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Great poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore

Tagore’s 154th birth anniversary tomorrow

WT24 Desk

The nation will observe the 154th birth anniversary of great poet Rabindranath Tagore tomorrow with elaborate programmes, reports BSS.  On 25th of Baishakh in 1268 Bengali year, Rabindranath Tagore, the fountainhead of Bengali wisdom was born at Jorashako in Kolkata.  Nobody had influenced the minds of so many Bengali-speaking people before or after him. His influence has been compared, by many, to Shakespeare in the English-speaking world.

Tagore received Nobel Prize in literature in 1913.  For Bangladesh, Rabindranath holds special significance. His poems and his songs had inspired the nation in its most difficult years and the country had adopted one of his songs “Amar Sonar Bangla” (My Golden Bengal) as its national anthem. Bangladesh will observe his birth anniversary nationally with the government taking an extensive programme marking the day.

The main programme of Tagore’s birth anniversary this year will take place at Shahjadpur in Sirajganj district. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will attend the inaugural function of the programme at Shahjadpur Pilot High School ground at 10 am.  In the afternoon of the day and on next three days, cultural functions and Tagore’s art exhibition will be held at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. The local district administrations of Shilaidah in Kushtia, Patishar in Naogaon and Dakkhindihi of Khulna will observe the day in a befitting manner. Rabindra fair, discussions and cultural functions will be organized on this occasion.

The theme of Tagore’s birth anniversary this year is “Crisis of Civilization and Rabindranath”.  The cultural affairs ministry and Bangla Academy will publish a commemorative booklet and posters marking Tagore’s 154th birth anniversary. The Dhaka University authorities will observe the day with due respect. Bangla Academy will hold a discussion meeting on May 9.
Bangladesh missions abroad will undertake programmes marking the day. President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina issued separate messages on the occasion paying tributes to the great poet.

Bangladesh Television (BTV), Bangladesh Betar and private television channels will air the inaugural function and other sessions of the state-level programme. Although Tagore died in 1941, a long time before Bangladesh came into being, his timeless work has inspired and guided Bangalees and his many admirers the world over.  It is said that Tagore had a saying for every occasion. In 1969, as the Bengalis fought to restore democracy the banners said, “Whose words do I hear before the sun rises…”

At the request of the eminent historian, Dr Romesh Chandra Majumdar, who was the vice chancellor of Dhaka University then, Tagore visited Dhaka in 1926.  The idyllic beauty of the university set in what was then a rural backdrop so excited the poet that he composed some of his memorable poems and songs, here. “The red road that leaves the village” was one such poem.  At the request of the students at Curzon Hall, he sang two instantaneously composed songs, “Remember this moment/in your jovial company/ I had sung/ when the leaves were falling from the trees…” and “What hesitation do you keep in mind…”

He also gave the name to the students’ magazine, “Bashantika”, which is still used by the students of Jagannath Hall. Although Tagore was born in Kolkata much of his creative works was done in Shilaidaha, in what is now Kushtia. The local mystic Lalon Fakir about whom he had heard a lot from the local postman, Gagon Harkara, also influenced him, profoundly.
Tagore borrowed the tune of “Sonar Bangla” from one of Gagon’s frequently sung songs. Writing about Tagore’s contribution another Bengali Nobel laureate, Amartya Sen, said, “It is natural that Rabindranath would be considered the greatest icon of Bengalis. His poetry as well as his novels, short stories, and essays are very widely read, and the songs he composed reverberate around the eastern part of India and throughout the subcontinent.”

Born in the late 19th century, Tagore grew up at a time of great political and religious turmoil which is reflected in his works. He visualized a country: Into that heaven of freedom/my Father, let my country awake.  In his later years, Tagore tried his hand at painting. It was largely inspired by Irish woodwork and some of it was displayed in Paris, London and New York during his lifetime.  Of his painting, Tagore said, “I’m no good at it but like a father who loves his crippled child the most, my love for it is the greatest.”

The first non-Westerner to get the Nobel Prize, Tagore had a great influence across the world. Japan’s first Nobel laureate Yasunari Kawabata wrote that he treasured memories from his school days of “this sage-like poet.”  Anna Akhmatova, one of Tagore’s few later-day admirers (who translated his poems into Russian in the mid-1960s), talks of “that mighty flow of poetry which takes its strength from mysticism as from the Ganges, and is called Rabindranath Tagore.”

By his contemporaries in India Tagore was considered as Gurudev.  On learning of his death, Jawaharlal Nehru, then incarcerated in a British jail in India, wrote in his prison diary for August 7, 1941: “What good fortune for me to have come into close contact with him.”

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