Kabiguru Rabindranath Tagore visited Sylhet on this day in 1919, six years after he received the Nobel Prize in literature. To celebrate 100 years of Tagore’s visit to Sylhet, the citizens of Sylhet have organised several grand programmes in the city.
A formal committee was formed to organise the Rabindra Shatabarsha Smaran Utshab, with Former Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith as its President and Sylhet City Mayor Ariful Haque Choudhury as its General Secretary. The main events of the programme are scheduled to be held on November 7 and 8. Minister of Foreign Affairs AK Abdul Momen is expected to attend the closing ceremony of the programme. The Srihatta Brahma Samaj has organised programmes at the Brahma Temple and at the Kabi Nazrul Auditorium today, commemorating the occasion.
Tagore’s trip to Sylhet has been recorded by several historians and biographers over the years. It went on to become one of the most important chapters of Tagore’s life and the history of Sylhet.
In 1941, after Tagore’s death, Kabi Pranam, a commemorative book, was published in Sylhet. Nalinikumar Bhadra, Amiyangshu Endo, Mrinalkanti Das and Sudhirendranarayan Singha edited the book. Details of Tagore’s trip to Sylhet was also published in Sudhirendranarayan’s article, Srihatte Rabindranath Tagore in Kabi Pranam. In addition, Tagore biographer Prashanta Kumar Paul wrote about the trip in his book, Rabijiboni.
In October of 1919, months after the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, Tagore came to Shillong, a place close to Sylhet, for a vacation. Gobindanarayan Singha, who was the Secretary of Brahma Samaj in Sylhet at the time, wrote a letter, inviting the poet to the city, but Tagore declined the invitation, stating that the journey would be too long and tedious. After much persuasion from Mahila Samity, Anjuman-E-Islam and other organisations, Tagore agreed to come to Sylhet.
He started his journey to Sylhet after the Assam-Bengal Railway was planned. His son Rathindranath Tagore and daughter-in-law Pratima Devi accompanied him. On his way to Sylhet, Tagore stayed at Guwahati for a day. He passed by Lumding, Badarpur and Karimganj (present day Assam) and Kulaura (present day Moulvibazar), before stopping at Maijgaon, Baramchal and Fenchuganj (present day Sylhet).
Former Sylhet Municipality Chairman Ray Bahadur Shukhomoi Choudhury, Abdul Karim, Khan Bahadur Syed Abdul Majid (Kaptan Miah), Ray Bahadur Pramod Chandra Dutta, Nalinibala Choudhury, Gobindanarayan Singha and others welcomed the poet to Sylhet. Crowds of people arrived to get a glance of Tagore at the Chandni Ghat of the Surma River, as the poet entered the town. He stayed at the house of Mrs Roberts, near the Bungalow of Reverend Thomas.
He attended a special evening prayer session organised by the Brahma Samaj at the Brahma Temple of the town, where he sang, Beena Bajao He Momo Antore, recited from Upanishad. A civic reception was also arranged in his honour, where Khan Bahadur Syed Abdul Majid, President of the reception committee, gave a welcome speech. Tagore also delivered a long speech on ‘Bangaleer Sadhona’.
Moreover, during his stay in Sylhet, Tagore attended programmes arranged by Murari Chand College and Mahila Samity. He also met poet Ray Bahadur Nagendra Choudhury, the Principal of Murari Chand College, Apurba Chandra Dutta, and the Singha family. At the Machimpur area, Tagore was introduced to Manipuri dance, art and culture. He later introduced Manipuri dance in Shantiniketan.
Tagore was so inspired by his trip to Sylhet that he named the city ‘Sree Bhumi’ and wrote the poem, Mamatahin Kalsrote, about it. Unfortunately, the poem was never incorporated in his literary works as historians believed that it was written while he was writing an autograph to someone. The poet left Sylhet for Agartala on November 8, 1919.