Rabindranath Tagore was the first non-European or non-white recipient of the Nobel Prize (in any category). He was awarded the 1913 Nobel Prize in literature.⁣

Rabindranath Tagore’s writing is deeply rooted in both Indian and Western learning traditions. Apart from fiction in the form of poetry, songs, stories, and dramas, it also includes portrayals of common people’s lives, literary criticism, philosophy, and social issues. ⁣

He originally wrote in Bengali, but later reached a broad audience in the West after recasting his poetry in English. In contrast to the frenzied life in the West, his poetry was felt to convey the peace of the soul in harmony with nature.⁣

He was the second British subject who received the honor (after Rudyard Kipling). The British had the system of “Honorary Knighthood” for people who contributed significantly to the Empire (in contrast to Knights who were usually military men, heads of state and judges). The British wanted to recognize Tagore as a Knight, however, they were worried that he won’t accept the same, especially because he was already a central political figure.⁣

Tagore accepted the Knighthood with some degree of hesitance, on 3 Jun 1915, the date of birth of 5th George in recognition of the name he has established in India and Europe and of his genius as a poet. ⁣

However he renounced Knighthood on 31 May 1919 as a protest against the Jallianwalla Bagh Massacre in Amritsar.⁣

In his letter to Lord Chelmsford, Tagore wrote –
“The time has come when badges of honour make our shame glaring in the incongruous context of humiliation, and I for my part wish to stand, shorn of all special distinctions, by the side of those of my countrymen, who, for their so-called insignificance, are liable to suffer degradation not fit for human beings.”⁣