Sunday, May 30, 2010


The 150th birth anniversary of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore ( May 1861 - August 1941) is being celebrated this year ( May 2010-11) to pay a befitting tribute to the memory of the great son of India. Rabindranath Tagore is as relevant today as he was yesterday and will remain so tomorrow. One can make out the importance of the anniversary commemorations from the fact that Government of India has set up a high-power committee headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself to chalk out the programme for the celebrations not only in India but also in other prominent cities of the world.

Rabindranath Tagore was a renowned poet, novelist, musician, playwright and painter. He was a social thinker with universal approach. He was the first non- European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature for his poetry book ' Gitanjali ' in 1913. The Gitanjali and other works of Tagore have since been translated into all important languages and rightly so as he was a universalist to the core. Gurudev Tagore had the rare honour of authoring of the National Anthems of two countries - i) Jana Gana Mana of India & ii) Amar Sonar Bangla of Bangladesh. He was a nationalist of a different hue like Dr. Ambedkar. Tagore was not convinced of the efficacy of the Satyagarha of Mahatma Gandhi. He was not a supporter of the Swadeshi and Charkha. But as a humanist of the first order, Tagore renounced and returned the title of 'Knighthood' in protest against the massacre of the JallianwalaBagh in 1919. His politically charged compositions ' Chitto Jetha Bhayshunyo ' - WHERE THE MIND IS WITHOUT FEAR and ' Ekla Chalo Re ' - WALK ALONE made a strong mass appeal to realise and recognise the pride of India.

Gurudev also played a positive role in bringing about understanding and agreement between Mahatma Gandhi and Dr.Ambedkar in negotiating and signing of the 'Poona Pact' in 1932 with regard to the electoral rights of the dalits. Tagore wanted to ' free villages from the shackles of helplessness and ignorance '. He targeted India's ' abnormal caste consciousness ' and untouchability and created dalit heroes in his poems and dramas and gave the message of equality and fraternity and just social order.

I am happy to write that I have had the pleasure to get associated myself to some of the activities pertaining to Rabindranath Tagore. In Delhi, when I was the Director of the Central Asia Division of the Ministry of External Affairs in 2000, the then Prime Minister of Turkey Bulent Ecevit was honoured by the Viswa Bharti at Shantiniketan with an honorary degree for his translation of the Gitanjali into the Turkish language. I got the chance to meet the Turkish PM and deal with the Vice Chancellor of the Viswa Bharti in making all logistical and protocol arrangements. Gurudev visited Prague ( Czech Republic) in the twenties and befriended a famous CzechIndologist Vencenc Lesny who later visited and stayed at the Viswa Bharti at Shantiniketan for many years. The adjoining park to the place of stay of Tagore in Prague has been named as ' Thakurova Square '. A majestic Bust of Rabindranath Tagore adorns the Park at one of the prominent spots in Prague. The Bust was provided by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). It fell on me as the Charge d' Affairs of the Embassy of India in Prague to inaugurate and unveil the Bust of Tagore along with the Mayor of Prague in May 2004. Even at my current station of posting - Minsk (Belarus), I found that Tagore is well known. The main entrance the National Art Gallery of Belarus adorns a life size statue of Rabindranath Tagaore. In my humble tribute to the memory of Gurudev, i quote an urdu couplet:

हजारों साल नर्गिस अपनी बेनूरी पे रोती है; बड़ी मुश्किल से होता है चमन में दीदाबर पैदा !