“Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come”, wrote Rabindranath Tagore, the famous Indian philosopher, poet, and Nobel laureate.
Tagore lives on as the Indian Embassy in Cairo commemorates the 155th anniversary of his birth by hosting a cultural festival in his namesake.
The five-day Tagore Festival began on 8 May and is honouring the memory of the Indian writer by holding several cultural events featuring art, literature, music and novels. The embassy will organise film screening of prominent films that Tagore wrote, as well as seminars to discuss his novels in comparison with classic Egyptian novelists like Naguib Mahfouz and writers like Ahmed Sahwki. Tagore’s paintings, which he spent the last 17 years of his life creating, will also be publically exhibited.
Tagore won the Nobel prize for literature in 1913 and was the first Indian artist to receive this honour. His close friendship with Gandhi, as well as his many trips around the world sharpened his talent. Tagore was able to introduce Indian culture to the rest of the world in an accessible, interesting way, as well as introducing various European and African cultures to Indians in a new way.
Tagore had a close friendship with Egyptian writer Ahmed Shawki and even wrote Shawki’s eulogy in 1932. Tagore was impressed by the strong literary trends in Egypt and found great resonance in the intellectual movement here. He wrote about the beautiful relationship between the river Nile and the flourishing Egyptian civilisation.
As a part of the festival, a seminar will be held to address the writings of Tagore, Shawki and Mahfouz. Tagore wrote about Egypt and what he saw on his trips to the country, detailing his meeting with Egyptian King Fouad. Many of his books were translated into Arabic and are available at the National Library of Egypt.
The exhibition for Tagore’s art pieces, which were considered taboo due to the social standards of that era, will be opened on the first day of the festival. His paintings depict women reading and dancing. Through symbolism, he expressed his perspective of the world, his dreams and his conflicts.
Tagore wrote over 2,000 songs which are considered part of Bengal’s illustrious heritage. The embassy will host a drama dance titled “Shapmochan” (Breaking the Spell), written by Tagore. “Ghare Baire”, a film based on a story Tagore wrote, will be screened as well as a documentary about his songs.
The Tagore Festival is organised in cooperation with Egyptian Ministry of Culture, the Supreme Council of Culture, Cairo Opera House, the National Library and Museum of Modern Art. The Festival has received support from the Egyptian Indian Polyester Company (EIPET).