top of page

The key points of 'Nationalism [Paperback] [Jan 01, 2014] RABINDRANATH TAGORE' by Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore's 'Nationalism' is a thought-provoking exploration of the concepts of nationalism, patriotism, and identity. In this article, we will delve into the key themes of the book, the author's background, and the impact and legacy of Tagore's work.

Key Takeaways

  • Tagore's nuanced examination of nationalism challenges conventional notions of patriotism and identity.

  • The book offers a deep understanding of the complexities and contradictions inherent in the concept of nationalism.

  • Tagore's literary career and philosophical views greatly influenced his perspective on nationalism, as reflected in the book.

  • 'Nationalism' continues to have a significant impact on contemporary discussions about identity and patriotism.

  • The reception and influence of 'Nationalism' have contributed to Tagore's enduring legacy as a profound thinker and writer.

The Author's Background

Early Life

Rabindranath Tagore was born on May 7, 1861, in Kolkata, India, into a distinguished family known for its cultural and intellectual contributions. His early life was steeped in the arts, with exposure to literature, music, and drama, which were integral parts of his family's legacy.

Tagore began writing poetry at a young age, showcasing a prodigious talent that would later bloom into a full literary career. Despite receiving his early education at home, Tagore's formative years were marked by a non-conventional approach to learning, which emphasized a broad worldview and a deep appreciation for nature.

  • 1861: Born in Kolkata

  • Early exposure to arts

  • Began writing poetry as a child

  • Non-conventional education

Literary Career

Rabindranath Tagore's literary career was as prolific as it was influential. He began writing at a young age, with his first substantial poetry being penned when he was only sixteen. His works encompassed a variety of genres, including poetry, novels, plays, and essays, which were often interwoven with themes of spirituality and humanism.

Tagore's literary contributions were not confined to his native Bengali language. He took it upon himself to translate many of his works into English, broadening their reach and impact. This effort culminated in Tagore becoming the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913.

  • Gitanjali (Song Offerings)

  • Ghare-Baire (The Home and the World)

  • Chokher Bali (A Grain of Sand)

Tagore's influence extended beyond literature, as he also played a role in reshaping Bengali music and art. His legacy in the literary world is marked by his profound empathy and visionary outlook.

Philosophical Views

Rabindranath Tagore's philosophical views were deeply influenced by the Upanishads and his own interpretations of spirituality and morality. His philosophy was rooted in the idea of universal humanism and the interconnectedness of all beings. Tagore believed in the concept of a world without borders, where humanity could thrive beyond the constraints of nationalism and parochial sentiments.

Humanism was central to Tagore's philosophy, emphasizing the value and agency of human beings individually and collectively. He advocated for a society where social, cultural, and spiritual growth were paramount, and where education played a crucial role in developing the individual's potential.

His philosophical stance often put him at odds with the prevailing nationalist fervor of his time, which he saw as potentially divisive and destructive. Tagore's views continue to inspire debates on the role of nationalism in a globalized world.

Key Themes in the Book


In Nationalism, Rabindranath Tagore explores the complex interplay between individual identity and collective consciousness. He argues that true nationalism is not merely about political boundaries or economic supremacy, but about the spiritual awakening of the people. Tagore emphasizes the importance of cultural and spiritual unity over divisive tendencies that often accompany nationalist sentiments.

  • The concept of nationalism as a unifying force

  • The dangers of aggressive nationalism

  • The distinction between nationalism and patriotism

Tagore's discourse on nationalism is particularly relevant in the context of colonial India, where the struggle for independence was often conflated with nationalist ideology. He cautions against the blind adoption of Western notions of nationalism, advocating instead for an inclusive approach that honors the diverse tapestry of Indian society.


In 'Nationalism', Rabindranath Tagore explores the concept of patriotism as a double-edged sword. Patriotism can foster a deep sense of belonging and pride, but Tagore warns against its potential to lead to exclusion and aggression towards 'the other'.

Tagore differentiates between patriotism that uplifts one's country and a jingoistic nationalism that seeks to dominate. He argues for a patriotism that is inclusive and empathetic, one that recognizes the interconnectedness of all nations.

