Celebrating Tagore | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 08, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, May 08, 2011

Celebrating Tagore

His place in our lives endures

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The observance of the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore symbolizes the deep reverence in which the poet has always been held by Bengali-speaking people not only in Bangladesh and West Bengal but elsewhere around the world as well. Such reverence has to do with the fact that it was Tagore whose poetry introduced a powerful dose of internationalism in the way Bengalis looked at the wider world around them and the other way round. His was a comprehensive way of looking at life, not just through his poetry but through his prose and his art as well. Rabindranath Tagore happens to be one of those rare of illustrious individuals whose comprehension of life and death and everything happening in between has been total and layered with meaning at various levels.
It is surely a matter of pride for the people of Bangladesh that Tagore has consistently been a huge symbolism for us, one we could always fall back on in times of critical note. In 1961, on the anniversary of the Bard's centenary of birth, we as a people defied every attempt by the then ruling classes to have the poet banished from our culture. Even when the Ayub Khan regime decreed a ban on Tagore songs, we fought back. In our armed struggle for freedom in 1971, it was Tagore whose inspiration was all, enough for us to adopt his Amar Shonar Bangla as Bangladesh's national anthem. The formidable hold he has on our psyche can be gauged from the fact that both India and Bangladesh sing his songs as their national anthems. And now we have stumbled on the discovery that even the Sri Lankan national anthem owes its lyrics and its melody to him.
A century and a half after his birth, therefore, Rabindranath Tagore's place in our collective life endures, indeed becomes stronger by the day. A broad hint of that comes in the reality of his birth anniversary being observed this year jointly by India and Bangladesh. It is just as well, for in Tagore resided a poet, a writer of fiction, a humanist, a seeker of truth through a search for divinity in his music.
Tagore keeps our path illuminated.

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