Tagore-Ocampo relation, a new dimension

Автор: Ratan Lal Basu

Журнал: Revista Científica Arbitrada de la Fundación MenteClara @fundacionmenteclara

Статья в выпуске: 2, Vol. 3, 2018 года.

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The mystic love between the Indian Nobel Laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore and the great Argentine intellectual Victoria Ocampo has been a matter of deep interest among erudite circles all over the world ever since they happened to meet in San Isidro, Argentina in 1924. This meeting was a chance incident – Tagore on way to Peru being held up at Buenos Aires on account of a bad Influenza attack. Although Ocampo had developed a deep spiritual interest in Tagore and his philosophy since she had read in 1914 Andre Gide’s French translation of Gitanjali, the Nobel awarded book of poetry by Tagore, she could hardly imagine that she would ever have any opportunity to meet in real life Tagore, her idol of worship. As the Argentine physicians advised Tagore full rest till complete recovery, Ocampo prompted to host him along with his honourary secretary Leonard Elmhirst at Villa Miralrio at San Isidro. Here Tagore was held up for two months (November-December, 1924) in course of which the close relation between Tagore and Ocampo developed. They could meet only once more for a short time in Paris, but the relation continued through regular correspondence till Tagore’s demise in 1941. Various authors writing books or articles on the relation between Tagore and Ocampo have looked upon the relation from various angles, but most of them have failed to grasp the quintessence of the relation as they have overlooked the intellectual heights and spiritual inclinations of Tagore and Ocampo. Therefore, they have looked upon the matter from the standpoint of amorous relation between ordinary male and female. A deeper insight, however, would bring to the fore the fact that, because of their intellectual heights, cosmopolitan world outlook and spiritual inclinations, the relation between Tagore and Ocampo transcended to an extra-mundane spiritual plane. In fact, it cannot be denied that the relation had subterranean binding factor of Freudian passion between man and woman, but at the same time, because of the intellectual heights and depth of their thought process, it ascended to a higher plane and assumed surrealistic dimensions spurring each to over-enthusiastic intellectual activities.This article endeavours to venture into this mystic and surrealistic aspect of love between Tagore and Ocampo, which has not hitherto been explored fully.


Rabindranathagore, Victoria Ocampo, San Isidro, Miralrio, Villaocampo, vijaya, purabi, academicfriendship, mystyclove, mutualinspiration

Короткий адрес: https://readera.org/170163636

IDR: 170163636   |   DOI: 10.32351/rca.v3.2.43

Фрагмент статьи Tagore-Ocampo relation, a new dimension


The legendary relation between the Nobel Laureate Indian Poet Rabindranath Tagore and the great Argentine intellectual Victoria Ocampo has been of much interest all over the world, and has been depicted from various angles highlighting different dimensions of the relation. Most of the works on the matter suffer from a serious shortcoming. This is mainly due to the fact that most of these authors lack the deep insight into the extra-mundane and sublimated aspects of the relation and therefore have mostly looked upon the relation from the standpoint of relation between ordinary man and woman and have failed to grasp the intellectual height and spiritual subtleties of the relation.

In this article our objective is to highlight this hitherto unexplored dimension of relation between Tagore and Ocampo. The relation developed in course of only two months when Tagore was compelled, owing to illness, to stay as a guest of Ocampo at Miralrio at San Isidro near Buenos Aires.

Notwithstanding the fact that they had the opportunity to meet only once more at Paris for a very short time a few years after the first encounter, the relation left a very deep and lasting impression on both and its inspiring role remained intact till the dying day of each (Tagore in 1941 and Ocampo in 1979).

Although they did not have opportunity to meet again after 1930 they continued correspondence regularly till Tagore’s demise in 1941. The relation enriched both and added new dimensions to their creative activities.

In fact, it cannot be denied that the relation had subterranean binding factor of humanoid love between man and woman, but at the same time, because of the intellectual heights and depth of their thought process, it ascended to a higher plane and assumed surrealistic dimensions spurring each to over-enthusiastic intellectual activities.

Family Background

Rabindranath Tagore (7 May 1861 – 7 August 1941)

Ramona Victoria Epifanía Rufina Ocampo (7 April 1890 – 27 January 1979)

The family background of Tagore and Ocampo had similarities and also dissimilarities. Each sprang from a highly aristocratic family, renowned throughout the respective countries and well connected with the aristocratic and influential circles.

However, as Argentina was then free from the Spanish rule, the family of Ocampo was influential in the political arena of the country and had good relations with the ruling class of the newly independent Argentina. On the other hand, India being still under British rule, Tagore’s family could not have any important role in politics of the British colony.

The most striking difference between the two families was that the liberal academic milieu of Rabindranath’s family highly contrasted with the orthodox and conservative ambience of Victoria’s family. Tagore’s family contributed overwhelmingly to the academic, intellectual and creative pursuits of Rabindranath. The amicable family atmosphere had much to do with the flourishing of his versatile creativity and cosmopolitan liberal world outlook.

