Rabindranath Tagore is viewed as the lighthouse of literature, art and culture. Nature had always inspired the bard greatly. The poet had particular affinity with the monsoon season. The season when bountiful nature unfolds her beauty, is uniquely captured by Tagore.
Rabindranath's familiarity with the Bengal monsoon intensified during his trips to the family estate at Shilaidaha. The vast landscapes and the swirling rivers seemed to foster a sense of liberated creativity in close proximity with nature. In one of the letters that he wrote from Shilaidaha, Kobiguru noted, “The clouds gather over the sky – the storm match the rains. Lightning and thunder wouldn't stop. I am writing in candlelight with the window partially open. But within me there is great joy – in the force of the storm, in the shadow of the clouds, in the sound of the thunder, a deep wave rises in my heart. I feel like doing something – at least to think of an impossible imaginary event.”
The famous song “Badolo Dinero Prothomo Kodom Phul” has become a signature tune to glorify the distinctive features of the monsoon while “Esho Shyamolo Sundaro” befittingly welcomes the advent of bard's favourite season.
The real beauty of this season emerges in the lyrics and tunes of his songs. The song “Niloanjano Ghano Punjochayay Sambrito Ambar, Hey Gambhir” describes the serenity and joyous emotions evoked by the monsoon that relieves the earth, parched by the intense summer heat.
The poet composed many songs on the monsoon, such as “Abar Eshechhe Ashadh”, “Pagla Haowar Badal Din-e”, “Ka(n)pichhe Deholata Thoro Thoro” and “Eso Hey Eso Sajal Ghana”.
The imagery that these songs sketch brings out the fervour of the season. Tunes blend well with the images and emotions. Ragas like Miyan Ki Malhar, Megh Malhar and Desh have been mellifluously harmonised with the wordings. In some songs, Baul and Bhatiali impart the deep philosophical essence of life that the season sometimes evokes. Traditional folk tunes add colour to the monsoonal songs.
Tagore's lyrics also resonate with the pitter-patter of the rain, droning sounds of the wind, thrumming sound of thunder and lightning, swaying branches and other sounds that form an integral part of the season. Sometimes when “clouds heap upon clouds” (Megher Pore Megh Jomechhe, Gitanjali), it appears gloomy and one feels melancholic. Often memories come drifting to the mind.
A number of his songs talk about the melancholy and the sense of loss that monsoon brings. Very often such songs are associated with moments of personal grief. There are songs like “Aji Jhoro Jhoro Mukhoro Badoro Din-e” that blend this sense of melancholia with a profound sense of restlessness.
The dazzling beauty of monsoon is depicted in the song “Bajra Manik Diye G(n)atha Ashadh Tomar Mala”. In another song, Tagore remembers epic poet Kalidasa, author of “Meghdootam”, who imagined cloud to be a messenger. The song is “Bohu Juger Opar Hote Ashadh Elo, Elo Amar Mone, Kon Shey Kobi'r Chhando Baje, Jhoro Jhoro Borishane.”
The feminine presence with the veil has often been compared with Rabindranath's concept of the Jeevandevta who inhabits the creative, to bridge the familiar and the divine. In these poems a subtle physicality hints at the mysterious relationship between man, nature and the creator that forms a sense of a whole.
Monsoon, for Tagore, was not merely a personal experience; it was a symbol of life and nature's amazing variety; a message that he sought to transmit to his students through various festivals that he incorporated into the academic calendar. It was in these spaces that the familiarity with Nature was rejuvenated; the debt to Prakriti was acknowledged and in simple aesthetic action a sense of beauty was deepened. The educational programme at Santiniketan was thus deeply rooted in an ecological consciousness. Barsha (monsoon) initiated the festival of Barshamangal at Santiniketan where the power of the monsoon to regenerate the dried-up soil was acknowledged.