Tagore’s Gitanjali: A Note on Publics of Performance
Tagore’s Gitanjali has been written seeking inspiration from the bhakti tradition. The nuances of performance and reception of the tradition essentially involve two aspects- public and private. Bhakti as an act of personal devotion of an individual forms its ‘private’ character.The sonic performance of bhakti in forms such as bhajans addressed to Gods, accompanied by musical instruments and joyful cries of ecstasy, encompass the ‘public’ character. Both the ‘private’ and the ‘public’ are the modes of transcendental God realisation. While the ‘private’ is individual-centric, the ‘public’ can be understood in the sense of the integration of the individual with the Universal or the finite with the Infinite. The modes of publics of performance rely on transcendental collective shared experience as a catalyst of self-transformation and as an agent fostering national and universal brotherhood. This paper presents the case for incorporating publics of performance in the pedagogy for the study of Gitanjali, as a text of bhakti tradition. This would involve techniques like the inclusion of a CD demonstrating the rhythmic flow of reading, providing guidance on pronunciation, intonation, emphasis, punctuation and groupings of words and phrases. The trainers, on a more dedicated note can evolve innovative teaching techniques such as a ‘literary jagran’ and perform a collective public reading accompanied by traditional musical instruments of the bhakti tradition such as cymbals and dholaks.
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