Gora (Bengali: গোরা) is a novel by Rabindranath Tagore, set in Calcutta (now Kolkata), in the 1880s during the British Raj. It is the fifth in order of writing and the longest of Tagore’s twelve novels. It is rich in philosophical debate on politics and religion.[1] Other themes include liberation, universalism, brotherhood, gender, feminism, caste, class, tradition versus modernity, urban elite versus rural peasants, colonial rule, nationalism and the Brahmo Samaj.[2][3]

AuthorRabindranath Tagore
Original titleগোরা (White)
CountryBritish India
Publication date

The novel is the longest novel written by Tagore. It deeply influences the Indian society and emerged as a debate between Brahmo Samaj and Hinduism.

Contents Edit

Gora consists of two parallel love stories of two pairs of lovers: Gora and Sucharita, Binoy and Lolita. Their emotional development is shown in the background of the social and political problems prevalent in India towards the end of the 19th-century.[4]

Plot Edit

The story mainly revolves around its protagonist, Gormohan alias 'Gora', a ‌staunch Hindu Brahmin.[5] Gora is a young man with a well-built body, good stature, white complexion, and a heavy voice. Because of his physique, he is the head of his circle of friends. Despite not being handsome, Gora is considered attractive because of his heavy speech and high stature. Gora's best friend is Binoybhushan aka Binoy. Binoy is a friendly and handsome young man. He has a special affection for Gora's mother Anandamayi, and regards Anandamayi as his mother as he was orphaned as a child. One day Binoy meets a Brahmo Samaji Paresh Babu and his daughter Sucharita when their wagon crashes outside Binoy's house. Binoy helps them, and starts visiting their house. And then Binoy is introduced to Paresh Babu, his wife Varadasundari, his eldest daughter Lavanya, middle daughter Lalita, and younger daughter Leela. Along with them, he is introduced to Sucharita, the adopted daughter of Paresh Babu, and Satish, Sucharita's real brother. At the time of the story there is an ongoing conflict between the Brahmo Samaj and Hinduism; as Gora is a staunch Hindu who believes in untouchability, he forbids Binoy to meet Paresh Babu and his family. This leads to an argument between the two. Gora accuses Binoy of being attracted to Paresh Babu's daughter, but Binoy denies this. Gora's father Krishnadayal, a good friend of Paresh Babu, one day urges Gora to visit Paresh Babu's house to inquire about his well being. When Gora goes there, Binoy is already present, disappointing and angering Gora. There, Gora is introduced to Haran alias Panu Babu, who is Bengali but has special affection for the British. Haran Babu is a special head of the Brahmo Samaj, and is going to marry Sucharita. Due to Gora's being Hindu, he does not get the same respect at Paresh Babu's house as Binoy did. He gets into an argument with Haran Babu. Sucharita, who earlier saw Gora as inferior because of his fanaticism, supports Gora by not supporting Haran Babu in the debate. Gora is then very angry with Binoy, but due to his special affection for him cannot leave him.

Later, Gora has to go to Paresh Babu's house once again, where Gora's love for Sucharita awakens; Sucharita reciprocates those feelings. Gora, who has sworn that he will never marry, feels deeply guilty about this and immediately sets off on an unknown journey. Varadasundari gets along well with Magistrate Brownlow, and she chooses Binoy and Lalita to star in a show at his house. Gora travels to a village which is haunted by the atrocities of the magistrate and the superintendent. He vows to bring justice to the village and rebels against the magistrate. Enraged by this, the magistrates send Gora to jail for a month without trial for any crime. Hearing this, Lalita, who cannot tolerate injustice, is enraged. Due to this she comes home overnight on a steamer with Binoy. The steamer incident — that a Brahmo girl has come alone with a Hindu boy at night — stirs up the Brahmo Samaj. Lalita becomes notorious, so Varadasundari blames Binoy. Binoy agrees to join the Brahmo Samaj under societal pressure, but Gora objects to it, with Lalita also forbidding Binoy from doing so. Meanwhile, Sucharita's widowed maternal aunt, Harimohini, visits Poresh's house and her being a Hindu arises conflict between her and Poresh's wife, Varadasundari. Seeing this conflict, Poresh reveals to Sucharita that she had her own house in the neighbourhood which he bought from Sucharita's father's savings. Sucharita and Harimohini move into the house.

