“India’s best ideas have come where man was in communion with trees and rivers and lakes”
Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) was a Bengali poet, musician and artist, regarded by some as India’s national poet.
He denounced the British Raj from a universalist, internationalist, anti-imperialist and anti-nationalist position, and advocated independence from Britain.
In ‘The Religion of the Forest’, Tagore wrote about the influence that the forest dwellers of ancient India had on classical Indian literature.
The forests were sources of water and the storehouses of a biodiversity that could teach us the lessons of democracy, he said.
They could show us how to leave space for others while drawing sustenance from the common web of life. Tagore saw unity with nature as the highest stage of human evolution.
In his essay ‘Tapovan’ (‘Forest of Purity’), Tagore wrote: “Indian civilization has been distinctive in locating its source of regeneration, material and intellectual, in the forest, not the city.
“India’s best ideas have come where man was in communion with trees and rivers and lakes, away from the crowds. The peace of the forest has helped the intellectual evolution of man. The culture of the forest has fueled the culture of Indian society.
“The culture that has arisen from the forest has been influenced by the diverse processes of renewal of life, which are always at play in the forest, varying from species to species, from season to season, in sight and sound and smell. The unifying principle of life in diversity, of democratic pluralism, thus became the principle of Indian civilization”. (1)
Vandana Shiva comments: “In Tagore’s writings, the forest was not just the source of knowledge and freedom; it was the source of beauty and joy, of art and aesthetics, of harmony and perfection. It symbolized the universe”. (2)
1. Vandana Shiva: Everything I Need to Know I Learned in the Forest, Yes! magazine, December 2O12.