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Gitanjali- Introduction & Summary


GITANJALI (Poem Number 11)

Introduction of the Poem

Rabindranath Tagore’s song―“Leave this Chanting and Singing”, is a song of enlightened devotion. The poet tells that real worship does not lie in chanting devotional songs and counting beads but in performing purposeful physical labour. God lives simplicity, not the show and hypocrisy of worship. To realize God we should associate ourselves in honest hard work with the humble farmers and labourers who cultivate lands and feed millions and make roads by breaking stones to make the world a better place. God resides with the simple, honest and hard working people. The poet advises the mistaken devotees of God, not to seek God in temples, churches and mosques but to know the truth and recognize the sanctity of labour. They should also indulge in honest hard labour to realize God.

Summary of the Poem

God loves simplicity. God loves reality. “Work is Worship” is the message of God and the best recipe to realize God.

God does not like the show of making worship and so the poet tells the devotees of God who renounce the world of work and duty and segregrate themselves in the dark corner of a temple singing devotional songs and counting beads in the name of God’s worship. The poet tells them that they are mistaken and deceiving themselves. They should know that God can never be approached or realized through this hypocritical way of worship.

The poet tells the devotees and worshippers of God clearly that God can be found in performing humble work like the work of a farmer who ploughs the field to grow food for the millions of his fellow human beings. The worker is poor and despised by the rich but he is loved his Creator because he earns his livelihood through hard purposeful labour. God loves the labourers who work hard by breaking stones and making roads for their fellow beings to walk to their work and prosperity. The peasants and labourers are simple, honest folk who are not afraid of hard work in hot sun or of cold rain. They care for their work not for their clothes and comforts. God resides with these simple, honest and hardworking people. The poet advises his mistakes and followers who seek God in temples, mosques and churches but to realize the truth and recognize the sanctity of labour. They should also indulge in simple but purposive manual labour without worrying about their clothes and comforts. The singing of hymns, praying, counting beads and wearing holy mantle are all hypocritical and God does not love hypocrisy.

The poet asks mistaken and devotees worshippers of God, who renounce the world and waste their lives chanting hymns and counting beads in temples mosques and churches away from humble toiling masses in the belief that by so doing they will achieve deliverance. There renunciation is escapism. They are running away from simple honest labour which is their duty to do in the name of “deliverance” and God. The poet points out that our Creator himself has bound himself in the chains of his duty towards his creation and joyfully preforms his duties. If God binds himself in chains of duty why should his devotees and worshippers forsake honest labour thinking it beneath their dignity to indulge in physical labour. It is this sacred labour of duty which binds the Creator to his creation and so he can be achieved only through honest physical labour with the humble toiling masses.

The poet tells the worshippers and followers of God, who renounce the world and engage themselves in meditation singing of hymns chanting of “mantras” and counting of beads in the name of God in the mistaken belief that they can achieve God in this way, that they are wrong. They should stop doing this and realize the truth. God cannot be achieved by the show of worship-wearing holy mantle chanting prayers singing devotional songs, burning incense and segregating themselves from honest labour and humble fellow beings. He asks them to mix and mingle with their fellow beings in performing their worldly duties without caring for their clothes and without considering that physical labour is beneath their dignity. No labour is mean. All work is sacred. If these sincere but mistaken devotees realize their mistake and take to honest physical labour they will meet God in the pleasure of honest work and duty.

The phrase “Work is Worship” has a deeper meaning and significance than is generally believed. It is the surest prescription of finding God. God lives among the honest workers and can be found there. He cannot be achieved in the seclusion of the so-called sacred places.

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