After being released from prison, Gora starts visiting Sucharita's house. Harimohini, who is suspicious of Gora's intention, wants Sucharita to marry her relative, Kailash. Sucharita doesn't accept it and accepts Gora as her guru. Meanwhile, Binoy and Lalita get married with resistance from Varadasundari, Gora, and Binoy's relatives.

When one day, when Krishnadayal falls ill, he informs Gora of the truth about his origins. He explains that Gora is not actually his son, but the son of a Christian Irishman. They had met when he lived in Etawah; when war broke out there, Gora's military father was killed. Gora's mother was dependent on Krishnadayal's goodwill and gave birth to Gora in his house, dying in the process. Krishnadayal has raised him since. In that one moment, Gora's whole life is destroyed, the religion for which he sacrificed his whole life having rejected him. Eventually, Gora accepts Paresh Babu as his guru, after drinking water from Lachmiya's hand.

Characters Edit

  • Gormohan aka Gora/Gaur is the son of Anandmoyi and Krishnadayal, younger half- brother of Mahim, best friend of Binoy and Sucharita's love interest. He is the protagonist and titular character of the novel. He is portrayed as a complex and multi-dimensional character. He is a young, intelligent, and highly idealistic man who is deeply passionate about his beliefs and principles. Gora is known for his strong sense of nationalism and fervent dedication to social and religious reform. He comes from a Brahmo Samaj background, which represents a progressive religious and social movement in 19th-century India. Gora's interactions with people from different walks of life and various social strata shape his worldview and challenge his beliefs. Throughout the novel, Gora grapples with questions of identity, nationalism, and spirituality. He goes through a transformative journey of self-discovery, trying to reconcile his personal beliefs with the changing socio-political landscape of India during the British colonial rule. Gora's idealism often leads him to confront societal norms and conventions, making him a controversial and polarizing figure. He engages in intense debates and discussions with other characters, presenting his arguments with passion and conviction. Despite his strong personality, Gora also exhibits moments of vulnerability and doubt, making him a relatable and well-rounded character. His interactions with other key characters, particularly with Binoy and Sucharita, play a significant role in shaping his growth and understanding of the complexities of human relationships. Overall, Gora's character serves as a vehicle for exploring themes such as nationalism, identity, love, and the clash of traditional and modern values in Indian society during that period.
  • Binoybhushan aka Binoy (Vinay) is Lolita's husband and Gora's best friend. He is portrayed as a complex and passionate character. He is a young, idealistic Hindu nationalist who strongly believes in his cultural and religious identity. Binoy is deeply committed to promoting Hindu traditions and values.Throughout the novel, Binoy's character undergoes significant development as he interacts with other characters and confronts societal challenges. He is depicted as intelligent, eloquent, and well-read, making him a persuasive orator and writer. However, his fervent nationalism sometimes leads him to be rigid and intolerant towards other viewpoints. Binoy's interactions with the central character, Gora, a passionate nationalist himself, bring out both camaraderie and conflict as they navigate their shared beliefs and their differences. His journey explores themes of identity, nationalism, and the clash between tradition and modernity. Binoy's personal life is intertwined with his ideals and convictions. He comes from a traditional Hindu family and is deeply rooted in his cultural heritage. He is portrayed as a dedicated son who respects and values his parents' opinions, even though he often finds himself at odds with them due to his nationalist beliefs. Binoy is depicted as a young man who is passionate about his cause and willing to make sacrifices for it. He is committed to promoting Hindu nationalism and upholding the values and traditions he cherishes. His personal life revolves around his activism, his interactions with fellow nationalists, and his writings and speeches that advocate for his beliefs. While he is earnest and idealistic, Binoy's character also experiences moments of inner conflict and doubt. As the story progresses, he faces challenges that test his convictions and lead to moments of introspection. These moments allow the reader to witness the complexities of his personal life and the internal struggles he grapples with while trying to balance his ideals with the realities of the world around him. Binoy's personal life is deeply affected by his relationship with other characters in the novel, particularly with Gora, who becomes his close friend and ideological counterpart. Their dynamic friendship adds depth to his character and exposes him to different perspectives and worldviews, leading to further growth and development.
