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Tagore Society of Houston Celebrates 100th Anniversary of Geetanjali and Tagore Jayanti

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By Jaya Ghosh

HOUSTON: Tagore society of Houston (TSH) presented a wonderful musical evening to commemorate Rabindranath Tagore’s 152nd Birthday and 100th year of ‘Gitanjali’, the song offering on Saturday, May 4 at Sugarland auditorium in Sugarland Texas. Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), the poet, musician, prolific play write, philosopher, painter, educator and social reformer of undivided India was truly the Renaissance man of India. No wonder Mahatma Gandhi called him “Gurudev”, while Tagore called him “Mahatma”. Tagore was the first non-European and the first Asian to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature for his collection of verses “Gitanjali” in 1913. The Nobel committee was mesmerized by Tagore’s creation, “… because of his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verses, by which, with consummate skill, he had made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West.”

TSH has planned different cultural activities including lectures, musical shows, essay contest, drama and also building a  ‘Tagore grove’ at Ray Miller park in Houston with a life size bronze statue of Tagore surrounded by a nice garden to commemorate 100th anniversary of Gitanjali in Houston. This year the celebrations actually started on April 20 with a fund raising dinner event where eminent Tagore scholar, Prof. Kathleen O’Connell of University of Toronto was invited as the guest speaker.

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 Tagore Jayanti celebration of 2013 comprised a variety of programs by local and overseas artists featuring recitations, songs, and dance performances organized by the TSH cultural committee. The program began with lighting the lamp ceremony by honorable chief guest, Consul General of India, Mr. P. Harish and TSH president Dr. Ruma Dey Sarkar along with presidents of a number of local organizations of India, Bangladesh and Srilankan diaspora, followed by National anthem of USA, India, Bangladesh and Srilanka by about 40 kids. As was pointed out by the past TSH president Dr. Raja Banga, Tagore has the unique distinction of being the composer of two National Anthems (India and Bangladesh), and might have influenced the composition of the Sri Lankan national anthem, composed by his student Ananda Samarakoon.

It is on this occasion that the Harris county CEO judge Ed Emmett and the City of  Houston mayor Anise Parker through proclamations declared May 8 as Tagore day in Houston, as the proclamation read out loud to the audience by Biren das Biswas and Dr. Raja Banga.

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Honorable CGI Mr. P. Harish gave a wonderful speech about Tagore’s philosophy and universal vision. He quoted the Original acceptance speech of Rabindranath Tagore, read by Clive, British Chargé d’ Affaires, at the Nobel Banquet at Grand Hôtel, Stockholm, and December 10, 1913. “I beg to convey to the Swedish Academy my grateful appreciation of the breadth of understanding which has brought the distant near, and has made a stranger a brother”. Tagore, unable to attend the Nobel Prize ceremony that was held in December 1913, a month after announcement of the winners, had sent a Telegram as his acceptance note.

“If you see yourself in everybody and everybody in yourself, then you don’t hate anybody.” This speech of his that is a mantra from the Upanishad is preserved at Stockholm by Swedish Nobel Prize Academy,” The West considered Tagore’s work as a message from the East, spreading the message of ‘unity of mankind’. His poetry was dedicated to Lord, without any identification or demarcation of caste and creed that exists today. “He was known as the messenger from the East, bringing spirituality to the West.”

The cultural segment of the evening started with a beautiful solo presentation by renowned choreographer and artist Dr. Ratna Kumar with verses of Gitanjali narrated by Debleena Banerji with Biplab Samadder on violin. These two soul touching poems portrayed Tagore’s spiritual understanding of the relationship between the finite and the infinite.

After a short break TSH presented a narrative musical rendition ‘Life and Legacy of Tagore: In retrospect’, an awesome of an assortment of Tagore songs with narration, sung by about 40 odd performers belonging to the Indian and Bangladeshi community led by Kamalpriya Roy and Rupa Ghosh and beautiful narration by Biplab Samadder. This was designed by Raja Banga and Debleena Banerji.

Later noted dancers Supradipta Datta and Upali Nanda graciously presented a fabulous dance composition based on odissi steps and abhinaya with a Tagore poem ‘Banshiwala, recited by Dr. Ruma Dey Sarkar.

The most noticeable, mind blowing performance was Manipuri dance recital, ‘Basanta baul” by Krishnakali and Debanjali took the crowd. These two beautiful dancers were a delight to watch with their smooth graceful movements and subtle expressions with a medley of Kaviguru’s song renditions narrated by Harsha Neotia and eminent singers like Hariharan and Kabita Krishnamurti. Audience gave them a standing ovation at the end. The program ended with ‘Aakash bhora surya Tara’.

Rabindranath Tagore, the poets of all poets, following his great vision of universal humanism and borderless mind, remembering this great life in this part of the world with everyone is a sincere and genuine effort by TSH.

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