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English, Love Letters, Ocampo Victoria, Poesia Sensual

Victoria Ocampo and Rabindranath Tagore: a platonic love


‘Dear Gurudev, days are endless since you went away” – she wrote…

” when we were together we mostlly played with words and tried to laugh away our best opportunities. Whenever there is the least sign of the nest becoming a jealous rival of the sky .. my mind, like a migrant bird, tries to take … flight to a distant shore.” – he wrote.

She – Victoria Ocampo, the ardent Argentine admirer.
He – Rabindranath Tagore, the Indian poet
she -34 year old
he – 63 year old

Victoria Ocampo by Man Ray

✽ Victoria Ocampo by Man Ray

It was a subtle affair, a platonic love, born on the banks of the river Plata.They spent together two unforgettable months in 1924 at the villa Miralrio of Victoria with a view of the river,in San Isidro on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. The river Plata was flowing quietly overhearing their light conversation and heavy breathing. The famous Tipa tree in the garden of the house was bending and crouching …listening to the silence of the couple who used to sit under its shade.He called his muse Bijaya ( victoria ).
One third of his Purabi poems are said to be inspired by this Argentine angel.

Here is a poem
” Exotic blossom, I whispered again in your ear
What is your language dear
you smiled and shook your head
and the leaves murmurred instead ”

Tagore with Victoria Ocampo

She wrote an essay ” Tagore on the banks of the river Plata” and a book “Tagore en las barrancas de San Isidro”( Tagore on the ravines of San Isidro)
Rabindranath Tagore (winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913) was a restless and indefatigable globe-trotter. There is no doubt that he was a genius. Nirad C. Chaudhuri places him alongside Goethe and Victor Hugo. No ordinary praise.

In November 1924 he arrived in Buenos Aires. He was well known in South America. He was widely read, not only in academic and scholarly circles, but also by many other Argentinians.


Tagore spent November, December (1924) and part of January 1925 in Buenos Aires. Taken ill on the voyage, he was being  by his English friend, Leonard Elmhirst, who had relieved Tagore of his financial worries. Soon after his arrival he met a 34-year-old ravishing beauty, Victoria Ocampo. In her case beauty was dove-tailed with immense wealth. She had serious literary interests and had read Andre Gide’s French translation of Gitanjali. She was bowled overâ But the Gitanjali over which I was weeping will remain.

When she learnt of Tagore”s illness, she went to the hotel in which the poet and Elmhirst were staying. She invited them to move to her palatial villa, Miralrio San Isidro. Elmhirst was not comfortable at San Isidro and wrote scathingly about the beautiful and somewhat over-possessive lady.

tagore victoria ocampo

A pair of sunglasses, a book of poems, old gramophone records: These and other items brought back to Santiniketan from Argentina take one to the early 20th century and the enigmatic relationship between Argentine writer and feminist Victoria Ocampo and Noble laureate Rabindranath Tagore.

The much written about relationship flourished across two continents and spanned decades. There were many letters and gifts exchanged between the two, which speak of a deep affection.

The Tagore memorabilia, a recent acquisition of the Rabindra Bhavana Museum at Visva-Bharati University in Santiniketan, was handed over to the authorities by S.P. Ganguly, a professor of Latin-American studies in New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.


Ganguly gained possession of the items from Ocampo’s trusted aide Maria Renee Cura in 2002.

“The gifts exchanged between the two preserved by Cura encapsulate the intensity of Tagore’s and Ocampo’s feelings for each other, the desire for each other’s company. It was a deeply spiritual and emotional association, and each of them was influenced by the other,” Ganguly told IANS.

One of the gifts is a copy of the book “Puravi” (authored by Tagore in 1925) that the poet had autographed and gifted to Victoria Ocampo in 1940 – that contains poems dedicated to her by the author.

“Tagore had composed around 400 poems on love and nature. Many of them came after meeting Ocampo. “Puravi” contains all the poems that Tagore had composed with Victoria in mind,” said Ganguly.

tagore & victoria ocampo

Tapati Mukherjee, director of Rabindra Bhavana, considers the copy of “Puravi” the most important piece of the memorabilia.

“We can safely say that Tagore had affection for Ocampo. The copy of “Puravi” is the most important of all the gifts,” Mukherjee told IANS.

Ocampo was introduced to Tagore’s work on reading his “Gitanjali”, which she read after Tagore won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. Ocampo read Andre Gide’s French translation of “Gitanjali”.

Tagore and Ocampo met for the first time in 1924 in Argentina when Ocampo was a 34-year-old emerging writer and Tagore was 63.

Ocampo or “Vijaya” as Tagore called her, met him again in 1930 in France, which proved to be their last meeting.

However, over the years, both exchanged innumerable letters and gifts until Tagore’s death in 1941.

‘Now, tell me, what is the title of the poetry book you dedicated to me?’ Victoria Ocampo to Rabindranath Tagore, 8 June 1940.

‘It is named Puravi (the East in its feminine gender)’.
Rabindranath Tagore to Victoria Ocampo, 10 July 1940.

The volume of poetry, Purabi, was dedicated by Rabindranath to Vijaya (the Bengali name given to Victoria) in 1925. Fourteen years later – on 14 March 1939 – Rabindranath wrote to Vijaya of ‘some experiences which are like treasure islands detached from the continent of the immediate life, their charts ever remaining vaguely deciphered’ – adding, ‘my Argentine episode is one of them’.