  • Sucharita (birth name: Radharani) is the adopted daughter of Paresh Babu and Vardasundari and sister of Satish, and her half- sisters, Lolita, Lavanya and Leela. She is one of the prominent characters. She is depicted as a young, strong-willed, and intelligent woman. Sucharita is deeply committed to her ideals and values and is known for her progressive and independent thinking. Throughout the novel, she plays a crucial role in challenging societal norms and advocating for women's rights and empowerment. As the story unfolds, Sucharita becomes involved in various social and political movements, striving to bring about positive change in society. Her interactions with other characters, especially the protagonist Gora, reveal her unwavering determination and principled approach to life. Sucharita's character serves as a representation of the modern Indian woman during the time the novel was written. Her journey is a reflection of the changing social and political landscape in India during that period, and she stands as a symbol of hope and progress.
  • Lolita (Lalita) is Paresh Babu and Vardasundari's second daughter and Binoy's wife. Lalita is another essential character who plays a crucial role in the narrative. Lalita is a young woman who represents the traditional and conservative values prevailing in Indian society during that time. Lalita's character is portrayed as an epitome of the traditional Indian woman, who adheres strictly to societal norms and customs. She embodies the virtues of modesty, obedience, and self-sacrifice. Lalita's personality contrasts with that of Sucharita, Gora's love interest, who symbolizes modernity and progressive thinking. Throughout the novel, Lalita's interactions with Gora and other characters provide insights into the clash between traditional and modern values in Indian society. Her beliefs and behaviors challenge Gora's nationalistic fervor and his rigid views on identity and culture. Lalita's character also serves as a vehicle to explore gender roles and the limited agency women had during that era. Her struggles, sacrifices, and challenges shed light on the restrictive expectations imposed upon women, urging readers to reflect on the need for societal reforms to empower and liberate women from traditional constraints. Overall, Lalita's character in "Gora" adds depth to the novel's exploration of cultural and social dynamics in early 20th-century India and highlights the complexities of the human experience within the context of changing times.
  • Pareshchandra bhattacharya aka Paresh Babu is the husband of Vardasundari, father of Lavanya, Lolita and Leela. Paresh Babu is one of the Significant and influential character who represents the conservative, orthodox Hindu mentality prevalent during the time the novel is set. Paresh Babu is portrayed as a well-respected and influential figure within the community. He upholds traditional values and adheres strictly to religious practices. He represents the conservative Hindu orthodoxy and is deeply entrenched in rituals and customs, often at odds with Gora's nationalist and modern views. Throughout the novel, Paresh Babu's interactions with Gora and other characters showcase the clash between the old and new ways of thinking. He becomes a counterpoint to Gora's passionate nationalism and highlights the complexities of reconciling tradition with the changing socio-political landscape of India during that era. The character of Paresh Babu serves to depict the diversity of viewpoints and ideologies within Indian society during the time of the novel's setting, adding depth to the narrative's exploration of identity, nationalism, and social reforms.
  • Anandmoyi (Anandmayi) is the mother of Gora, step mother of Mahim and Krishnadayal's wife. She is an enigmatic spiritual leader, Anandamoyi plays a significant role in shaping Gora's spiritual and philosophical journey. Her teachings challenge Gora's narrow-mindedness and foster a more inclusive understanding of spirituality and human existence.
  • Haran Babu aka Panu Babu A Brahmo Samaji who hates Bengali and Indian culture and impressed with Britishers and jealous of Binoy and Gora as he wants to marry Sucharita.
  • Mahim step brother of Gora, son of Krishnadayal from his late wife. He is a witty and cunning middle- aged man, who is jealous of Gora and hates her step mother. He is a government employee. He has a daughter, Shashimukhi, and wants to marry her off with Binoy. However, when Binoy marries Lolita, he started hating him.
  • Krishnadayal a staunch Hindu like Gora, father of Mahim, foster father of Gora and husband or Anandmayi.
  • Harimohini maternal aunt of Sucharita and Satish.
  • Shri Satishchandra Mukhopadhyaya aka Satish adopted son of Paresh Babu and Vardasundari and real brother of Sucharita best friend of Binoybhushan. He is a talkative and naught young boy.
  • Kailash brother - in - law of Harimohini
  • Avinash student of Gora
  • Lavanya eldest daughter of Paresh Babu and Vardasundari
  • Leela youngest daughter of Paresh Babu and Vardasundari
  • Shashimukhi daughter of Mahim
  • Mahim's wife
  • Lachmiya Christian servant of Anandmoyi[6]

