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Devon festival to celebrate Tagore's Nobel centenary


A special festival will be organized in the UK from June 28 to June 30 to commemorate the centenary of Bengali writer, poet and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore's Nobel Prize in Literature.

Around 2, 000 arts and culture lovers are expected to attend a festival in the UK to celebrate the centenary of Rabindranath Tagore's Nobel Prize in Literature. The Tagore Festival will take place at Dartington, a sprawling medieval estate in rural South Devon, at the end of this month.

The Bengali writer, poet and philosopher was the first South Asian to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. The three-day festival boasts dance, music, literature, film, theatre and storytelling, featuring composer Nitin Sawhney, sarod maestro Soumik Datta and storyteller Vayu Naidu. This is the third Tagore Festival held in the UK. The first was held at the Dartington Hall Estate in 2011 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of his birth and attracted names like Mark Tully and Deepak Chopra.

In 1925, Dorothy and Leonard Elmhirst purchased the 14th-century, 880-acre estate. Inspired by Tagore, a close friend, they transformed it into a centre to promote arts, sustainability and social justice. Tagore visited Dartington and Leonard Elmhirst spent considerable time at Santiniketan. "We are not targeting specifically Indians, we want everyone, including Europeans and British people to learn about Eastern values through Tagore, " explains Satish Kumar, founder of the festival, a former Jain monk, who was born in Rajasthan.

Kumar, who moved to England in 1973, says the current problems in the world make Tagore's teachings more relevant than ever. "Of all of the seven billion people on the planet, let's say one million are engaged in conflict but that leaves six billion 999 million that are not, " he says. "They are peaceful, leading a good life and kind to their neighbours. That is the spirit of Tagore. His message is that, if in the hundred years since WWI, we have had Vietnam, Iraq, Kashmir, Syria and many other conflicts, we are not achieving anything through conflicts. He said humans are humans and we are more than our nationalities, religion, colour of our skin or political identity - we are humans first and foremost. Indian, American or Syrian is our secondary identity. "
In 2011, the Indian government instituted a Rs 1 crore award in the name of the Nobel laureate. The first Tagore Award 2012 was bestowed on the late Pandit Ravi Shankar. "Tagore was a bit ignored in India but now they are waking up to his talent, " Kumar says.

William Elmhirst, 84, Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst's son, will be speaking at the festival for the first time. After a falling out between William Elmhirst and the Trust in the 1970s, William resigned as trustee. However, Kumar says, things are much better now. Elmhirst, who runs The Cosmic Quest in Somerset, will talk about spirituality at the event.

Highlights include a tribute to Ravi Shankar by Sawhney. He will talk about his latest play about a meeting between Einstein and Tagore, the influence of Ravi Shankar on his work and how he is producing Anoushka Shankar's next album. Datta will perform the world premiere of his new work Lanka, which reinterprets the Ramayana. Born in Kolkata and raised in London, he trained on the sarod with the legendary Padmabhushan Pandit Buddhadev, and has collaborated with Beyonce. Storyteller Vayu Naidu will perform in the ancient Indic oral tradition Sita as Legacy and launch her new book Sita's Ascent. Kathak and Bharatanatyamtrained, Leicester-born Aakash Odedra, of Gujarati heritage, who has trained with the likes of Asha Joglekar, will hold contemporary dance and Bollywood workshops.

There will also be a performance of Tagore's most significant dance-drama Tasher Desh (The Land of Cards) and of Unsung, a new play by British-Bengali writer Ayndrilla Singharay.

Free events will include Satyananda Yoga, Holi colours and an opportunity to listen to Tagore under the trees. The festival has received an anonymous grant of £25, 000 (Rs 22 lakh), the rest comes from ticket sales and any shortfall is met by the Dartington Hall Trust. "I am hoping that the Indian government or Indian philanthropists might support us, " says Kumar.

The Tagore Festival takes place from June 28 to 30, 2013.

http:// www. dartington. org/tagore-festival

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