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Rabindranath Tagore or Rabindranath Thakur? Here is the truth

When Anirban Banerjee used the name ‘Rabindranath Thakur’ in his comments, anchor Aman Chopra interrupted him and asked him to use the ‘correct’ name

Zee News anchor Aman Chopra has become a subject of ridicule on social media after he tried to teach a Bengali how to pronounce a Bengali name. Chopra thought that the Rabindranath Tagore is the real name of the author of India’s national anthem, and slammed a TMC leader for using the name Rabindranath Thakur, asking him to say the name ‘correctly’.

The incident happened on 29th December edition of the program ‘Taal Thok Ke’, where Chopra was hosting a panel discussion on the topic ‘who is outsider in Bengal’, a hot political issue ahead of the assembly elections on the state. At the beginning of the show, Aman Chopra raised the question, who is outsider in West Bengal. In response, TMC leader Anirban Banerjee said, those who thinks Rabindranath Thakur was born in Shanti Niketan are outsiders. He alleged that BJP President JP Nadda had said that Rabindranath Tagore was born in Shantiniketan, and by this he implied that leaders of BJP are outsiders in West Bengal.

However, JP Nadda had said that Tagore was born in West Bengal, which was misquoted by the Twitter handle of West Bengal BJP by saying that he was born in Visva Bharati University, located in Shantiniketan.

When Anirban Banerjee used the name ‘Rabindranath Thakur’ in his comments, anchor Aman Chopra interrupted him and asked him to use the ‘correct’ name. ‘Take the name correctly, you don’t even know the correct name. It is Rabindranath Tagore, not Rabindranath Thakur. At least take the name correctly, say the correct name’ he said, insulting Banerjee for not knowing the name of the Nobel laurate.

To this, Banerjee explained that Rabindranath Thakur is the actual name, and the Tagore name was used by the British. But Chopra was unrelenting, and said that TMC does not have a copyright on Tagore to use the Thakur name. He said that Tagore belongs to all, and hence the TMC leader should not use the name ‘Rabindranath Thakur’.

However, the discussion moved onto the main topic, and the matter of Tagore’s name was not raised again.

While he is known as Rabindranath Tagore all over the world, the TMC leader is correct in saying that his real name is Rabindranath Thakur, and his name was changed due to the influence of the British. A lot of names of places and people were changed during the British Raj as the British could not pronounce the local names. Several surnames of West Bengal were a victim of this change, and Thakur was one of them, which became Tagore in English spelling and pronunciation.

It may be noted that in Bengali, the name is still written as Rabindranath Thakur (রবীন্দ্রনাথ ঠাকুর), therefore, it is natural for native Bengali speaking people to use the original name, instead of the British given name.

Other then Thakur, some other Bengali surnames which were changed during the British raj are Bandopadhyay (Banerjee), Chattopadhyay (Chaterjee), Mukhopadhyay (Mukherjee), Basu (Bose) etc.

Therefore, like Tagore, the Bengali version of the name of Subhash Chandra Bose is Subhash Chandra Basu, and current CM Mamata Banerjee’s name is written as Mamata Bandopadhyay in Bengali. These are not wrong names as the Zee News anchor thinks, but rather these are native versions of the names, and most native people use these names only while talking in Bengali.

If a Bengali uses Thakur or Basu, it does not mean that person is claiming that Tagore or Bose are not national icons, it is just the use of the native name, without any politics behind it.

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