Themes Edit

The theme of Gora, revolves around nationalism, identity, and social reform. It explores the clash between traditional Hindu customs and modern ideas, reflecting the complexities of India during the colonial era. The protagonist, Gora, grapples with questions of identity and cultural belonging, making the novel a profound exploration of self-discovery and societal transformation. In Gora, Rabindranath Tagore also delves into the theme of religious tolerance and the power of love in bridging cultural divides. The novel portrays the characters' struggles with the changing social dynamics and how they navigate their personal beliefs while engaging with broader societal issues. It emphasizes the importance of critical thinking and open-mindedness in addressing the challenges of a rapidly changing world. Throughout the story, Tagore weaves a tapestry of diverse perspectives and ideologies, showcasing the richness of India's cultural heritage. He presents a vivid picture of the social, political, and religious landscape of the time, raising essential questions about unity, diversity, and the role of individuals in shaping their communities. As Gora grapples with his own identity and tries to reconcile his traditional upbringing with modern ideas, the novel serves as a reflection on the complex interplay between tradition and progress. The exploration of gender roles and the empowerment of women is another prominent aspect of the novel, shedding light on the importance of gender equality and women's agency. Ultimately, Gora is a thought-provoking and deeply philosophical work that transcends time and continues to resonate with readers as they contemplate the intricate relationships between tradition, nationalism, and the human quest for understanding and growth.

Critical Recepton Edit

Gora is considered one of his most significant works in Bengali literature.[7] It received widespread critical acclaim for its insightful exploration of social and political issues during the colonial era in India. The novel was first published in 1910 and quickly gained recognition for its thought-provoking narrative and powerful storytelling. Tagore's Uportrayal of the protagonist Gora, a staunch nationalist with Tha fervent belief in Indian traditions, and his interactions with various characters from different backgrounds, reflect the complexities of society and the struggle for cultural identity during the British colonial rule.

Critics also appreciated Tagore's lyrical prose and the way he intertwined philosophical musings with social commentary. The novel's exploration of caste, class, and gender issues further highlighted Tagore's progressive ideas and his concern for social reforms. Over the years, "Gora" has been subject to numerous academic studies and literary analyses, and it continues to be a compelling piece of literature that resonates with readers worldwide. Its themes of self-discovery, religious tolerance, and the quest for truth remain relevant even in contemporary times.[8]

Translations Edit

Malayalam translation of Gora with the same title was done by Dr. K. C. Ajayakumar. For this, in 2015, Ajayakumar has won the Sahitya Akademi Award for translation.[9] Hindi translation of this novel was done by famous Hindi poet and author Agyeya. 'Gora' was translated into English by W. W. Pearson in 1924.[citation needed]

