Birthday: May 15, 1817
Died At Age: 87
Sun Sign: Taurus
Born in: Kolkata
Famous as: Philosopher
Spouse/Ex-: Sarada Devi
father: Dwarkanath Tagore
children: Bhudendranath Tagore, Dwijendranath Tagore, Hemendranath Tagore, Jyotirindranath Tagore, Punyendranath Tagore, Rabindranath Tagore, Satyendranath Tagore, Swarnakumari Devi
Died on: January 19, 1905
place of death: Kolkata
City: Kolkata, India
Debendranath Tagore was an Indian religious reformer and Hindu philosopher. He was one of the founders of the Brahmo religion. Born into a wealthy landowning family, he began his formal education at the age of nine and was taught Sanskrit, Persian, English, and Western philosophy. Deeply affected by the death of his grandmother to whom he was greatly attached, he was drawn to religion and began contemplating the meaning and nature of life. He commenced a deep study of religious literature, particularly the Upanishads and soon became uninterested in worldly affairs and began his search for the almighty. Debendranath Tagore was a deeply devout man who spread his religious understanding by forming the ‘Tattvabodhini Sabha’ which he later merged with the Brahmo Sabha. His role in the Bengal renaissance and the rejuvenation of Hinduism is of considerable significance. A philanthropist and social activist, he believed in democracy and his efforts helped to influence a generation of Indians. Often addressed as ‘Maharshi’, he was undoubtedly one of the greatest religious intellectuals born in India.
Childhood & Early Life
Debendranath Tagore was born on May 15, 1817, at Calcutta, Bengal, Bengal Presidency, to Prince Dwarkanath Tagore, a wealthy landowner and successful entrepreneur, and his wife, Digambari Devi.
After receiving his early education at home, he was enrolled at the Anglo-Hindu College in 1827. After attending the college for a brief period, he began supervising his family’s property and also showed interest in philosophy and religion.
In 1838, his grandmother passed away and he experienced a psychological change in himself. He became deeply involved in religion and began reading the Mahabharata, Upanishads, and books on many other religious as well as philosophical subjects.
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In 1839, under the guidance of Pandit Ram Chandra Vidyabageesh, Debendranath Tagore established the ‘Tattwabodhini Sabha’ to share his experiences and knowledge. Four years later, he introduced the ‘Tattwabodhini Patrika’ as a means to connect with the followers of the community.
While serving as the secretary of the Tattwabodhini Sabha, he stopped Hindu puja ceremonies and introduced 'Magh festival', 'Nababarsa', 'Diksa Din' and similar festivals.
In 1843, he revived the Brahmo Sabha, which had diminished since the death of Raja Ram Mohan Roy in 1833. Later, the Brahmo Sabha was formally merged with the Tattwabodhini Sabha and was renamed as ‘Calcutta Brahma Samaj’.
In 1848, he was instrumental in codifying the ‘Adi Dharma Doctrine’ as Brahmo Dharma Beej.
In 1850, he published a book titled ‘Brahmo Dharma’ which emphasized the fundamental principles of monotheism and rationality while rejecting the necessity of mediation between man and God, caste distinctions and idolatry.
In 1851, he was appointed as the Secretary of the ‘British Indian Association’ which aimed to represent Indian interests to the British government. As the Secretary, he campaigned for India’s political autonomy and to reduce the tax burden on the poor.
He also campaigned to promote universal primary education in India and established a Brahmo school. In 1863, he founded Shantiniketan, a retreat in rural Bengal, which was later transformed into an international university under the supervision of his youngest son, Rabindranath Tagore.
Debendranath Tagore founded the 'Tattwabodhini Sabha' to facilitate discussions on different philosophies and later integrated the Brahmo Sabha with it. He also introduced the different forms of Brahmo worship which were later used by the community.
As the influence of Brahmoism spread throughout India under his leadership, he established himself as a person of particular spiritual accomplishment and came to be known as ‘Maharshi’.
He also got involved in active politics and was selected as the Secretary of the British Indian Association. While serving at the post, he made relentless efforts to terminate the chowkidari tax for the poor villagers and also demanded political independence for India from the British parliament.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Sarada Devi and the couple was blessed with several children of whom 13 survived. All of their children went on to make a significant mark for themselves in their respective fields.
His eldest son, Dwijendranath, grew up to be a talented scholar, poet and music composer while his second son, Satyendranath became the first Indian to join the Indian Civil Services.
His third son, Hemendranath, was a scientist and organizer of the family while another son, Jyotirindranath, went on to achieve success as an accomplished scholar, artist, music composer and theatre personality.
His other sons were Birendranath, Somendranath, and Rabindranath Tagore, a Bengali polymath who reshaped Bengali literature and music, and won a Nobel Prize in Literature.
His daughters were Soudamini, Sukumari, Saratkumari, Swarnakumari, and Barnakumari.
Debendranath Tagore died on January 19, 1905, in Calcutta, India, at the age of 87.