Debendranath Tagore was born on 15 May 1817 in Kolkata & died on 19 January 1905 in Kolkata, was one of the founder in 1848 of the Brahmo Religion which today is synonymous with Brahmoism the youngest religion of India and Bangladesh.
A Bengali, he was born in Kolkata. His father, was the fabulous “Prince” Dwarkanath Tagore.
Debendranath was a deeply religious man. His movement the Brahmo Samaj was formed in 1843 by merging his Tattwabodhini Sabha with the Brahmo Sabha, ten years after the death of the latter’s founder, Raja Ram Mohan Roy. The Brahmo Sabha had fallen away from its original practices put forth in its Trust deed of Brahmo Sabha, however, Tagore revived the importance of this deed.
Debendranath’s spiritual prowess was of the highest order, even while he maintained his worldly affairs – not renouncing his material possessions as some Hindu traditions prescribed but rather continuing to enjoy them in a spirit of detachment. His considerable material property included several estates spread over the districts of Bengal; most famously, the later acquisition Santiniketan estate near Bolpur in the Birbhum district where his eldest son Dwijendranath Tagore set up his school.
Debendranath was a master of the Upanishads and played no small role in the education and cultivation of faculties of his sons.
Dwijendranath (1840–1926) was an accomplished scholar, poet and music composer. He initiated shorthand and musical notations in Bengali. He wrote extensively and translated Kalidas’s Meghdoot into Bengali.
Satyendranath (1842–1923) was the first Indian to join the Indian Civil Service. At the same time he was a great scholar with a large reservoir of creative talents.
Hemendranath (1844–1884) was the scientist and organiser of the family. He was a spiritual seer and Yogi of the highest order and he was responsible for development of the modern Brahmoism which is now the Adi Dharm religion. He was a “doer” of his Tagore generation and worthy successor to his grandfather Dwarkanath and father. He sided with his “conservative” siblings Dwijendranath and Birendranath in the family disputes against “modern” Satyendranath, Jyotindranath and Rabindranath.
Jyotirindranath (1849–1925) was a scholar, artist, music composer and theatre personality.
Rabindranath (1861–1941) was his youngest son. His other sons were Birendranath (1845–1915) and Somendranath.
His daughters were Soudamini, Sukumari, Saratkumari, Swarnakumari (1855–1932) and Barnakumari. Soudamini was one of the first students of Bethune School and a gifted writer. Swarnakumari was a gifted writer, editor, song-composer and social worker. All of them were famous for their beauty and education. His part in creating the legacy of Thakurbari – the House of Tagore – in the cultural heritage of Bengal, centred in Kolkata, was not negligible. It was largely through the influence of the Tagore family, following that of the writer Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, that Bengal took a leading role on the cultural front as well as on the nationalistic one, in the Renaissance in India during the nineteenth century.
he house of the Tagore family in Jorasanko, popular as Jorasanko Thakur Bari in North-western Kolkata, was later converted into a campus of the Rabindra Bharati University.
As son of Dwarkanath, a close friend of Ram Mohan Roy, Debendranath came early into the influence of Brahmoism through the Brahmo Sabha, a reformist movement in Hinduism formulating as Adi Dharma (Original Dharma) what it considered as the original pristine principles of Hinduism corrupted over time.
But even earlier, deeply affected in childhood by the death of his grandmother to whom he was greatly attached, Debendranath was drawn to religion and began contemplating the meaning and nature of life. He commenced a deep study of religious literature, particularly the Upanishads. In 1839, with tutelage from Pandit Ram Chandra Vidyabageesh, a leader of the Brahmo Sabha, he formed his own active Tattwabodhini Sabha (Truthseekers’ Association) to spread his new experiences and knowledge.
In 1843, Debendranath started the Tattwabodhini Patrika as mouthpiece of the Tattwabodhini Sabha. In the same year, he revived the Brahma Sabha, fallen in vigour and following since the death of Rammohun in 1833. The Brahmo Sabha was formally absorbed into the Tattwabodhini Sabha and renamed as Calcutta Brahma Samaj. The day Pous 7 of the Bengali calendar is commemorated as the foundation day of the Samaj. The Patrika became the organ of the Samaj and continued publication till 1883.
In 1848, Debendranath codified the Adi Dharma Doctrine as Brahmo Dharma Beej (Seed of the Brahmo Dharma). In 1950, he published a book titled Brahmo Dharma enshrining the fundamental principles. These principles emphasise monotheism, rationality and reject scriptural infallibility, the necessity of mediation between man and God, caste distinctions and idolatry.
With the influence of Brahmoism under Debendranath spreading far and wide throughout India, he gathered reputation as a person of particular spiritual accomplishment and came to be known as Maharshi. His spiritual stature was confirmed by Sri Ramakrishna, the great Hindu sage of the 19th century who paid Debendranath a visit. Debendranath’s roles in the Bengal renaissance and the reform and rejuvenation of Hindu religion are indubitable.