Letters To The Soul Master

Letters To The Soul Master – Today’s post comes from National Archives Volunteers Tisha Mandal and Judy Lewis-Watson, Managers of Volunteers and Programs at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. This was cross-posted on our sister blog The Unwritten Record.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Rabindranath Tagore (May 7, 1861 – August 7, 1941). His words are as meaningful in the 21st century as they were when he first wrote them.

Letters To The Soul Master

Letters To The Soul Master

Federal Archives and Poetry – What could be the connection? How could Rabindranath Tagore – an Indian (Bengali) writer and poet, educator, musician, and visionary – have crossed paths with the federal government of the United States?

Winston S. Churchill

Since Tagore is world-famous, there is a possibility that the National Archives may have federal records related to him. Many saw Tagore as a bridge-builder between East and West, and his world travels, especially his many visits to America, suggested that there might be a connection. The controversy provided another indication of his support for India freed from British colonial rule. The records of several government agencies reveal more about Tagore’s complicated relationship with the West, particularly America, where he was beloved in some circles and viewed with suspicion by others.

Photographs of Tagore in Paris, circa 1930, are part of a large collection acquired by the United States Information Agency (USIA) from the Paris bureau of The New York Times. Famous Personalities File includes photographs of Tagore (RG 306, National Archives Identifier 2830620).

“The celebrated Hindu poet, Rabindranath Tagore, coming from India, stopped at Cap Martin on the Côte d’Azur before continuing to Paris” (306-NT-351E-4)

“Mr. Rabindranath Tagore with Captain S.W. Chaudhary, his physician, and Mrs. Pratima Tagore, his daughter-in-law, leaving their Cap Martin estate” (306-NT-351E-12)

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Photos from the New York Times Paris Bureau (National Archives Identifier 2830620). Translation of the original French captions by volunteer Judy Kouki.

Tagore’s first visit to America in 1912 followed the first publication of his poems in a Chicago literary journal.

Many years later, at Tagore’s birth centenary celebrations in 1961, President Kennedy quoted a “majestic verse”.

Letters To The Soul Master

That “may serve as today’s universal prayer.” It was included in a draft copy of his letter to be read at the centennial celebration in New York City. This letter is preserved in USIA’s India: Action Messages, Tagore file. (RG 306, National Archives Identifier 72053874)

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During that seven-month visit in 1912, Tagore spent time with his daughter-in-law and son Rathindranath Tagore who was a student at the University of Illinois and an active member of the Urbana Unitarian Congregation. Tagore’s regular meetings with local church members and students, and his famous Harvard lecture series, established long-term connections with communities in the United States, where Tagore societies soon began studying his work.

It was surprising to find a mention of Tagore in the US Department of the Interior, the National Park Service. Because of the special relationship between Tagore and the Unitarian Church of Urbana, his interactions with the church are included in the church’s nomination materials submitted to the National Register of Historic Places (RG 79, National Archive Identifier 28891794) in 1991. The church was the first religious center at the University of Illinois to house international students (including Tagore’s son) whose religions were Christian and non-Christian. These participants became known as the Unity Club. Urbana’s teachers and students who drew inspiration from Tagore’s poetry, music and art came to be known as the Tagore Circle.

Between 1912 and 1930, Tagore visited America five times, traveling from coast to coast and receiving warm receptions. In 1913,

Fully translated and published in England. Tagore was propelled onto the world stage after receiving the Nobel Prize in Literature in the same year. He literally became a man of the world, traveling, lecturing and raising funds for the famed, unorthodox al institution he founded 93 miles from Calcutta, Santiniketan (House of Peace).