On the other hand, the orthodox and conservative family atmosphere of Ocampo had been almost suffocating for Victoria. It, in fact, was a serious constraint on blossoming of her congenital creative and intellectual talents. She was like a caged bird enticed by the vast sky and intending to get free from the shackles and explore the vast world around her. Her congenital liberal and free mind came into serious conflict with the suffocating orthodoxy and religious conservatism of the family and the influential circle to which her family belong.

Gitanjali of Tagore for the first time opened up the door of the free and liberal world she had hankered after.

Tagore sprang from a zaminder (Bengal variety of landlord in British India) family, but it was radically different from most of the zaminder families which had been bogged in the quagmire of all sorts of crude feudalistic pleasures (wine, women, gambling etc.) which unearned income (extorted from poor peasants) could afford.

Tagore’s family, had been, for a long time, associated with intellectual and creative activities, enlightenment and religious and social reforms, and played a foremost role in Bengal renaissance. The family took initiative in publications of literary magazines and initiated performance of stage drama and regular recitals of Indian and Western classical music. The most mention worthy personality in this regard was Rabindranath’s father, Maharshi Debendranath Tagore who left no stone unturned to gather together, within the compass of Tagore family from all corners of the country, teachers and maestros in all conceivable branches of knowledge, and creative disciplines. The influence of these great teachers and intellectuals had a remarkable impact on the children of Tagore family. They had a great contribution to the emergence of geniuses (like Abanindranath, Balendranath, Gaganendranath, Dinendranath, Satyendranath etc.) in many branches of academic and creative activities.

Victoria’s family, on the other hand, was obsessed with Hispanic orthodoxy and Catholic morality. Eldest Victoria and all her other five sisters were brought up in an atmosphere of suffocative restrictions – forbidden to go out without chaperons, refrained from reading books considered to be immoral and many similar restrictions. The family norms shattered in her childhood her strong desire to be an actress. So she was compelled to take up writing to ventilate her intellectual and creative capabilities. Her family and society forbade any career for a woman besides that of a docile wife.

All these suffocated Victoria, a congenital and incorrigible liberal intellectual with cosmopolitan world outlook. The family with an endeavor to make her a good wife gave her to marriage with Bernando de Estrada. The marriage was a disaster and in 1920, the couple separated (although she never got a divorce as it was contrary to norms of her social circle) and got involved in passionate and long-lasting affair with Julián Martínez, the cousin of her husband. She had to keep this a strict secret because this sort of activity was looked upon by her family and society as an unpardonable sin. All these were disquieting for her and generated great emotional pressure on her mind.

Under this condition of mental upheaval, Tagore’s Nobel awarded work, Gitanjali, appeared as a great reliever to Victoria. Later on, the two months of her close intellectual association with Rabindranath opened up the door of light and freedom in her life. Tagore and his work also gave her the opportunity to get entry into the holistic and cosmopolitan world of Indian philosophy and spiritualism. In this arena she was also deeply influenced by thoughts of the great Indian savant, Mahatma Gandhi.


As regards education, there was a striking similarity between Tagore and Ocampo. None of them had formal education and institutional degrees. However, education outside the walls of academic institutions through private tutors and self teaching could raise their intellectual capabilities and levels of knowledge to highest conceivable levels.

Tagore had strong aversion to formal education. He was sent to Presidency College, Calcutta, but he abandoned college only after one day. However, at home he got the opportunity of having all sorts of education from private tutors each of whom was an expert in his area. This education included theoretical subjects of science and humanities streams and practical trainings in painting, swimming, anatomy, gymnastics, wrestling etc.

Maharshi Debendranath expected Rabindranath to be a barrister at law. So he was enrolled at a law school in England, but here also he discontinued study of law. Instead he resorted to self tutoring in Shakespeare and folk music of the country which he, later on, incorporated in his musical compositions. After his return to Bengal he got fully engrossed in creative activities -- poems, short stories, dramas, musical compositions, articles on various subjects including religion, philosophy, politics and travelogues.

Victoria had her education under the guidance of French and English governesses. Because of education in foreign languages from the very beginning she was more comfortable in French and English than her mother tongue Spanish which she considered to be unworthy of creative activities. So her first cultural language was French, second English, and her mother tongue Spanish was only for daily conversation. She soon had a command over French and English literature. Besides, she also learnt Italian and acquired a good knowledge of Italian literature.

All these education and knowledge came from private tutors or self-tutoring and none from formal institutional study.

Another aspect of her non-institutional education was education through travel which was very common for children of her society. She visited Europe twice for this purpose, attended various lectures, but never got enrolled in educational institutions.

Thus we see that neither Tagore nor Ocampo had any formal academic degree but both created academic or cultural institutions which had profound impacts on the education and culture of their respective countries – Tagore through Santiniketan, Sriniketan and Visvabharati University and Ocampo through her magazine Sur (meaning south).


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