Being the most renowned, iconic cultural and literary figure, Nobel Laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore’s birth anniversary is now celebrated amid enthusiasm, proper and befitting programmes by cultural and literary organisations both in Bangladesh and India.
It might reasonably come to one’s mind how the poet’s birthday was celebrated during his lifetime. Were there much of a celebration that we see today? If so, what sort of celebrations Tagore’s friends, fans and family members held and Tagore obliged.
To begin with, Tagore’s last birthday was celebrated in 1941 during his lifetime, few months before the poet died. The day was celebrated nobly and with proper seriousness at Shantiniketan in the presence of Tagore through lectures, music, recitation, dance recitals and obviously refreshments.
Tagore’s lecture ‘Savyatar Sangkat’ addressing issues which were depressing the poet was read out at the programme. One must not forget that the Second World War was ravaging different parts of the world at the time and impacting on each corner of the atlas.
The lecture was also published and distributed as a booklet at the programme.
More or less, Tagore’s birthdays were celebrated in such ways when the poet was present at Shantiniketan by his fans, friends and Shantiniketan students.
Tagore’s birthday was first celebrated, write his biographers, in 1887 when the poet completed his 26th year and stepped in the 27th. Tagore’s niece Sarala Devi wrote that she initiated the birthday celebration of her ‘Rabimama’ on Baishakh 25, 1294 (May 7, 1887).
Sarala Devi recounts, quoted in a number of Tagore biographies, that she herself made garlands with available flowers like Bakul and Beli and placed them secretly to her Rabimama’s bedside with new dhuti and chador. A few moments later, the whole Jorashako Thakur Palace got to know that it was Tagore’s birthday and everyone congratulated him.
That was the beginning of birthday celebration of the poet. From then on, his birthday was celebrated in one way or another at home or abroad.
A detailed documentation of the celebrations of birthday of the poet, from 1887 to 1941, has been made by Tripura-based Tagore researcher and journalist Shuvajit Bhattacharya.
The documentation, done with 160 photographs of the birthday celebrations and related texts, is now on display at an exhibition titled ‘Kabir Janmodin’ at the National Art Gallery of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy.
Organised jointly by Bangladesh Events and Archive 71, the exhibition, which began on May 3, will be open till May 23.
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