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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 20, May 13, 2023

Tagore’s ecological philosophy | Jayanta Kumar Ghosal

Saturday 13 May 2023


by Jayanta Kumar Ghosal *

“The standard of living in modern civilisation has been raised far higher than the average level of our necessity. The strain which this entails serves at the outset to increase our physical and mental alertness. The claim upon our energy accelerates growth. This in its turn produces activity that expresses itself by raising life’s standards still higher.

When this standard attains a degree that is a great deal above the normal it encourages the passion of greed. The temptation of an inordinately high level of living, which was once confined only to a small section of the community, becomes widespread. The burden is sure to prove fatal to the civilisation which puts no restraint upon the emulation of self–indulgence. (The Robbery Of The Soil)”

The concern of protecting the environment has come to the forefront in recent years. The Stockholm Convention 1972, drew our attention to the danger humanity is going to face from environmental hazards. Tagore and Gandhi much before predicted the dark sides of the unrestricted exploitation of natural resources for meeting the requisites of emerging industries. Nature is the main source of raw materials and is being continuously used for dumping the most dangerous unwanted garbage.

We have raised our standard of living in the name of modernity than the average level of our necessities. This has led to the exploitation of nature beyond a tolerable limit injuring the resilience of the system and destructing the balance. During the time of Tagore, the problems of water and air pollution, municipal waste problems, habitat destruction, resource depletion, and global greenhouse problems were not properly realised. Tagore with his far-sighted vision tried to understand the problems and kept his opinions in his works . He also predicted the erosion of human values as a result of boundless consumerism and the creation of worse divisions in society.

Tagore was born and brought up in a family of rich cultural traditions. He visited all the industrially developed countries of the world. It helped him to gain ideas and experiences the deterioration of the physical conditions due to the industrial revolution.

Ancient Indian thoughts and civilisation developed a culture of worshipping nature with environmental conservation getting embedded in different religious and cultural practices. Humans and Nature were there in harmony with Nature not in conflict with it as in the West. Continuous assault on Nature and exploitation of Nature in the name of human well-being stand against the Indian culture which has compassion for both animate and inanimate. Ancient thinkers rightly understood if the exploitation of Nature crosses the limit, the balance will not be there and human existence must be at stake. Tagore was not against growth, but he firmly stood against unplanned mindless, and boundless growth. In many of his writings, he clearly expressed it.

Tagore’s ecological philosophy was neither totally oriental nor accidental. He tried to synthesize them. A lightened sense of unity with nature with limited consumption – is reflected in all his writings. The idea of the unity of everything – from negligible small activities where he put his ideas that everything has a place and role in this world.

Being fully acquainted with the economic and social conditions of the Indian milieu living in villages, he tried to build a co-operative based, ecologically harmonious social order. He founded Viva-Bharati to impart a unique system of education among the youths so that they could feel and experience the inseparable bond between society and nature. In one of his writings he said, ’Education divorced from Nature has brought untold harm to young children. The sense of isolation that is generated through the separation has caused great evil to mankind. The misfortune has beset the world since a long time ago. That is why I thought a field had to be created which world facilitated contact with the world of Nature. That is how the institution came to be founded.”(‘Viva-Bharati’)’.

So in the case of restructuring the village, he laid much emphasis on education, health, preservation of ecology and environment, pure drinking water, Co-operative, and above all active people’s participation. He opined that people’s participation would generate. Self-confidence among the rural poor would guarantee the quality of life for all the rural downtrodden irrespective of their class, caste, and religion.

Thus Tagore has become the pioneer in implementing an integrated approach to sustainable development through a revival of rural industries and integrated agricultural growth with community development.

(Author: Jayanta Kumar Ghosal is a Literacy Activist)

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