Located at an elevation of 3,500 to 4,000 feet, Mongpu — a Himalayan hamlet in the mountainous Kurseong sub-division of North Bengal — is famous for its tea estates and cinchona plantations.

But what many do not know is that this tranquil little village was a much-loved summer retreat of Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore.

Tagore first came here on 25 April, 1938, and fell in love with the calm beauty of the place. He spent many of his last years at Mongpu.

This was on the behest of his protégé, Maitreyi Devi — a renowned poet and novelist who wrote the famous Bengali novel Na Hanyate.

She also recorded the poet’s stay with her in her delightful book ‘Mongpute Rabindranath’, the English translation of which is called ‘Tagore by The Fire Side’.

Tagore stayed in the bungalow which had been allotted to Maitreyi Devi’s husband, Dr Manmohan Sen.

It overlooked sprawling cinchona plantations and a quinine factory which was under the supervision of Dr Sen, who was a director at the factory — the first of its kind set up in 1864.

Barks of cinchona plants grown on several plantations in Mongpu were used to extract quinine, a medicinal compound used for curing malaria.

Pic source: Indian Veggie Delight

An anecdote is often shared of how the villagers were so delighted that Tagore had come to live in close quarters that they celebrated his 80th birthday with great enthusiasm.

On Maitreyi Devi’s insistence, Tagore even wrote a new poem — the legendary ‘Janmadin’, which he recited over the telephone from Kalimpong.

The poem was broadcast by All India Radio Calcutta all over India, but only after Tagore’s strange condition was adhered to.

Not fond of the harmonium played by the radio station, as it could not reproduce the mir, an essential part of Indian music, Tagore said his poem could be broadcast on the condition that the harmonium would be banned from the radio. From that day on the harmonium remained banned from the studios of All India Radio till the mid-1970s.

The ban was lifted only after a lot of pressure was exerted on the management of Akashvani by the Harmonium Manufacturer’s Association to reintroduce the instrument.

When Tagore passed away in 1940, there were several of his possessions left behind at the Mongpu residence.

Pic source: Indian Veggie Delight

Later on, the bungalow was converted into a museum by the Government and named ‘Rabindra Bhavan’ — displaying Tagore’s original artworks, his handwritten documents, and old photographs.

Interestingly, the museum also has furniture that was designed by Tagore and carved by his son, Rathindranath Tagore.

The bed in which Tagore slept is still there and has an inclined headrest that was specially made to help with his respiratory problem.

Even while the legend has passed his legacy lives on here, in the quaint village of Mongpu.

Pic source: Indian Veggie Delight