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These are two publications that were prepared for the 1961 centennial celebration in English, Hindi and Bengali by the US Information Service (USIS), known as the local overseas posts of the USIA. (RG 306, National Archives Identifier File 6087550)

Records created by the Military Intelligence Division of the War Department, between 1918 and 1947, contain biographies of leaders, politicians, and important figures such as Tagore. From an undated, typewritten draft, we learn that close friends referred to Tagore as a “spiritual master” and Mahatma Gandhi as a “great soul…”. Tagore’s “Nobel prize money, his royalty…, and the revenue of his estate were all gifted to this school [Santiniketan].” (RG 165, National Archive Identifier 3431609)

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Tagore’s birth anniversary offers a glimpse into the depth of his popularity and respect as well as the perspective of American foreign policy. Asia Societies, Tagore Societies, and university-affiliated literary groups and private organizations across America began planning centennial activities two years ago. Faculty and administrators from universities across the country who were members of the Rabindranath Tagore Centennial Committee in America included American University, Georgetown, Howard, Yale, Harvard University, and the University of Pennsylvania.

Letters To The Soul Master

During the Cold War, when India was a “non-aligned” country, these century activities were carried out by the US Information Agency (USIA) responsible for America’s public image abroad and overseas USIS posts. Because of Tagore’s importance to Indians and Pakistanis, the centenary celebrations became fair game for the US to compete with the communist bloc for “psychological leadership”. The file, India: Action Messages, Tagore can be found in the State Department Archives (RG 59, National Archives Identifier File 72053874).

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Memorandum Requiring United States to Position Itself Prominently in Tagore Centennial Celebrations (National Archives Identifier File 72053874)

Two days of the week-long program in memory of Tagore, sponsored by the Asia Society of New York, were recorded for overseas distribution by the Voice of America (VOA). “Robert Frost on Tagore” is part of a treasure trove of VOA audio recordings housed at the National Archives in College Park. (RG 306, National Archives Identifier 122176; 306-EN-J-T-3601) John D. Rockefeller, III opened the mass meeting by reading letters from Prime Minister Nehru and President Kennedy. Then Robert Frost speaks casually, with a sense of humor and deep appreciation of Tagore’s work.

Even during World War I, politics and international intrigue surrounded Tagore when his name was linked to the Hindu-German conspiracy trial in San Francisco. The British Secret Service discovered plots by German and Indian nationalists in America to plot against British rule in India, which was a violation of the American Neutrality Act. National newspapers reported in early 1918 that secret documents showed Tagore enlisting the help of Japanese politicians to establish an independent India, and that the conspiracy implicated luminaries such as Tagore.

A handwritten letter and cablegram written by Tagore to President Wilson in early May 1918 are preserved in the archives of the State Department. (RG 59, National Archives Identifier File 83577575) Tagore called for protection against “lying” by the prosecution counsel. He explains his thoughts on patriotism and honesty and assures the President that the hospitality he received in America “was not extended to a man who was prepared to accept it while sinking in the muddy sewers of treason.” A letter from the Department of Justice to the Department of State dated August 1918, “When Preston [the prosecuting attorney] was here, he told me that Tagore was in no way involved in the conspiracy.

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Cablegram from Tagore to President Wilson, and Department of Justice letter to the State Department regarding the situation (RG 59, National Archives Identifier 83832589).

During World War II, when Paris fell in June 1940, Tagore met President Franklin D. Sent a telegram to Roosevelt, a handwritten draft of which was published in 1940.

Today, we stand in awe of the terrifying destructive power that has suddenly swept the world. Every moment I deplore the smallness of our means in India, and the weakness of our voice, utterly inadequate to stem the tide of evil which threatens the stability of civilization. All our individual problems of today’s politics have merged into one supreme world politics which, I believe, is seeking the help of the United States as the last refuge of spiritual men, and these few lines of mine only express my hope. , even if unnecessary, that he will not fail in his mission to stand against this global disaster that seems so imminent.

Letters To The Soul Master

Less than two years later, on December 7, 1941, the United States entered World War II after Japan bombed the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

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In 1944, Eleanor Roosevelt mentioned Tagore’s writings (available through the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project at George Washington University in partnership with the National Archives) in her “My Day” column. “My Day” was a daily column, written in an informal style beginning in 1935, that appeared in about 90 newspapers across the country. She wrote:

Yesterday a young woman from India came to see me, who is the niece of the Indian philosopher and poet Tagore. I have always loved his writings and so I felt privileged to meet this young woman, who had been so close to him in his early youth.

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Halo, Saya adalah penulis artikel dengan judul Letters To The Soul Master yang dipublish pada October 26, 2022 di website Caipm

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