Nationalism, Patriotism, Cosmopolitanism: Tagore’s Ambiguities and Paradoxes (Part II)

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Like nationalism, Tagore's perspectives on patriotism are also characterised by certain paradoxes and ambiguities; he was a fervid patriot, yet he openly denounced and deplored the sentiment of patriotism. We know that Tagore wrote many songs celebrating his native land and paying homage to its beauty and fecundity, of which, as mentioned earlier, two have become the national anthems of India and Bangladesh. Yet he loathed being called a patriot and derided the concept vehemently in many of his writings. For example, in a letter to Aurobindo Mohan Bose, responding to some harsh comments on his view of nationalism by Abala Bose, wife of the celebrated scientist Sir Jagadish Chandra Bose, Tagore commented, "Patriotism cannot be our final spiritual shelter; my refuge is humanity. I will not buy glass for the price of diamonds, and I will never allow patriotism to triumph over humanity as long as I live." In a letter to C.F. Andrews, with whom Tagore had a friendship of, in Uma Das Gupta's phrase, "largeness and freedom," he further wrote, "This is the ugliest side of patriotism. For in small minds, patriotism dissociates itself from the higher ideal of humanity. It becomes the magnification of self, on a stupendous scale – magnifying our vulgarity, cruelty, greed; dethroning God, to put up this bloated self in its place."
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
Specialist publicationThe Daily Star Bangladesh
Publication statusPublished - 4 Apr 2020


  • Tagore
  • Bengali literature
  • British India
  • Nationalism
  • Cosmopolitanism
  • Mahatma Gandhi


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