Tagore Ali

A colleague recently visited the museum in Jorashako Thakurbari. She went through the Tagore family tree and found that two very important words ~ Pirali and Kushari ~ were missing. Rabindranath was undoubtedly the most famous personality of the Thakur family. Thakur in Bengali means a Hindu priest. But Rabindranath’s forefathers were not priests. Their surname was Kushari. Jagannath Kushari was ostracized from the society for socializing with the Pirali Brahmins.
As the consequence he, along with his brother, had to shift to Kolkata from their ancient hometown Khulna. They started to live in the Horijon Polli (ghettos) of Kolkata and it was rumored that some priests came to teach idolatry to the Horijon community. The communities believed the Kusharis to be the priests, and they were surnamed Thakurs.
The rise of the Thakur family transpired in the time of the East India Company. Neelmoni Thakur used to work for the Company and earned a handsome amount. He built a western style house in Jorashako and founded the Thakur family. The family experienced its halcyon days at the time of Prince Dwaraknath Thakur. Debendranath was his son, and Rabindranath, the grandson.
It should be added here that a Pirali Brahmin is a member of a subgroup of Brahmins found in Bengal, which is split between India and Bangladesh. Notably, Rabindranath Tagore and the Tagore family are members of this group. The term ‘Pirali’ historically carried a stigmatized and pejorative connotation; its eponym is the Mohammad Tahir Pir Ali, who served under a governor of Jessore. Pir Ali was a Brahmin Hindu who converted to Islam; his actions resulted in the additional conversion of two Brahmins brothers. As a result, orthodox Hindu society shunned the brothers’ Hindu relatives (who had not converted), and their descendants became the Pirali ~ among whom numbered the Tagores. This unorthodox background ultimately led the Tagore family to dispense with many of the customs followed by orthodox Brahmins.
Rabi has always been different from others. And why not? He hails from a different family.


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