Tagore was born in Calcutta, India in 1861. Since his early years, he was exposed to writing, culture and art. He continued writing through his entire life producing more than 3,000 songs as well as novels, short stories, plays and poems. He wrote what are now the national anthems of both India and Bangladesh.
On the way over to England he began translating, for the first time, his latest selections of poems, Gitanjali, into English. Almost all of his work prior to that time had been written in his native tongue, Bengali. He made the handwritten translations in a little notebook he carried around with him and worked on during the long sea voyage from India. Rothenstein, Tagore's friend learned of the translation, and asked to see the notebook. The painter could not believe his eyes. He called his friend, W.B. Yeats, and finally talked Yeats into looking at the hand scrawled notebook. Yeats was enthralled. He later wrote the introduction to Gitanjali when it was published in September 1912 in a limited edition by the India Society in London.
In 1913 Rabindranath received the Nobel Prize for literature. He was subsequently knighted in 1915 but in 1919 after the Amritsar massacre of 400 Indian demonstrators by British troops, he gave up his knighthood. Although he did not agree with all the political activities and nationalistic principles of the movements for independence, he however participated in them along with Gandhi. He was opposed to nationalism and militarism as a matter of principle, and instead promoted spiritual values and the creation of a new world culture founded in multi-culturalism, diversity and tolerance. He served as a spiritual and creative beacon to his countrymen, and indeed, the whole world.