The standard edition of Rabindranath Tagore's song lyrics, গীতবিতান / giitabitaan, "A Canopy of Songs", classifies the lyrics under six headings:

  • পূজা / puujaa, "Worship"
  • স্বদেশ / swadesh, "Patriotic"
  • প্রেম / prem, "Love"
  • প্রকৃতি / prakR^iti, "Nature"
  • বিচিত্র / vichitra, "Miscellaneous"
  • আনুষ্ঠানিক / aanuShThaanik, "Occasional"

Additionally, the Gitabitan also has other sections that include songs from Tagore's musical plays, dance dramas, etc., but those sections occupy only the latter third of the single-volume edition, or the third volume of the three-volume edition. The major section of the work comprises his song lyrics, arranged under these headings.

The web has conflicting information on the origin of this classification. The article on Tagore's songs in the English-language Wikipedia says:

Tagore never made these divisions. Only after his death was the need felt to categorize, compile and thus preserve his work, and the genre-classification system was born out of this need.

Contradicting this, the portal geetabitan.com says:

Classification of songs was done by Rabindranath Tagore himself according to the subject of the songs and can be seen in the collection, the book 'Geetabitan'.

Which is correct? Was the classification Tagore's own, or a later editorial decision? If the former, when did the poet classify his lyrics in this sixfold way? If the latter, who was the editor who classified the songs in this way and why?

Reference: My single-volume version of the Gitabitan has the following publication data:

  • Tagore, Rabindranath. giitabitan: akhanta sa.nskaraN / Gitabitan: Complete Edition. Kolkata: Punascha, 2002, rpt. 2016.

The English-language Wikipedia is wrong. The classification was Tagore's own.

The Bengali-language Wikipedia entry for গীতবিতান / giitabitaan says:

১৯৩১ সালে (আশ্বিন, ১৩৩৮ বঙ্গাব্দ) এই গ্রন্থের প্রথম সংস্করণটি দুই খণ্ডে প্রকাশিত হয়। ... প্রথম সংস্করণে গীতবিতান গ্রন্থের বর্তমান পর্যায়বিন্যাস করা হয়নি। পরবর্তীকালে এই সংস্করণের সকল গান কবি ‘পূজা’, ‘স্বদেশ’, ‘প্রেম’, ‘প্রকৃতি’, ‘বিচিত্র’ ও ‘আনুষ্ঠানিক’ পর্যায়ে বিন্যস্ত করেন। এই বিষয়ানুক্রমে সজ্জিত হয়ে রবীন্দ্রনাথের মৃত্যুর পর ১৯৪২ সালে (মাঘ, ১৩৪৮) গীতবিতান গ্রন্থের দ্বিতীয় সংস্করণ দুই খণ্ডে প্রকাশিত হয়। র্তমানে এই সংস্করণটিই প্রচলিত। ১৯৫০ সালে (১৩৫৭ বঙ্গাব্দ) কবির যাবতীয় গীতিনাট্য-নৃত্যনাট্য, ও অন্যান্য গ্রন্থের অসংকলিত গান নিয়ে গীতবিতান সংকলনের তৃতীয় খণ্ড প্রকাশিত হয়।

The first edition was published in two volumes in 1931 (Bengali era Ashwin 1338). ... This first edition did not have the current song classification. Later, the poet divided all the songs in this collection into the categories "Worship", "Patriotic", "Love", "Nature", "Miscellaneous", and "Occasional". The second edition of Gitabitan, enhanced with this thematic organization, was published in two volumes in 1942 (Bengali era Magh 1348), after the poet's death. This is the prevalent version. In 1950 (Bengali era 1358), the third volume of Gitabitan, comprising all the poet's musical plays and dance dramas as well as uncollected songs from his various other works, was published.


  • The Bengali language Wikipedia provides the following print source to back up the claims made in the portion quoted above. The title translates to "Tagore, A Biography".

     Mukherjee, Prabhat Kumar. *rabindrajiivan_katha*. Kolkata: Anand 
     Publishers, 2007 (Bengali Era Baisakh 1414). 
  • All translations from the Bengali are my own, and ipso facto suspect. Rely on them AYOR.

  • Transliteration of the Bangla script is in iTrans.

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