Rabindranath Tagore was the son of Debendranath Tagore (1817–1905) and Sarada Devi. The Tagores were one of the leading families of Calcutta, whose estates and assets were built up by Rabindranath’s grandfather Dwarkanath Tagore (1794–1846) and consolidated by his father, Debendranath, who headed the Brahmo Samaj movement in Bengal. Rabindranath was the fourteenth child and eigth son of his parents. His elder brother, Satyendranath, was the first Indian to compete and pass the ICS competitive exams in London and was posted to the Indian Civil Service in Bombay. Tagore went to Britain in 1878 and attended lectures at University College, London, but returned to India before he could receive a degree. Tagore’s resistance to rote learning inspired him to build a school, Patha Bhavana, at Santiniketan (in the Bengali countryside) in 1901 with only five students.
Tagore is best known as a Bengali literary figure - he experimented in all literary genres (except verse epic), composed about 2,500 songs (words and music), and painted, towards the end of his life, nearly 3,000 paintings. He wrote poems and stories mainly in his mother tongue, Bengali. The Tagore that the world beyond India came to know was catapulted into fame by the award of the Nobel prize for literature. In November of 1912, Gitanjali (‘Song-offering’) was published in a limited edition of 750 copies by the India Society of London. William Rothenstein had brought Tagore’s work to the attention of the India Society and William Butler Yeats provided the introduction. In 1913 it was printed again by Macmillan, and on 16 November 1913, news of the award reached him in Santiniketan.
Subsequently, he toured much of the world and became the world’s first intercontinental literary star. Macmillan published a number of translations of Tagore’s poems and stories after this success. A number of Tagore’s plays were performed in London by British and Indian troupes. Tagore’s international tours were also an opportunity for Tagore to speak against war and nationalism, to promote pan-Asianism, to expound India’s spiritual heritage, his aesthetic and educational philosophy, and his ‘poet’s religion’. With his fame, Tagore amassed more wealth which he was able to invest into his school at Santiniketan and the University, Visva-Bharati. In 1919, Tagore returned the knighthood he had received from the British Government in 1915 as a protest against the Amritsar Massacre.
He died on 7 August 1941 at 6 Dwarkanath Tagore Lane, Jorasanko, Calcutta, in the house where he was born. (via)