Tagore’s University is a history of Visva-Bharati, the world centre of learning and culture founded by Rabindranath Tagore a hundred years ago. The poet’s conception entailed several autonomous centres – for Asian studies, the visual arts, music, and rural reconstruction – in defiance of the standard notions of a university. Visva-Bharati was set up to break barriers between nations and races by rebuilding in miniature the visva – the world torn apart by World War I.
The book traces the first four decades of this large experiment in building a cultural community of learning, teaching, and scholarship. It tells the story of exceptional individuals from across Europe, Asia, America, and India who became Tagore’s collaborators in a mini-universe of creativity and humane intellection. It reveals why in its heyday Visva-Bharati was so internationally renowned as an extraordinarily attractive institution.
Swati Ganguly explores the many achievements of what Tagore called his “life’s best treasure”. She also narrates changes in the material life and spirit of the place after Tagore, when it was shaped by the larger forces of a newly independent India. Archives, memoirs, official documents, and oral narratives come alive in this compellingly written and little-known history of an institution that once redefined tradition and modernity.
Swati Ganguly is Professor, Department of English, Visva-Bharati. Her interests include Rabindranath Tagore, the European Renaissance, feminism, translation, and theatre. She has held a Charles Wallace Fellowship at the University of East Anglia, Norwich (1996), and a New India Foundation Fellowship (2011). She has translated short stories by Bengali women writers and co-edited two anthologies of essays on Tagore. Tagore’s University, her first monograph, was written in her Santiniketan home, “Nepathya”, under the strict supervision of her canine companion Arjun.
“This wonderful study of the origins and career of the university founded by Rabindranath Tagore is a major contribution to intellectual as well as institutional history. Rigorously researched, written with wisdom, empathy, and understanding, the narrative is further humanised by sensitively chosen illustrations of the book’s central characters. Tagore’s University will attract a wide readership within and beyond the academy.”