Bengal 1961.739.

Tagore Rabindranath, Collected Poems and Plays, Macmillan London, 1936.127.

Tagore Rabindranath, Naba Barsha ( Kshanika), Selected poems translated by Radice Williams, Penguin Books, London, 1987.34.

------Tagore Rabindranath, Naba Barsha ( Kshanika), Trans. Radice Williams,1987.39.

Tagore Rabindranath, Nilmonilata, Bani-Bani, Rabindra Rachanbali, Vol.2 , English rendering by P K Ghosh Birtish Centenary Publication, West Bengal Govt., 1961. 846.

Tagore Rabindranath, Poems, Visva – Bharati Publication Calcutta, 1986.157.

The Mother “Flowers - their spiritual significance”/ Ed. Vijay.- Pondicherry [India]: Sri
Aurobindo Society, 1988. 14.
------The Mother “Flowers - their spiritual significance”/ Ed. Vijay, 1988. 22.
------The Mother “Flowers - their spiritual significance”/ Ed. Vijay,1988. 238.
------The Mother “Flowers - their spiritual significance”/ Ed. Vijay, 1988. 25.
------The Mother “Flowers - their spiritual significance”/ Ed. Vijay, 1988. 38.
------The Mother “Flowers - their spiritual significance”/ Ed. Vijay, 1988.204.
------The Mother “Flowers - their spiritual significance”/ Ed. Vijay, 1988.34.
The Mother, The Spiritual Significance of Flowers, 2009, 9 July 2009, .
The Mother. .“Flowers and their Messages.” Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram, 1995. I.
------The Mother. “Flowers and their Messages.” 1995. 44.
------The Mother. “Flowers and their Messages.” 1995.187.
------The Mother. “Flowers and their Messages.” 1995.196.
------The Mother. “Flowers and their Messages.” 1995. XI.
------The Mother. “Flowers and their Messages.” 1995. 165.

Waugh Patrica, Literary Theory and Criticism, an Oxford Univ. Press, Delhi,2006. 535-36.


Focus – "Reading Across Time": Tagore Today

  Amrit Sen : Editorial

Lead Article
  Udaya Narayana Singh : Redrawing the Boundaries

Critical Essays

  Nation, History, Cultural Exchange
    Avijit Banerjee : Tagore’s Visit to China
    Bijoy Mukherjee : Rabindranath and Indian History
    Biswanath Banerjee : Tagore and Acharya PC Ray
    Sagarika Chakraborty : Tagore the Diplomat
    Soumitra Roy : Tagore’s Ghare Baire

  Responses to Caste and Gender
    Dhriti Ray Dalai/ Panchanan Dalai : Tagore’s ‘Chandalika’
    Dipankar Roy : Women in Tagore’s ‘Domestic Novels’
    Sanjukta Dasgupta : “Streer Patra” - A Feminist Text?
    Swati Ganguly : Gender, Sexuality and Conjugality in Samapti

  Translation and Reception
    Anindya Sen : Tagore’s Self-Translations
    Jayati Gupta : Whose Gitanjali is it Anyway?
    Sushobhan Adhikary : Cartoons on Tagore
    Usha Kishore : The Auto-translations of Rabindranath

  Rural Reconstruction and Ecopoetic
    Bipasha Raha : Experiments with Village Welfare
    Debotosh Sinha : Tagore and Rural Reconstruction
    Falguni Piyush Desai : Floriography in Tagore’s Poetry
    Marie Josephine Aruna : ‘Letters’ and Ecopoetics

  Aesthetics, Paintings and Dance Dramas
    Aju Mukhopadhyay : The Poet of Sublime Love
    Raghupathi K V : Aesthetics of Tagore and Sri Aurobindo
    Sudeshna Majumdar : Paintings of Tagore
    Sutapa Chaudhuri : Dance Dramas of Tagore

  Tagore and the Short Story
    Dominic K V : Tagore’s Short Stories
    Mausumi Sen Bhattacharjee : ‘The Hunger of Stones’

  Tagore and Visva-Bharati
    Anindita Chongdar : Anecdotes of Santiniketan
    Debmalya Das : The Visva-Bharati Quarterly
    Subodh Gopal Nandi : The Visva-Bharati Library

Creative Responses

    Sanjukta Dasgupta : Remembering Rabindranath

    Frank Joussen : Tagore and Walt Whitman
    Nuggehalli Pankaja : The Voice of Tagore
    Sanjukta Dasgupta : To Rabindranath
    Shambhobi Ghosh : Yet

  Ahmed A H S : Birthday and other poems
  Anup Maharatna : From ‘The Last Writings’
  Ashoka Sen : Africa
  Barnali Saha : The Vacation (Fiction)
  Naina Dey : Chance Meeting
  Parantap Chakraborty : The Son of Man
  Suranjima Saha : Preamble to a Journey
  Swapna Dutta : The Editor

  Amrit Sen:Behind the Veil & Tagore and Modernity
  Kumaran S : Pathos in the Short Stories of Tagore

Copyright ©2017 Muse India