  • The love for one's country should not come at the expense of others.

  • True patriotism respects humanity and seeks global harmony.

  • Tagore's patriotism is rooted in a moral and ethical framework.


In "Nationalism," Tagore delves into the complex tapestry of identity, exploring how it is shaped by cultural, social, and political forces. The individual's sense of self is deeply intertwined with their national identity, yet Tagore cautions against the loss of personal identity within the collective.

  • The distinction between individual and national identity

  • The role of culture in shaping identity

  • The potential for conflict between personal values and national expectations

The book encourages readers to reflect on their own identities in the context of the nation-state, urging a balance between unity and diversity. Tagore's insights into identity remain relevant as they echo in contemporary debates about globalization and multiculturalism.

Impact and Legacy


The reception of Rabindranath Tagore's Nationalism was as complex as the ideas within it. Critics and scholars were divided on Tagore's perspectives, with some praising his philosophical depth, while others criticized his views as idealistic.

  • Praise for Tagore's poetic and philosophical approach

  • Criticism for perceived idealism and lack of practicality

  • Varied interpretations across different cultures and political contexts

The importance of building strong relationships resonated with readers who found Tagore's emphasis on genuine connections and empathy to be a refreshing take on the often divisive nature of nationalism.


The influence of Rabindranath Tagore's views on nationalism extends far beyond the literary sphere, impacting political thought and social movements across the globe. His critical stance on aggressive nationalism and advocacy for a world where humanity stood above narrow national interests resonated with many leaders and intellectuals.

Tagore's philosophy of universal brotherhood influenced key figures such as Mahatma Gandhi and Albert Einstein, who engaged with him in profound dialogues. His ideas also permeated the realms of education, where he championed the concept of a borderless world through his establishment of Visva-Bharati University.

  • Mahatma Gandhi: Embraced Tagore's humanistic approach to nationalism.

  • Albert Einstein: Discussed universal peace with Tagore.

  • Visva-Bharati University: Became a melting pot of international cultures and ideologies.

Contemporary Relevance

The principles and concerns expressed by Rabindranath Tagore in his exploration of nationalism remain strikingly relevant in today's global context. The discourse on nationalism continues to shape political and social narratives across the world, often stirring intense debate and action.

Tagore's insights prompt a reflection on the nature of patriotism and identity in the modern era, where the dynamics of globalization and cultural exchange challenge traditional notions. His work encourages a critical examination of how these concepts evolve and intersect within contemporary societies.

  • The rise of populism and debates on immigration policy.

  • The tension between global interdependence and national sovereignty.

  • The role of technology in shaping national narratives and identities.


In conclusion, 'Nationalism' by Rabindranath Tagore provides a thought-provoking exploration of the concept of nationalism and its impact on society. Tagore's insightful analysis challenges readers to critically examine the complexities of nationalism and its implications for humanity. This timeless work continues to inspire meaningful discussions and reflections on the role of nationalism in the modern world.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main focus of the book?

The main focus of the book is on the concept of nationalism and its implications in society.

How does the author define patriotism?

The author defines patriotism as a love and devotion to one's country, emphasizing the cultural and historical aspects of the nation.

What are the key themes discussed in the book?

The key themes in the book include nationalism, patriotism, and identity, exploring their significance and impact on individuals and societies.

What is the author's background and how does it influence the book?

The author's background includes his early life, literary career, and philosophical views, all of which shape the ideas and perspectives presented in the book.

How has the book been received by readers and critics?

The book has received varied reception, with some praising its insightful exploration of nationalism while others have criticized its viewpoints on the subject.

What is the contemporary relevance of the book's themes?

The book's themes of nationalism, patriotism, and identity continue to be relevant in contemporary discussions on culture, politics, and societal values.

Related Posts

See All

The key points of 'SPIN Selling By Neil Rackham

The 'SPIN Selling' methodology, developed by Neil Rackham, is a revolutionary sales technique that has transformed the way professionals approach the selling process. This approach emphasizes the impo


bottom of page