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156th birthday of Rabindrath Tagore

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  10 May 2017 12:00 AM GMT

Tagore's ties with Barak Valley recalled

FROM OUR Special Correspondent

Silchar, May 9: On the 156th birthday of Gurudev Rabindrath Tagore, the ties of Tagore family with Barak Valley come to the mind of his ardent lovers. Rabindrath Tagore, the great poet, writer, dramatist, novelist, singer and lyricist and the Nobel laureate immortalized by his classic “Geetanjali” among other literary creations did not visit Silchar. But, he spent a few hours at Badarpur railway station, 32 km from here, on his way to Sylhet from Guwahati. The year was 1919. He was deeply impressed by the scenic beauty of the sylvan hills.

The protagonist of his famous novel “Shesher Kabita” Amit in his sojourn through all the beauty and charm of ture finds bliss, peace and eterl joy while wandering all alone in the wilds of Silchar, Sylhet and Shillong. This finds mention in these lines as translated in English, ‘when he thought of dismounting the hills and wandering deep inside Sylhet-Silchar, came down heavy showers in the hills and woods, throwing around the dark blanket.’ The visit of Rabindrath to Sylhet thereafter was a historical event which produced a long lasting impulse on his creative endeavour.

In November 6, 1919 when the great poet, dramatist and novelist visited the Bishnupriya Manipuri village of Machimpur, not far away from the town situated on the bank of Surma. The Bishnupriya Manipuris celebrated his Nobel Award by felicitating him and according him a tumultuous ovation. Manipuri dances were performed to make the visit eventful and memorable. Rabindrath was so impressed after witnessing the dance composition ‘Gostha Lila’ that he decided to adopt this dance form in his dance-drama. It was the subtlety and rhythm of the dance that stirred him. He was introduced to the exponent of this dance form, Guru Nileswar Mukherjee, and Rabindra th decided to bring him to Shantiniketan. While addressing the students of Sylhet Murari Chanda College, Rabindra th spoke about his experiences with the Bishnupriya Manipuris and their rich art form.

Guru Nileswar Mukherjee was at Shantiniketan as a Manipuri dance teacher. With his help, Rabindrath Tagore introduced Manipuri dance form in his famous drama Chitrangada. It was actually his earlier composition of 1892, modified with Manipuri dance in 1931. The story of Chitrangada, as we know, is all about our great epic Mahabharat. The king and the queen of Manipur pray for a son but bore a daughter instead. She was brought up as a son and became a warrior princess. The simple and bold episode of Mahabharat was transformed by Tagore into a drama with lyrical rapture and psychological insight. Tagore’s ‘Bhanusingher Padavli’ was also reshaped in the form of Manipuri dance which the Bishnupriya Manipuris spread across the valley of Barak and Surma remember the Nobel laureate for their cultural revivalism.

Unknown to many, this town’s connection with Tagore began from the time of Maharshi Debendra th Tagore. Tagore family was well known to the famous Kamini Kumar Chanda, a renowned lawyer, of this town. Chanda was contesting the Baladhan tea estate mager, a British case, in which three Manipuris were implicated for hatching a conspiracy against him for his elimition. The mager was targeted for his oppressive and repressive measures against the workers. In 1893, the Manipuris, after trial, were convicted. Kamini fought the case in High Court and got them acquitted. Debendra th extended necessary fincial help to Chanda in this legal battle. Baladhan tea estate is 45 km from the town.

It was Debendra th who sent one of his grandsons, Arunendra th Tagore, to work as an assistant mager in Silcoorie tea estate, near the town. It was just the beginning of tea plantation in Cachar. Silchar was yet to be linked by a railway line. Arunendra th came here by river route from Kolkata. His experiences of this adventurous journey, the description of this town as an oasis in the midst of deep jungles with scarce human settlements, no means of communication except horse and elephant have been rrated in ‘Bharati’ edited by Rabindrath Tagore. The town of today grew up and developed from a garrison or cantonment of the British army to fight the tribal rebels in the hills and forests. It was around 1881-82.

He was warmly welcomed by the British mager and accommodated in a bungalow located in an upland and was cautioned not to mix with the employees or workers. But, in his own simple and humble way, he carried out his official works and mixed freely with the ‘babus’ and ‘workers’ much to the dislike of the British. That made him quite friendly and amiable among the workers but widened his distance from the ‘sahibs’. What he hated most was the attitude and behaviour of British mager towards the Indian workers. He did not like his job of being ‘subservient and slave’ to the sahibs. He therefore decided to quit and return back to his ancestral home of ‘Jorasanko’. Quite significantly, Arunendra th Tagore was the first Indian to work as an assistant mager in the tea garden, a post reserved for the ‘whites’ then.

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