The poet realised the special role of Asia in the pattern of vibrations between the self and the world, says Pranab Mukherjee

Ahead of the centenary of the award of Asia’s first Nobel Prize to Rabindranath Tagore in 1913, President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday said the poet had “realised the special role of Asia in the pattern of vibrations between the self and the world.”

Mr. Mukherjee was inaugurating the centenary celebrations of the award with an international seminar at Visva-Bharati University, which was jointly organised by the university and the Institute of Chinese Studies, Delhi.

“This seminar will not merely celebrate the award of a Nobel Prize to an individual; it will celebrate the potential of the idea of exchange, cooperation and multiculturalism,” Mr. Mukherjee said.

The President pointed out that Tagore’s attempt to build bridges particularly with China was not “a utopian dream,” but was realised at Santiniketan when the programme for Chinese studies commenced in 1921.

Reassertion of Asian dignity

“Interestingly Tagore winning the Nobel Prize was also a moment of reassertion of an Asian dignity within China,” Mr. Mukherjee said.

“It is thus fitting that the celebration of India’s first Nobel Prize should be initiated at Visva-Bharati and be an occasion to reiterate not only our historical bonds but the need for cooperation and close exchange of ideas in the future.”

The function was held in the Uttarayan complex in Visva-Bharati. Mr. Mukherjee offered floral tributes to Tagore at Udayan, one of the residences of the national poet at Santiniketan.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Mukherjee attended a function at his alma mater, the Suri Vidyasagar College.

The President commended the government efforts that resulted in increased enrolment in higher education institutions in the country, from 1.39 crore in 2006-07 to 2.18 crore in 2011-12, even as he pointed out that the challenge to maintain and upgrade the standard of education remained.