Speaking of the friendship between Gandhi and Tagore, he quoted a line from Gandhi: “I hope I am as great a believer in free air as the poet,” a line that is largely omitted when arguments between the two are talked of. Gandhi was the mother of all debates on the future of India, surely his debates with Tagore rank as the greatest and most profoundly enriching.
Tagore and Gandhi – born in the 1860s in two regions separated by the bulk of the country – were men who came to represent the quintessence of Indian thought and life in the modern age. In spite of their deep reverence to each other, Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore got involved in protracted debates more than once. These debates exemplify the philosophical differences between the two most famous Indians at the time. On January 15, 1934, an earthquake hit Bihar and caused extensive damage and loss of life.
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Gandhi maintained this was because of the sin committed by upper caste Hindus by not letting untouchables in their temples (Gandhi was committed to the cause of improving the fate of untouchables, referring to them as Harijans, people of Krishna). Tagore vehemently opposed Gandhi’s stance, maintaining that an??an????can only be caused by natural forces, not moral reasons, however repugnant the practice of untouchability may be.
Living in a period when India experienced dramatic social and political changes, the two drew from the mother-lode of Indian culture and forged it with their own understanding of the Western civilisation – to invent idioms and creeds that are of enduring value. By the time they came to share in India’s public life, Gandhi and Tagore were pioneers and had stamped their calling with the distinct hallmark of sheer genius ondly respectful of each other (addressing each other as Mahatma and Gurudev) they acknowledged the other persons greatness and his love for the country and its people.
However, Gandhi and Tagore differed deeply on many important issues and made no bones about it. Steadfast in their commitment to Truth as they saw it, over a period of time they also learned to live with each others views. However the friendship of the two of them wonderfully transcended their differences. They argued and loved in public and private for they were driven by a great fidelity to the higher Truth.