Revisiting the Civilisation Question Through Nationalism: Tagore’s India and Serbia, “Two Nests in the Opposite Banks”
Rabindranath Tagore was a defender of human bonds. Thus “the state of realising our relationship with all,” which he saw was being endangered by exclusive political interests, prompted him to search for harmony and justice in a strife-torn humanity. Noting the ruptures in the fabric of civilisation, he maintained that the means to re-establish allegiance to human ties in this unequal world were to introduce social practices of justice and ideas conducive to freedom, and not in enforcing power and coercive discipline. He witnessed the “carnivorous and cannibalistic” tendencies that dominated the world politics of his time; he neither could accept the narrow nationalism that pitted Indians against Europeans, nor could he accept the situation where the imaginary nation-state called India would loom bigger than the civilisational ideals of India. He also deplored the exclusive political self-centring, of the “European-style” modern nationalism which anticipates the recent development of the concept of Eastern Europe, projected as the “other” of Europe. This essay attempts to explore the negotiation and opposition of Tagore’s initiative with the highly fractured times in which he lived. It will look at Tagore’s literary efforts through which he tried to encourage harmony between societies and cultures in order to address
the question of the lost heritage of “human civilisation.” Furthermore, through focus on the responses that his talks produced in Serbia, the extent of influence of Tagore’s thoughts on fostering better ties among people in different parts of the world will be analysed.
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