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Celebration on Tagore's 150th birth anniversary

May 7, 2011

rabindranath tagore
Tagore was born on 25th day of the month of Baisakh
Celebration on Tagore's 150th birth anniversary began in India and Bangladesh.

Across the world, Bengalis and Rabindranath Tagore-lovers have been celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of their favourite poet, novelist, essayist, painter and playwright over the past one year.

While Bangalore saw a number of Tagore-themed events during the past year, especially at the time of Durga Puja, many more are lined up for the May 7-8 weekend. May 9 or the 25th day of the month of Baisakh, is Tagore's birth anniversary.

"We started celebrations from Poila Boishakh itself," says Achintya Lal Roy, convener, Tagore Cultural Centre, Bangalore, and president of the Bengalee Association. He was referring to the first day of the month, which also marks the Bengali new year. "We have been organizing musical events, plays, abriti (recitation) sessions over the past two weekends, and flew down well-known Rabindrasangeet singers from Kolkata," says Roy.

On Saturday, May 7, Shreya Guhathakurta, one of the best-known contemporary Rabindrasangeet singers, will be performing at the Rotary Auditorium, Lavelle Road. Sunday, May 8, has been earmarked for day-long celebrations at the Ravindra Kalakshetra: Singers, dancers and musicians will converge at open-air auditorium Samsa, in an attempt to recreate the convivial atmosphere of Santiniketan. "Even non-Bengalis are participating. In fact, a troupe of non-Bengali-speaking actors will stage a play," says Roy. May 9 will mark the grand finale of the year-long celebrations with a lecture by Bangalore University vice-chancellor N Prabhu Dev, followed by performances of six classical dance forms choreographed on Tagore songs.

Vice-President Mohammed Hamid Ansari receives a photograph from Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the inauguration of 150th birth anniversary celebration of Rabindranath Tagore in at Dhaka on Friday.
Vice-President Mohammed Hamid Ansari receives a photograph from Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the inauguration of 150th birth anniversary celebration of Rabindranath Tagore in at Dhaka on Friday.
Theatreperson Jagadish Raja believes Tagore remains inaccessible to many because of Bengalis' possessive and parochial hold over him and his work. "This multi-faceted genius wrote some of the most lyrical of poems and provocative essays, but few non-Bengalis approach his work with an open mind," says Raja.

At Jagriti Theatre, a cultural forum started by him and wife Arundhati at Whitefield, Raja has tried to demystify Tagore through a series of talks, film screenings and live performances, including an original play on Tagore's life and work, written and acted by theatreperson and adman Ranjon Ghoshal.

`Crisis of Civilization: A Journey With Tagore', the one-man play, will be performed at 3pm on May 8 at Jagriti. Sunday will see a panel discussion between Chiranjeevi Singh, Abhijit Sengupta, Ranjon Ghoshal and Prakash Belawadi on Tagore's many talents. "I would like to start a Tagore appreciation society. Till today, he remains the most widely read Indian author, much more than the Vikram Seths and the Salman Rushdies. How many people know that?" asks Raja.

Other Bengali cultural associations in the city are also planning events to celebrate Tagore. While the Jayamahal Sarbajanin Durga Puja Samiti will inaugurate a Tagore Hall, giving a permanent home to a collection of Tagore memorabilia from the Kejriwal collection, Sarathi Socio Cultural Trust in Koramangala will host an evening of Tagore songs on May 14 at the Koramangala Club.

Joint Celebration in Dhaka

A joint celebration of the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore began here on Friday. It comprises elaborate programmes on the great poet, who represents much of common heritage and philosophy of India and Bangladesh.

With Indian Vice President M. Hamid Ansari in attendance, the Bangladesh part of the three-day programme was inaugurated by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre.

At the inaugural session, a replica of ‘Padma Boat,' used by Tagore during his frequent visits to Bangladesh, was handed over to Mr. Ansari, who arrived here on Thursday leading a delegation.

Addressing the session, Mr. Ansari said: “Enchanted by the river Padma and on his ‘Padma' boat, Tagore produced some of his finest works. It was here that the serene Shilaidaha, Kusthia, Patisar and Shahzadpur worked their magic on young Rabindranath, thereby becoming an integral part of his inspirational canvas.”

The programmes in Delhi will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday. Senior Bangladesh Minister A.K. Khandker will lead a delegation on behalf of the Bangladesh Prime Minister.

The decision to jointly celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Tagore was made during Ms. Hasina's visit to New Delhi in January last year. Tagore was born on 25th Baisakh in 1861, according to the Bengali calendar.

Ms. Hasina, who herself is a Tagore admirer, announced that her government would set up Rabindra University at Shilaidaha in Kushtia, where the Nobel laureate spent a considerable period of his creative life. The government would also preserve the poet's memories in Patisar and Shahzadpur. It proposed to construct a Bangladesh House in Santiniketan. She also called for combined efforts in the South Asian region to alleviate poverty with the spirit of progress and non-communalism.

As part of the joint celebrations, a special train, ‘Sonar Tori,' would run between Dhaka and Kolkata. Ms. Hasina also released four commemorative stamps marking the occasion.

“As long as Bangladesh lasts,” she said, “Bangla language and its culture will remain, and Rabindranath will live in the heart of all Bangladeshis.”

Mr. Ansari said both India and Bangladesh separately celebrated Tagore's birth centenary half a century ago, but “this time we are celebrating the poet's 150th birth anniversary jointly. Today's joint celebration is a momentous occasion and the first of its kind in the history of our two nations.”

Exhibitions of Tagore's paintings, seminars, workshops, commemorative publications and joint productions and performances of dances and dramas, based on the stories written by Tagore, Rabindra Sangeet and a film will be organised as part of the programmes.

Dhaka and Delhi will also launch a tourism circuit called ‘Rabindra Tirtha,' which would include Jorasanko, Santiniketan, Shilaidaha, Shahzadpur and other places related to Tagore's legacy in both India and Bangladesh.

A set of DVDs of “Tagore Stories on Film” and Satyajit Ray's documentary on Tagore will be released on the occasion. The DVDs were put together from restored archival materials by India's National Film Development Corporation. A commemorative stamp on Tagore will also be released, along with commemorative coins in India.