A week-long event held in the UK to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore has attracted hundreds of supporters but sparked criticism of the Indian government for not supporting it and not doing enough to promote the literary legend. About 2,000 people, mainly non-Asian, travelled to the new-age town of Totnes, in rural Devon last week, for The Tagore Festival as auto rickshaws plied festival-goers up and down.
Apart from listening to speakers such as Mark Tully and Lord Desai talk about the Bengali poet, festival-goers watched performances by Sonal Mansingh and Satyajit Ray films. One of the most bizarre attractions was a display of a real lock of the poet’s beard, which had been sent to Dartington upon Tagore’s death in 1941. There was also contemporary art from Shantiniketan.
But Satish Kumar, the artistic director of the festival, said, “The Indian Government did not support the festival. I asked them to pay for Indian artists to come here and they would not.”
Participant Deepak Chopra revealed he was 12 when he started reading Tagore: “India does not promote him at all. Very few people have read his works.”
Amit Chaudhuri, author of five novels and a professor at the University of East Anglia, blamed the general lack of awareness of Tagore on poor translations.