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Séance Scene: Tagore’s Experiences
Apart from being a Nobel Laureate in Literature and a renowned artist, Rabindranath Tagore, along with many Literature lovers of that time in Bengal, is strongly associated with using planchettes and having steady communication with the dead.
Rabindranath Tagore, Source: Wikimedia Commons

Rabindranath Tagore

A Theme laden in mystery, Séances (A meeting where attempts are made to communicate with the dead) are often associated with horror, the dark and the unknown, therefore without a doubt, they  have been a subject of interest for many intellectuals, finding a deep focus among the Bengali Literature enthusiasts. This ranged from Bibhutibhushan Bandhapadhya, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhya to even Rabindranath Tagore. In fact the Tagore family were always very into this practice, something that was only passed on.

To clarify before we begin to talk about the experiences of Tagore, Planchette is not what the practice is called, even though it is heavily misinterpreted as.

Planchette is merely the tool used to perform the communication. It is a small board made of wood with a pencil attached to aid the spirit to write their answers.

In Bengal however, The Pretbanibaha Chakrajan is what the popular board for communication was. In the September- October issue of the Bharati Magazine in the Bengali year of 1301, a unique compelling advertisement for a mechanism that helped facilitate communication with the dead came out. This was made by Sharat Chandra Bhattacharya and was priced at Rs. 2.50 with an additional 75 paisa for packing and postal. This enchanting new mechanism was christened as the “Pretbanibaha Chakrajan” by Rabindranath Tagore, who often used this mechanism as well.

In a 1937 letter, Tagore informed author Pramathanath Bishi that he had once had an encounter with the legendary poet Michael Madhusudan Dutta through the Pretbanibaha Chakrajan, which helped carry his messages.
Sukumar Ray, Source: Wikimedia Commons

An important session had once taken place when Tagore communed the spirit of Sukumar Ray (1887-1923) in his Jorashakor residence. This event happened on 6th November, 1929 in Abanindranath ‘s (Tagore’s nephew) attendance. His medium for this session was Uma Devi or Bula, the daughter of his very close friend Mohitchandra Sen. She was in charge of conveying the messages of the spirit, a very brave and fearless task. In this session Tagore had asked Sukumar if Sir Arthur Canon Doyle received true messages from the other world to which the reply said, “True, but laced with imagination.” Sukumar’s spirit went on to predict Tagore’s success in Europe and he also requested his son, Satyajit Ray’s acceptance as a student in the Santiniketan Ashram.

Tagore had indulged in multiple sessions with Uma Devi in the winter of 1929, specifically between the months of October and December.

In another incident, the spirit of Manilal Gongopadhyay (1888-1929) was summoned and asked to draw a picture with the assistance of Uma Devi and the renowned painter Nandalal Bose (1882-1966) in Santiniketan. The outcome of this interesting experience, was however, not preserved.

Jibansmriti, Rabindranath’s Memoir, Source: Google Images

Another famous incident of Tagore’s that he penned down in his memoir Jibansmriti was his interaction with his cashier, Kailash. Tagore informs us that Kailash was always the witty kind and how this quality of his wasn’t deserted even after his death. In this session, Kailash was asked how his life was now in the beyond to which he simply replied ‘Why should you get so cheap what I had to die to learn?’

Apart from these, Tagore was known to have tried to interact with the spirit of Kadambari Devi, his sister-in-law whom he was very fond of, on multiple occasions after her suicide in 1884.

He was also known to have kept in touch with his lost children and taken advice on important family matters from his deceased wife Mrinalini Devi.

Whether all these tales are true or a brainchild of Tagore’s whim, we may never know, but none the less, it is certain that communicating with the dead and conducting sessions with the help of different mechanisms and mediums was a big part of Tagore’s life.

Sayantani Majumder Author
I’m all about exploring different forms of art and storytelling, to tell the tales within me and of the people around me. Might be a human, might be a cat, we’ll never know.

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