In the year 1784, a wealthy Bangali zamindar built a mansion in an area of North Kolkata. His name was Nilmoni Tagore who after a family feud decided to move out and build his own home. The mansion was located in an area called Jorasanko and the land for it was a gift from another zamindar named Baishnab Das Sett. This mansion started the Jorasanko part of the famous Tagore family and was named Jorasanko Thakurbari. Very soon after establishment, it became one of the Landmarks of the Bengali renaissance. More than two hundred years have passed, but within the chaos of Kolkata, Thakurbari still stands with its head held high— telling the tales of the Tagore family.
The Jorasaanko Thakurbari now acts as the Rabindra Bharati Museum located at Girish Park on Chittaranjan Avenue, Kolkata. Though Thakurbari had its own legacy, the place is best known for being the birthplace of Rabindranath Tagore. The museum has been restored to reflect the way it looked when the Tagore family lived there--painted in red with green wooden windows. Before moving to its own campus, this mansion also served as the main building of Rabindra Bharati University.
The tales of Jorasanko Thakurbari starts from Rabindranath's grandfather, Prince Dwarkanath Tagore. Though Nilmoni Tagore took the initiative of the Jorasanko part of the family, it was Dwarkanath who established the unorthodox legacy of the Tagores. In many texts it is him who is considered the founder of the Jorasanko Tagore family. Other than being one of the first Indian industrialists and a merciless zamindar; Dwarkanath was also the first secretary of Brahmo Sabha (A monotheistic, reformist and renaissance movement of Hindu religion led by Raja Ram Mohan Roy). His contribution to Bengal's revival movement took the Tagore family to its peak. After Dwarkanath's death, the responsibility of Jorsanko, with other estates of the family, was passed on to his son Debendranath Tagore. Other than being a zamindar, Debendranath's life circled around astrology and Brahmo philosophy.
May 7, 1861; Jorsanko witnessed the birth of our very own Rabindranath Tagore. Rabindra Bharati Museum is decorated the same way it was when Kobi Guru was born there. What the visitors see now are the same decorations, the same balconies and the same rooms that Rabi Thakur saw and walked on. Walking down the corridors, you can still feel his presence lurking around.
It was in this house, where at the age of 16, Rabindranath under the name of Bhanusimha Thakur wrote "Gahana Kusumakunja-majhe”. This was one of his first (at the age of 8 he wrote 'Jol Pore Pata Nore') endeavour into poetry which followed a collection of Vaishnava lyrics composed in Brajabuli. These lyrics were published in a book named “Bhanimha Thakurer Padabali” on July 1, 1984; and were dedicated to Tagore's sister-in-law, Kadambari Devi.
The Rabindra Bharati Museum has a collection of 2071 books, 770 journals, 16 paintings, 3297 photographs, 27 crafts and sculptures, 208 personal belongings and 53 pieces of furniture. From Rabindranath's bedroom to the family's living room, everything is the way it was when the Tagore lived there. The robe collection are still hung in Rabindranath's bedroom by his arm chair, giving a detailed look into the maestro's life. There are other rooms exhibiting his travels in various countries including China, America, the United Kingdom etc. The museum also exhibits the works of Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, Jyotirindranath, Abanindranath and Dinendranath Tagore. The entrance showcases the rare Humber 16-60 Snipe of 1933, the vehicle used by the distinguished family.
Next to Rabindranath's bedrooms is the room where he breathed his last. Interestingly enough both the rooms- the one he was born and the one where he died- are side by side. In his last days, it is said that Tagore may have been suffering from prostate cancer which led to a bacterial infection in the kidney. Famous doctor Bidhan Chandra Roy suggested surgery but Rabindranath hesitated. At one time his condition became very critical and there was no other way but surgery. The poet was brought back from Shantiniketan to Jorasanko and a sterilised OT was created outside his balcony for the procedure. He died in 1941 at the age of 80.
Rabindranath Tagore is considered as an eternal being. After 155 years, he still lives with us through his work. One cannot imagine the essence of Bengal without him. He lives among us not just as one of the forefathers of modern Bengali literature but as a friend—one who understands us more than anyone else. Visiting this museum is as personal in that aspect – it's just like visiting a friend's home.