Rabindranath in Srihatta
It was the middle of Kartik in the Bangla year 1326. Kobiguru was on a trip to Shillong. On behalf of the Brahma Samaj, its secretary Govinda Narayan Sinha sent a telegram to Tagore, inviting him to visit Sylhet. Considering a long and cumbersome journey, Tagore initially replied in negative and wrote "journey long and tedious". Even on receipt of the wire, Sinha did not refrain and sent more telegrams from different forums including Anjuman Islam, Mahila Parishad etc. Upon receiving all these invitations, Tagore had to oblige.
The Sylhet-Shillong road was yet to be used at that time. The Assam-Bengal railway linked Shillong back in those days. Tagore headed out and as the news spread around in days, reception committees were formed to provide a grand welcome to the literary genius.
A team was sent to Badarpur Junction (at present in Karimganj, Assam), while another team went up to Kulaura, 30 miles off Sylhet. Some former students of Shantiniketan, who were originally from Sylhet, were staying at Badarpur. They joined Kobiguru on the way. The poet was accompanied by his son Rathindranath and Pratima Devi (Rathindra's wife). The entourage spent the night at Kulaura Station. Ethel Roberts from the Presbyterian Church in Sylhet met the poet at Kulaura Station to greet him.
Tagore was given warm receptions at Maijgaon, Boromchal, Bhatera, Fenchuganj among other stopovers. As the train made its way to the Sylhet Station on early morning, 19th Kartik, an eager crowd welcomed the guest amidst fireworks and applause. Thousands of people thronged the Sylhet Station that day.
Local elites like the then Chairman of Sylhet Municipality Rai Bahadur Sukhamay Chowdhury; former minister Abdul Karim; Rai Bahadur Pramod Chandra Dutta were on the first row while Nalini Bala Chowdhury led the group of women. A beautifully decorated bajra (a covered boat) and a mar boat were ready on the riverbank. Kobi took the boat while his son and daughter-in-law got into the other and crossed the Surma river.
People irrespective of creed and class gathered on the other side of Surma as the boats approached. The historic Chandni Ghat was decorated with flowers, flags, festoons, mangal ghot etc. The reception committee was led by Maulvi Abdullah, among others. Representatives of the different aristocrat families like the Majumders, Dastiders and others were also there on horses to welcome the Kobi in 'Srihatta'.
The people conveyed their sincere and hearty adulation and the poet responded with his modest smile. A few lucky ones were introduced to the legend while thousands were there just to catch a glimpse of the poet. The guest along with Maulvi Abdul Karim got into a Fiton car, nicely decorated with flowers.
Tagore stayed over at a nice bungalow -- that belonged to a priest -- on a picturesque hillock to the northeast part of the town. The poet was given a grand reception by the local Brahma Samaj. As expected, people thronged at the Brahma temple and its premises. As the chief guest, wearing yellow, reached the venue just minutes ahead of the schedule, the crowd turned silent, eager to hear him.
Kobi had to sing a song upon request from the Brahma Samaj secretary. Tagore sang Beena bajao hey momo antorey. He then recited verses from the Upanishad.
Next day, on 20th Kartik, the poet was given a reception by 'Srihattabashi' (residents of Srihatta). About 5,000 people attended the programme. Jatindra Mohan Dev Chowdhury presented a song written by Ambila Babu and Jaminikanto Roy Dastider played violin to entertain the poet. Syed Abdul Majid gave a speech expressing the appreciation of the Sylheti people to have the legendary figure amongst them.
As the chief guest took the stage the venue reverberated with claps. The poet delivered a one-and-half hour speech on "Bangali Shadhona".
The poet showed interest in Manipuri handicrafts and the lifestyle. Kobiguru visited the Masimpur area, (now the area is a part of the city corporation), where the Manipuri community lived.
Charmed with the beautiful Manipuri handloom, the poet bought some clothes. Enjoying a Rakhal dance, presented by Manipuri dancers, the poet decided to come back at night to attend further performances.
Next day another gathering took place at the MC College Hostel in the afternoon; about 4,000 people were present. After the students greeted him, the poet delivered a speech.
Three photos of the poet were taken during the Sylhet trip. One was with his son and daughter-in-law.
Kobiguru wrote a small poem on Sylhet. The poem refers to the unique natural beauty of the north-eastern part of the country.