There is a possible valid perception that Bengali ( which can sometimes be Bangali or Bong) culture cannot get out of its fixation on Rabindranath Tagore. One can read this sentence in two ways. The first reading is simply unfolds as 'a significant section of the population of Bengal iconise Rabindranath, his life and his works possibly at the cost of other important cultural icons. The other reading could be that 'though we refer to him as Thakur, we always choose to iconise him as Tagore and this reimagination is crucial for how the Bengali bhadralok imagines itself. It is this second reading that I would like to explore further in this piece.
Why do we call him Tagore? Is it because in mass culture Thakur is more associated with a god or a Bollywood stereotype of the rapist zamindar? 'Thakur' the sound and it's resultant cultural reflections are in fact all symbols of what the modern Bengali bhadralok has been trying to move away from. In fact, with the Tagore family ( called the Thakur Poribar and their Jorashakho residence referred to as Thakur Bari) moving into Calcutta and choosing to officialese the Anglicization of their surname ( technically not a surname but a zamindari title) into Tagore, is an early marking of the cultural formation of this 'new' bhadralok elite. Tagore also helps to gloss over the realities of the opium trade and large zamindaries which were the source of wealth for the family. Strangely this leads us to realise that the name is actually Rabindranath Tagore and Bengalis (and Bangali) referring to him as Robindronath Thakur are to be taken as authentic sources of pronunciation just like one would if a certain man was referred to as Aomitabho Bochon. (The same man in the same culture is referred to as Amitabh Bachan on more formal moments). So when Bengalis formally present Rabindranath to the world (which of course includes us too), there is a preference to call him Tagore? I don't really know.
This could bring us to consider how M.K. Gandhi is widely respected and celebrated as Bapu. It proves that if a culture has political faith in a nickname, then it can become dominant and popular. Even in Gujarat where there are so many 'Bapus', if one says Bapu, then Gandhi with his smile, daandi and bald head comes to our mind. It is quite possible that the modernist distancing from the politics of Thakur resulted in modern Bengali culture having more cultural faith in Tagore. Of course in all this, there is also a story of the modernist Bengali identity formation heavily borrowing its algorithm from British cultural coding. (with more influence from the alleged school of romanticism.) (Also, one can go on to observe that the formation of Gujarati middle-class identity owes much less to the British colonial culture.)
In all this one cannot forget that as Rabindranath began his leap into the domain of the 'universal mind' (a journey for which a clear direction begins to shape up from the 1910s). the poet was very disturbed by how the urban bhadralok culture of Calcutta was shaping itself. In fact, towards the end of his life, this had become one of his deepest source of sadness. He tried and planned everything he could lay an alternative path to the colonial-style elitism and cultural parochialism and urbanism that was becoming central to the class identity of the Bengali bhadralok. He was worried that this Calcutta centric Bengali culture was colonising Shantiniketan and damaging the essential cultural fabric of his alternative path. Especially Tagore's lineage within the eastern bhakti tradition and his affiliation with fakirs like Lalon Fakir have been disappearing from both history and memory.