Indian Nobel winner focus of new centre

Rabindranath Tagore - India's Robert Burns

Rabindranath Tagore - India's Robert Burns

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A NEW centre dedicated to the life and works of a man described as India’s Robert Burns and the Bengali Shakespeare has been launched at a conference in the Capital.

Rabindranath Tagore, who was the first non-white Nobel Prize winner for Literature in 1913, penned thousands of poems and songs before his death in 1941, with his work translated into hundreds of languages.

Now, more than 150 years after his birth, the first UK centre of its kind dedicated to the writer has been established at Napier University’s Institute of Creative Industries. ScoTs, The Scottish Centre for Tagore Studies, will promote Indian culture, education, philosophy, art and literature by highlighting Tagore’s legacy.

Delegates including the High Commissioner of Bangladesh joined Tagore scholars from across the world yesterday to celebrate the creation of ScoTs at the start of a three-day event at the city’s Gillis Centre.

It followed an agreement with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), which will bring Professor Indra Nath Choudhuri, academic director of the Indira Gandhi Institute, to the university as Scotland’s first ICCR chair in Tagore studies.

The ICCR is also funding two PhD fellowships dedicated to researching the works of the influential author.

Tagore had strong links with Scotland after establishing a close friendship with Edinburgh stalwarts Patrick Geddes – the pioneering Scottish town planner – and his son Arthur. His grandfather, entrepreneur Prince Dwarkanath, was also honoured with the Freedom of the City award by Edinburgh in 1845.

Dr Bashabi Fraser, lecturer in literature and creative writing at Napier, said: “The centre is ideally placed to promote cultural connections between Scotland and India, and will highlight Tagore’s importance to a new audience. By working alongside other European organisations and cultural bodies, we’ll be able to spread Tagore’s influence and attract research interest from far and wide.”

Tagore, who founded the Visva-Bharati University in Bengal, became a bilingual writer in his early 50s after translating a number of his poems – which became his English Gitanjali, the Bengali book for which he received the Nobel Prize for Literature – and much more.

The Bengali poet and novelist was also an accomplished artist, an educationist, environmentalist, rural reconstructionist, political thinker and philosopher. The 150th anniversary of his birth was May 7 last year.

Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Rabindranath Tagore was India’s greatest artist, musician and poet, and had many close ties to Scotland. I am delighted that the centre is being launched in this, our Year of Creative Scotland.”