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How Tagore’s first love Kadambari Devi was driven to suicide

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Rabindranath Tagore is a great Indian wordsmith that serves as an inspiration to millions even today. He was a writer, composer, philosopher and poet, who have inspired millions of life even today. His life was heavily influenced by fascinating women and his love life remains a recurrent topic of discussion even today. As the world, today, May 7, celebrates Tagore’s 156th birth anniversary here’s a peek into his love life.

Tagore was born in an extremely rich upper-caste Pirali Brahmin family in Jorasanko mansion. His family members were highly educated and intellectual and hence whoever got married into the family got educated themselves. Kadambari Devi was Rabindranath’s elder brother Jyotindranath’s wife. She was nine when she entered the house as a bride and Rabindranath was seven. She was Rabindranath’s childhood companion and they both grew up together. After the death of his mother, their friendship turned into a motherly affection. And soon it was transformed into a romantic relationship. Their relationship progressed through three stages; firstly as his childhood princess, secondly as a mother and thirdly when both of them fell in love with poetry. She was considered the woman who looked after him in his early life and was part of his success in his later life. Tagore gave her a nickname ‘Hecate’, which is a name of a Greek goddess associated with the moon.

Like Ravindranath, Jyotindranath also possessed multiple skills; he had a keen interest in painting, editing, and music. He translated many books from different languages in Bengali. He looked after his family business and later started his own venture which incurred a heavy loss and soon he opted out of it. He was an open-minded person who helped Kadambari Devi to pursue her education and also taught her horse-riding. He had a busy schedule and could hardly spare much time for his wife. Hence she always felt lonely and starved for companionship.


In 1883, when Tagore turned 22 he got married to Bhabatarini Devi who was 11-year-old then. Tagore renamed her Mrinalini. Kadambari Devi never wanted Tagore to get married; she secretly tried to stop his marriage but was unsuccessful. She thought that his marriage would distance them and she would lose all the rights she had over him. On April 19, 1884, 4 months and 10 days after Tagore’s marriage, Kadambari Devi committed suicide by consuming opium. Her death is considered as the most-talked tragedy in the Bengali psyche. Tagore was deeply moved by her sudden death. It is also said that Rabindranath dedicated many of his poems to her. During a meeting with Nandalal Bose, Rabindranath confessed that most of his paintings with woman’s face were created keeping Kadambari’s face in mind. And this confession was made when Tagore was 70 years old.

Also read: 10 quotes by Rabindranath Tagore that beautifully describes love