Iqbal and Tagore
A friend complained that I have written Tagore was the greatest poet India has produced, he was unhappy as he thinks this title belongs to Iqbal. Well actually I never wrote this in the first place, what I had written is that Tagore is acknowledged as the greatest poet India (and here I meant Indian Sub-Continent) has produced in the last 200 years. Well there is little doubt about this, is there? Tagore was the first non-White to win a Nobel prize, his poems form the national anthem of two countries and if there is a poll across the Sub-Continent asking the question who is the greater poet among them I have no doubt Tagore will win. So the fact remains that Tagore is acknowledged as the greatest poet India has produced in the last 200 years, but is he the greatest poet India has produced in the last 200 years? This is an entirely different question as here we are asking a personal opinion and everyone will have their own opinion, some I am sure will think that neither of them deserve this title. We will therefore leave this for now though at some stage it would be interesting to compare their works and ideas.
Soon another development was to take place which was to further sadden Iqbal: King Raza Shah Pahlavi of Iran extended an invitation to Tagore to visit his country. He went there in 1932. As a royal guest, he was given tremendous welcome in many cities of Iran. While in Tehran, he received a similar invitation from the King of Iraq. In Baghdad, Tagore was received by King Faisal himself. Tagore had also been invited by Einstein to his Berlin home in January 1930.
Chughtai has also made a detailed mention of the abortive efforts made by Iqbal and his well-wishers to get a Nobel for him. Even to this day the fact that Iqbal was not given a Nobel prize and perhaps for some of greater irk Tagore was is not forgotten, as an article I came across from a 2012 addition of the Millie Gazette shows, titled, ”Why wasn’t Iqbal awarded a Nobel? The writer tells us,” It’s one of the biggest mysteries that Dr Muhammad Iqbal didn’t get Nobel despite his profound poetry and the corpus of literary work of the highest calibre. Iqbal and Tagore were simultaneously writing poetry in the sub-continent and if the level of poetry of both the masters is assessed dispassionately, Iqbal has an edge over Tagore. Both were mystics and they were heavily influenced by Persian mysticism of Attar, Jami, Hafiz, Sanai, Khaqani and the most sublime of all, the redoubtable Jalaluddin Rumi. Iqbal called Rumi, his ‘ruhani ustaad’ (spiritual master), whereas Tagore was influenced by Hafiz Shirazi. While Tagore almost plagiarized Hafiz in his 103 poems in Gitanjali, that won him 1913’s Nobel, Iqbal’s inspiration was devoid of pilfering.”
I found it interesting and a bit ironic that the Millie Gazette claims to be the leading newspaper of Indian Muslims while as I mentioned above Chughtai sahib is from Pakistan and one would expect things to be the other way around! Also as far as I can tell Shirazi’s influence on Iqbal’s poetry is well known and has been acknowledged by Javed Iqbal.
So there we are, these two great men, philosophers and poets, the best that India produced in the last 200 years never met and never put their heads together to produce any work and mankind is all the poorer for this.
So while I am not saying who is the greater poet among the two but one thing can be said, if (and please before anyone gets upset please note the IF), if what Mr Chughtai has claimed is true, then there can be little doubt who was the greater man.