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Tagore family women were liberated

IANS  |  Kolkata 

Though they lived under the shadow of their more "illustrious" male counterparts, women in the famous Tagore family of Kolkata's Jorasanko were liberated and well ahead of their times.

Aruna Chakraborty, author of "Jorasanko" - an account of women in the Tagore household - regaled the audience at the Kolkata Literary Meet Wednesday alongside eminent Bollywood actress and descendent of the family Sharmila Tagore about the various female members from different generations of the family.

From Digambari Devi, wife of Dwarakanath (Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore's grandfather) to Jnanadanandini Devi, wife of Satyendranath (Rabindranath's elder brother), Chakrabarty recounted tales of how the women played important roles in the family.

"In an effort to atone for her husband's sins for his association with British rulers and for the pleasures he sought in nautch (dancing) girls, Digambari Devi locked herself in the prayer room and stayed away from her husband without complaining," Chakrabarty said.

"In contrast, Kadambari Devi, the wife of Jyotirindranath and sister-in-law of poet Rabindranath, was a melancholic and gentle woman with deep sensitivities, refined intellect and an insatiable thirst for knowledge. She was driven to end her life," she said quoting from her book.

Sharmila Tagore, also referring to the book, talked about how Jnanadanandini Devi, after having learnt the art of the Parsi way of wearing the saree, taught it to other women in her household.

She also gave a newspaper advertisement asking women to learn the new way of wearing the saree at a time when the Bengali way of wearing the apparel was considered inappropriate as outdoor wear.

Sharmila Tagore said the males in the Tagore household did not practice at home what they preached in public.

"Rabindranath's daughters were married off at a very young age. One of them was only ten years old when wedding bells struck. So, there was a marked difference about how the males projected themselves in the public and what they practised at home," she said, while asserting she was not being "judgmental".

Talking about her childhood and growing years in a joint family, Sharmila Tagore said it was a learning experience for her. It taught her to mix with people.

"We never had a television, did not go to movies, had never heard of internet, but not for a single moment did we feel bored. We participated in various pujas and celebrated festivals with elders... It was fun," she said.

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First Published: Wed, January 29 2014. 19:22 IST
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