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.