The elusive memories of those enchanting days had been ensnared in the web of some of his verses – ‘the best of their kind’. The ‘fugitives’ had been made ‘captive’ and ‘they will remain’, the poet was confident, ‘though unvisited by you, separated by an alien language’.

Seventeen poems from Purabi form the core of this volume of translations of fifty-two selected Tagore poems and songs. Purabi not only signifies ‘the East in its feminine gender’, as the poem put it, but also is the name of a wistful evening ragini whose spirit and mood seem to pervade this remarkable phase of Rabindranath’s poetic life. This phase reveals a very different Tagore from the one the West came to know with the award of the Nobel Prize in Literature for Gitanjaliin 1913.

tag Victoria Ocampo



(from Balaka)

Not a mother, not a daughter, not a bride

You are, beautiful and fair,

O Urbashi, denizen of heaven!

When evening descends  on the pastures-

You do not in the corner of any home

Kindle your evening light.

You do not in the still middle of night

With hesitant steps and a trembling heart,

With soft downcast eyes,

And a smile on your lips,

Go forth bedecked

Bashfully to meet your lover.

You are unveiled as the coming of the dawn

And no embarrassment you suffer.

When did you blossom out of yourself,


Like a stemless flower?

You arose out of the foam of the sea

In the earliest dawn of Spring

With a pot of poison in your left.

The surging sea fell at your feet

Like a serpent charmed

Lowering myriad of its spread-out hoods.

As white as a lily, in naked beauty, and

Admired of the gods

Blameless you are.

Weren’t you ever a budding teenage girl?

O Urbashi, eternally young?

In whose home under the dark sea

You played with gems and pearls

Your childhood’s games all alone?

In whose arms did you sleep

Lulled by the murmur of the sea

With an innocent smile

On a bed of corals in a room lighted up

By lamps of gems?

You woke up in the world a woman,

Full-grown and young.

From ages and ages

Only you are the world’s heart’s desire

O resplendent Urbashi!

Ascetics leave their meditation

And lay their spiritual gains at your feet.

At your sidelong glance

All the world becomes restless

With the longing of youth.

The unseeing wind carries

Your maddening aroma all around

And the charmed poet with his wild songs

Wander about tempted like a honey-drunk


Your anklets tinkle

As you move in dishabille robes

Quick as a lightning flash.

When you dance before the assembly of gods

O Urbashi, in a delectable swing,

With the rhythm of your dance

Waves come up dancing on the sea,

Draperies of earth shiver in the stalks of corn

And from the necklace on your breasts

Stars shoot out in the sky.

On a sudden, the heart of man loses itself

Within his breast

And in a twinkling on the horizon

Your girdle comes undone,

O loosely robed one.

You are the dawn herself at sunrise in paradise

O Urbashi, Temptress of the World!

The glow of your body is washed

In tears of the world,

And the tint of your toes

Is painted in the blood of its heart.

With your braid hanging l;oose, O Naked One,

You have put your feather-light foot

Within the full-blown lotus of the world’s


In the paradise of the world’s heart

You exude infinite charm

O Companion of Dreams.

Listen, there is wailing for you everywhere

O Urbashi, cruel and deaf,

Will you come back again

To this old and primeval world?

Will you rise again with dripping hair

From the boundaries and bottomless abyss?

When your body will first emerge

On the first dawn of that day

All your limbs struck by the gaze of the world

Will weep in dripping drops of water.

And all of a sudden

The vast ocean will swell in waves

In a burst of wonderful song.

No, no, she will not come back again

That glorious moon is set forever

And Urbashi’s sun is set.

And so on this earth a sigh of eternal


Mingles and blows with the cheer of spring

When on a full moon night

All around is full of laughter

A distant memory brings from somewhere

The song of a wistful flute

And tears in abundance flow.

Yet hope lives within the sorrows of life,

You are free from all ties.


Rabindranath Tagore: Poet, Painter, Playwright, Novelist,  Essayist, Musician and Social Reformer

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In 1924, while writing “Purabi,” Tagore started “doodling” on the pages of his manuscript – crossing out lines that he did not like and turning them into forms and shapes. Rabindranath creatively used his lack of formal training in art by experimenting new horizons in the use of line and color. He would delete unwanted words or even whole lines by creating strange intriguing images so that the whole page became a work of art. Although, monochromatic to start with, which always carried a mysterious signature, his paintings began to acquire color as be became surer of his style. Pen and ink drawings came first, followed by the use of one or more colors in landscapes, figures and portraits – he tried his hand at everything.


You can read more here: Victoria Ocampo & Rabindranath Tagore


5 thoughts on “Victoria Ocampo and Rabindranath Tagore: a platonic love

  1. Thanks for every other wonderful post. Where else may anybody
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    Posted by auteris.com | April 10, 2013, 4:54 pm


    Posted by JAYARAMAN.P. | July 22, 2013, 8:57 am
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    Posted by Willian | March 31, 2014, 7:25 am
  4. The genius of Rabindranath Tagore was rekindled by the great Argentine lady at an appropriate time as the poet was then sick and jaded. This had helped him to reinvent himself and add another dimension to his creative genius through painting and art.

    Liked by 1 person

    Posted by ABHIJIT | February 7, 2015, 5:22 pm


  1. Pingback: Victor Banerjee quite excited to play Rabindranath Tagore in Indo-Argentine film | Times Of Viral - December 1, 2016

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