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Light, oh where is the light? by Rabindranath Tagore summary

Rabindranath Tagore was an Indian poet, writer, playwright, composer, philosopher, social reformer and painter. He reshaped Bengali literature and music as well as Indian art with Contextual Modernism in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Author of the “profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful” poetry of Gitanjali, he became in 1913 the first non-European and the first lyricist to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Tagore was known by many nicknames: Gurudev, Kobiguru, Biswakobi.

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‘Light, oh where is the light?’ is the verse 27 from Tagore’s Noble Prize winning masterpiece Gitanjali. In the poem, Tagore seeks for the divine light. He is wandering in the darkness and seeks for a ray of light. The light here signifies a spiritual awakening desired by the poet after walking in the path of darkness for long. The poem begins with a question. “Light, oh where is the light?” The poet has traveled through a long path that consisted of failures and disappointments. Now, he wants to find peace through spirituality. He says that the divine lamp can be lit with desire which is burning like fire. Then the poet talks about lamp, which isn’t lit. The lamp here symbolizes the poet’s soul. It is just like a lamp without a flame, i.e. meaningless. It can be lit with a burning desire in the poet’s heart. He even says that his heart is destined to suffer in the darkness. If his fate remains the same, he would never achieve God’s divine light. Death would be a better option than to suffer through such a fate.

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Then, the poet uses personification to depict ‘misery’ as a lady guiding him through the darkness. She is the messenger of God. Misery is knocking at the poet’s door and says that God knows about everything and wants to meet him in a divine spot like a lover’s meeting amidst the darkness. Misery is a negative feeling, but here is plays a positive role. Misery makes humans keep trying for the better. Thus, misery is an important part in achieving divine spirituality. The sky is dark, and it is continuously raining. It metaphorically refers to the poet’s chaotic mind, which is filled with sorrow and dejection. There is a weird feeling waking up in the poet’s heart, but he is confused about it.

The poet has suddenly seen a flash of light amidst the grave darkness. The light vanishes again and the poet is once again left in darkness. He tries to find his way through the dark to the source where music is being played. The poet is again asking the question about where the light is. He wants to once again light his soul with a burning flame of desire. There is a storm and thunder, blocking his path to reach God. The night is dark as a black stone. The storm symbolizes the poet’s chaotic mind that is creating a barrier in achieving spiritual awakening. At last, the poet realizes that sitting in the darkness idly will be of no help. He must not wait in the darkness in a hope for someone to rescue him. Instead he must light the fire himself. Only through a zeal and burning passion, one can attain spirituality.

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