Adaptations Edit

Film adaptations exist from 1938, when director Naresh Mitra made a Bengali film in the same name based on the novel.[10] and from 2015, directed by Shukla Mitra. In 2012 Hindi channel Doordarshan broadcast a 26-episode television series by producer Gargi Sen and director Somnath Sen.[2][3]

Legacy and Cultural Influence Edit

Gora holds immense cultural and literary significance in Bengal and beyond. First published in 1910, it remains a timeless classic that has left a profound impact on Bengali literature and society. The novel delves into themes of identity, nationalism, and social reform, presenting a critique of religious orthodoxy and advocating for universal humanism. Gora challenged prevailing notions of caste and religious divisions, promoting a more inclusive and tolerant society. Through its portrayal of the titular character, Gora, an ardent nationalist with a fervent desire to uplift his people, Tagore depicted the struggle for self-discovery and self-realization. The book questioned traditional norms and called for a reevaluation of societal structures, contributing to the intellectual awakening and cultural renaissance in Bengal during the early 20th century. Tagore's lyrical prose and deep philosophical insights in Gora continue to inspire generations of readers, influencing subsequent literature and shaping the Bengal's literary landscape. The novel's emphasis on individuality, empathy, and unity transcends time and remains relevant to this day. Overall, Gora not only transformed Bengal's literary scene but also played a pivotal role in catalyzing the region's cultural and social transformation, leaving an indelible legacy that continues to resonate with readers and scholars worldwide.[11][12]

Further reading Edit

  • Bhattacharya, Nandini (2015). Rabindranath Tagore Gora: A Critical Companion. Primus Books. ISBN 978-93-84082-42-0.
  • Hogan, Patrick Colm; Pandit, Lalita (2003). Rabindranath Tagore: Universality and Tradition. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. pp. 141–212. ISBN 978-0-8386-3980-1.
  • Singh, Kh. Kunjo (2002). Humanism and Nationalism in Tagore's Novels. Atlantic Publishers & Dist. pp. 99–112. ISBN 978-81-269-0184-5.

See also Edit

References Edit

  1. ^ Indian Ruminations (5 January 2012). Tagore’s Idea of Nation and Nationalism in Gora – Nakul Kundra, Amritsar
  2. ^ a b Times of India (Tagore’s Gora to come alive on television
  3. ^ a b Magic Lantern Movie (5 November 2012). Tagore's 'Gora' set for telecast on Doordarshan's national channel.
  4. ^ George, K. M., ed. (1993). Modern Indian Literature: an Anthology: Fiction. Vol. 2. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. pp. 89–90. ISBN 81-7201-506-2.
  5. ^ Tagore, Rabindranath. Gora. ISBN 978-1-5307-8000-6. OCLC 1013463053.
  6. ^ "Introduction: Novel Characters", Novel Characters, Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, pp. 1–21, 26 August 2010, ISBN 978-1-4443-2798-4, retrieved 4 August 2023
  7. ^ d'Hubert, Thibaut (30 July 2020), "Bengali Literature of Arakan", Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian History, Oxford University Press, retrieved 4 August 2023
  8. ^ "Criticism of the Novel Contemporary Reception", Middlemarch : Critical Approaches to the Novel, Bloomsbury Academic, retrieved 4 August 2023
  9. ^ "..:: SAHITYA : Akademi Awards ::." sahitya-akademi.gov.in.
  10. ^ Rajadhyaksha, Ashish; Willemen, Paul (2014). Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema. Routledge. p. 149. ISBN 978-1-135-94318-9.
  11. ^ "The novel's narrative technique", Conrad: Nostromo, Cambridge University Press, pp. 21–47, 28 April 1988, retrieved 4 August 2023
  12. ^ kan ho yun (August 2014). "The Study on Shinyeon-Whaljabon(New-Lead Printed) Old Novel's Catalogue Pictures and Cultural Assimilation". The Classical Literature and Education. null (28): 221–253. doi:10.17319/cle.2014..28.221. ISSN 1598-7108.

External links Edit