India, Bangladesh pay joint tribute to Rabindranath Tagore


New Delhi : India and Bangladesh are paying a joint tribute to cultural and literary icon, Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, in a four-day festival, ‘Utsav’, beginning in the capital Thursday.

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The festival to be held on the sprawling premises of the India International Centre (IIC) in New Delhi is part of the ongoing diplomatic dialogue and intellectual exchange between the two countries initiated two years ago.

“It is one of the recommendations of the Track II dialogue between India and Bangladesh to strengthen cooperation in areas of culture, security and infrastructure and media. The cultural exchange has been the most successful of all bilateral endeavours between the two nations,” Premola Ghose, chief of the IIC’s programme division, told IANS.

The IIC and a Dhaka-based organisation, Sadhana, a nodal centre for advancement of South Asian dance and music, are jointly organising the festival. It will begin with “Upasana: An Invocation” in Bengali and English, followed by renditions of Tagore’s devotional songs by Laisa Ahmed Lisa of Bangladesh.

“The festival is unique because it is an ode to the bard from both the Bengals – east and the west – in the true tradition of Santiniketan and Dhaka. Top Bangladeshi Rabindrasangeet exponents, Issat Ara Dewan, Rezwana Chowdhury Bonnya and Aditi Mohsin, are going to perform at the festival. For the first time, Tagore’s dance-drama ‘Chitrangada’, the story of a princess from Manipur, will be staged in Hindi,” Ghose said.

A troupe from Santiniketan will stage “Chandalika”, another of Tagore’s dance operas based on the life of a Buddhist monk and a woman from the community of the “untouchables”, culled from medieval India.

Delhi-based Madhavi Mudgal and her dance troupe will stage a Kathak-Odissi choreography based on the songs of six seasons written by Tagore. The cultural bouquet also includes cinematic adaptations of Tagore’s literary works and life. Two celluloid milestones, “Charulata” (The Lonely Wife) based on his short story “Nashta Nir” (The Broken Nest) and a documentary “Rabindranath”, both made by Satyajit Ray, will be screened at the festival.

The documentary, which will be the festival’s curtain call, was especially commissioned by Jawaharlal Nehru to celebrate Tagore’s birth anniversary. It chronicles the bard’s evolution as an artist and a writer from a lonely child.

“This cultural exchange has been an ongoing process as part of the bilateral initiative. Last November, we organised a writer’s workshop in Dhaka featuring writers from both countries.

“In February, we invited novelist Amitava Ghose to Dhaka and we will host a translation workshop next year. We are trying to translate vernacular Indian literature in Bengali for the people of Bangladesh,” Lubna Maryum, general secretary of the festival’s co-host Sadhana, told IANS.

According to Maryam, Tagore is as popular in Bangladesh as he is India. “You must not forget that Tagore also composed our national anthem. Rabindrasangeet is sung all over the country.

“A Dhaka-based organisation, Rabindradangeet Sanmelan Parishad, organises an annual competitive event and round-the-year workshops to promote music composed by Tagore at the district and sub-divisional levels. It is held alternately in Dhaka and in the district headquarters.” Maryum said.

Tagore features in the school curriculum and university texts of Bangladesh and his music is integral to the country’s television and radio programmes, she said.