CAIRO: India will organize a cultural festival in Egypt next week to mark the 155th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore in a bid to build connections between the people of the two countries who share strong cultural bonds.
The Embassy of India in Cairo and Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture will host the Tagore Festival from May 8-12, India’s Ambassador to Egypt Sanjay Bhattacharyya said.
“In our efforts to build connections between India and Egypt, we find that there is a strong bond particularly in the field of culture and there is a strong affection between the people of the two countries,” Bhattacharyya said.
“The works of Tagore are very popular here in Egypt. And I understand there are about a dozen translations of the Gitanjali itself. And of course there are many other books that have been translated into Arabic,” he said.
Tagore, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913 for ‘Gitanjali’, is not unknown to Egypt; he visited Egypt as an adolescent in 1878 and later as a famous poet-philosopher in 1926, when he met King Fouad and interacted with scholars in Alexandria and Cairo.
His friendship with Egyptian poet Ahmed Shawqy is well known and he wrote a moving eulogy on his friend’s death in 1932. Tagore wrote about the beautiful relationship between the Nile River and the flourishing civilization of Egyptians.
Tagore and Egyptian writers and intellectuals have had a long association and “we are having a painting exhibition in cooperation with the Egyptian Caricature Society which brings up new aspects of looking at Tagore. It’s certainly a way in which we strengthen our culture connections,” Bhattacharyya said.
The Egyptian Caricature Society has curated an excellent collection of portraits from across the globe on Tagore. These caricatures will be exhibited at a Painting Exhibition from May 8 until the festival ends.
Egyptian scholars have translated many of Tagore’s works into Arabic and have written books on him. These books are available at the National Library of Egypt, which is collaborating with the Indian embassy in organizing an exhibition of the books at their premises from May 9.
Bhattacharyya said there are plans to start more collaboration in the field of translated works, both from Indian texts in different languages into Arabic as well as Arabic books into Indian languages. .
“Recently, we had a group from our Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) which had discussions with the ministry of culture here. We have also been in touch with the Writers Guild and the poets so that we can identify these books. The initial feedback that I have is that the books will be a mix of classics and contemporary,” the Indian ambassador said.
The festival will feature Tagore dance drama ‘Shapmochan’ (Breaking the Spell) on May 9 by well-known Classical dancer Dona Ganguly, who hails from Kolkata (then Calcutta), the hometown of the great poet.
The movie ‘Ghare Baire’ – based on one of Tagore’s novel – by legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray will be screened on May 10. Popular Rabindra Sangeet singer Shreya Guhathakurta will present songs written and composed by Tagore on May 11.
The festival will conclude on May 12 with a Seminar on Contemporary Literature ‘Tagore, Shawky & Mahfouz’, which will feature Indian and Egyptians scholars and writers and will be conducted by the Supreme Council of Culture.
The Indian embassy has held several programs on Tagore as part of a build up to the festival, which will be organized in cooperation with Egyptian Ministry of Culture, Supreme Council of Culture, Cairo Opera House, National Library and Museum of Modern Art.–PTI