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Now, an annual Tagore festival in England

world Updated: Apr 13, 2012 01:08 IST
Dipankar De Sarkar
Dipankar De Sarkar
Hindustan Times
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A beautiful corner of southwest England has decided to host an annual festival dedicated to Rabindranath Tagore. Dartington Hall in Devon held its first Tagore festival in 2011 to mark the poet's 150th birth anniversary. But after starting off with a bang, many doubted the organisers would be able to replicate the success.

The news from Dartington Hall is that they have. The second year's festival, held over four days ending this Monday, was smaller in scale but succeeded in drawing a large number of local visitors with an imaginative programme of lectures, films, dance and music.

Dartington Hall should be on every Indian tourist's map of places to visit in England. Set over 1,200 acres of land, including beautiful woodlands, it is home to the Tagore-inspired Dartington Trust.

The sprawling estate, with its medieval hall, was bought in 1925 by British agricultural scientist Leonard Elmhirst and his wealthy American wife Dorothy. Deeply influenced by Tagore, Elmhirst helped set up the modern agricultural school Sriniketan at Santiniketan in West Bengal.

When it was time to leave, Elmhirst wanted to continue working along the Tagorean model of rural development, fusing ecology and social justice with modern scientific thinking. Tagore suggested Devon, having spent a delightful holiday there as an 18-year-old in 1879.

Today, the Dartington Trust runs a number of programmes inspired by Tagore. The estate is also home to the Schumacher College, headed by environmental thinker Satish Kumar.

Before catching a riveting Bengal-touched jazz performance by Zoe and Idris Rahman fused with the Tagore songs of Sahana Bajpaie, I asked Kumar why there wasn't a Tagore bust in the estate. The query sparked a spirited response.

"No," he told a lecture audience moments later. "In India we have this habit of putting up statues of our great leaders and teachers - Gandhi, Tagore and the Buddha. But we don't practise what they preached. Rather than worshipping the body of Tagore in Dartington, I would like us to live Tagore's vision."

There couldn't be a greater tribute to Tagore.