Hon’ble UPA Chairperson, Smt. Sonia Gandhi addressing at the addressing at the National Commemoration of 150th Birth Anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore

On 7th May 2011 at Vigyan Bhawan, New delhi

Today, it is our privilege to pay tribute to one of the greatest and most accomplished geniuses of our times: Rabindranath Tagore; poet and singer, composer of a prodigious number of songs that are part of the consciousness of almost every speaker of the Bengali tongue; author of volumes of short-stories, novels, plays and essays- the Goethe and Shakespeare of Bengal. He is part of the life of two nations and whenever generations of Indians and Bangladeshis sing their national anthems, it is Tagore’s words and music that they sing.

It was Jawaharlal Nehru’s deep admiration for Tagore’s ideas as an educationist that sent his daughter Indira to Shantiniketan. Her mother’s illness did not allow her to complete her course of study at Visva Bharati, but the presence of Tagore and the environment of Shantiniketan left a lasting impression on the young Indira’s mind and outlook.

Tagore’s nationalism was anchored in universal amity and brotherhood. He was an internationalist through and through. His vision for India, encapsulated in the choice of


The fact that Bangladesh and India are jointly commemorating the poet’s 150th anniversary signifies the lasting bonds that he has woven across the sub-continent. His legacy is now a part of our common heritage, as the presence

the name “Visva Bharati” for the university he established, influenced a whole generation of men and women who were in the forefront of our Independence Movement. He provided the philosophical


of the Air Vice Marshal A.K. Khandker from Bangladesh testifies.

Tagore remains a living presence amongst us. Articles, essays and books on him continue to appear. Scholars in Asia, Europe and South America still analyze his relevance. Universities across the world discuss his life and works. New aspects of his personality are still being revealed, adding to our sense of amazement and admiration.

Artists there are who remain creative into their later years, but how many begin to explore an entirely new medium in their 60s and bring forth an abundance of fresh and vigorous works, as the sheer number of his paintings testifies. The genius whose grand strides had already conquered the worlds of prose and poetry, of drama, of essays, as well as of song, music and dance, finally crossed one of his last frontiers: Tagore drew and painted with the boundless energy and restlessness of young man.

Not only as an artist did Tagore win his colossal stature. As a philosopher and educationist he left his stamp on future generations. Reminiscing about his life in radio interview in May 1956, Jawaharlal Nehru said that the three individuals who had influenced him most were his father, Gandhiji and Tagore. Incidentally, Motilal Nehru was born just a day before Tagore on the same month and year- 6th of May 1861.

underpinnings to the political struggle.

It was as far back as 1902 that he wrote that India stands before the civilised worlds as an embodiment of the ideal of “unity through diversity” –a more powerful idea than “unity in diversity”. This resonates all the more today, when there are forces that mistake uniformity for unity and are extremely uncomfortable with our diversity in its myriad forms.

Tagore is timeless. He speaks to us even today, whether it is on the need to nurture communal harmony, to have empathy for the poor and tribal communities, to rejuvenate our artistic and cultural traditions, to make India economically prosperous while protecting its ecological wealth, to bring about gender equality, to impart a value-based education founded on the inter –relatedness of disciplines, to reach out to other Asian countries especially, and to the world.

Ladies and gentlemen, as we mark this occasion, I can do no better than to recall the world of Jawaharlal Nehru at the Inauguration of the Tagore Centenary Celebrations at Shantiniketan in May 1961 when he said: I quote,
“I should like you to remember that the test of your homage is not what you may say about him but the way you live, the way you grow, and the  way you act up to his message.”

Thank You!