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Sylhet to mark 100 years of Tagore’s visit

Three-day colourful programme begins today

Sylhet Office : In commemoration of 100 years of the visit of great poet Rabindranath Tagore to Sylhet, a three-day colourful programme has been taken up in the north-eastern city.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will join the concluding event through video conference on November 07 evening, organisers said.

Tagore had been in Syhet in November 1919 for a few days.

Starting the journey from Karimganj (now in Assam), he had passed November 04 night on train at Kulaura railway station and reached Sylhet town next morning to join events till  November 07.

The programme is set to begin following a colourful procession from the Nagar Bhaban at 11:00 am on Tuesday.

The other events include inauguration of Tagore’s mural, discussion, seminar, cultural function etc.

A 51-man Celebration Committee has been formed with former Finance Minister AMA Muhith as its convener and Sylhet City Corporation (SCC) Mayor Ariful Haque Chowdhury as its member-secretary.

A good number of litterateurs and artistes from both Bangladesh and India would join the festival.

During his visit to Sylhet in 1919, Tagore had stayed at the Christian Bungalow and joined events at Masimpur Manipuri habitat, Town Hall, Brahma Samaj and at the Singha Bari in Chouhatta area. He also addressed a gathering at the MC College.

Commemorating the historic tour, the Brahma Samaj has organised a daylong separate programme  for today (November 05) since Kabiguru had attended an event at the Brahma Samaj, Sylhet in evening this day and joined another event in the evening there, organized by the Srihatta Mohila Samity.

It includes ‘Shobdey Chhondey Rabindra Smoron’ at 8:30 am on Tuesday followed by ‘Aji e Anonda Sandhya’, comprising discussion and cultural function at the city’s Nazrul Auditorium at 6:00 pm same day.

AMA Muhith would attend the evening programme while Tagore exponent Usha Ranjan Bhattacharya of  Guwahati University and Professor Golam Mostafa of Chittagong University would take part in the discussion. The function includes presentation of Tagore songs, dance-drama ‘Chondalika’ and recitation of poems by ‘Sruti’.

It was the middle of Kartik in the 1326 BS. Kabiguru was on a trip to Shillong.

On behalf of the Brahma Samaj, its secretary Govinda Narayan Sinha sent a telegram to Kabiguru inviting him on a visit to Sylhet.

Considering a long and critical journey, he replied in negative and wired ‘journey long and tedious’.

Even on receipt of the wire, Sinha did not stop himself from the attempt and arranged sending more telegrams from different forums including Anjuman Islam and Mahila Parishad.

On receiving invitations that way, Kabi had to change his stance just in days.

The Sylhet-Shillong road was yet to be ready for vehicles. The people had to use the Assam-Bengal railway for linking Shillong those days. But for dignitary like Rabindranath, scopes were there to reach Sylhet from Cherapunji by using tribal Khashi men as carrier on eight miles before the road journey. However, he was not at all to accept that type of thing.

Accordingly, he started a long journey from Shillong to Gouhati then through Assam-Bengal Railway on Badarpur-Lamding-Kulaura.  As the news spread around in days from men to men, enthusiastic people of all sections took preparation and voluntary teams and reception committees were formed to welcome the great personality in a big way.

A team was sent to Badarpur junction  station while another team went up to Kulaura, 30 miles off Sylhet.

The poet was accompanied by his son Rathindra nath and Rathindra’s wife Protima Devi.

Ithel Roberts from Presbitarian church in Sylhet met the poet there to honour him.

He was given warm reception at Maijgaon, Boromchal, Bhatera, Fenchuganj stations by the students as well as the commoners.

Elites of the town, like Sylhet municipality chairman Rai Bahadur Sukhomoy Chowdhury, former minister Moulvi Abdul Karim, Raibahadur Promode Chandra Dutta were on the first row while Nalini Bala Chowdhury led the team of women.

A nicely decorated bajra (covered boat) and a marboat were kept on the river bank.

Tagore took the boat while his son and daughter-in-law got into the other for crossing the Surma.

Govinda Narayan got introduced to Kabiguru on the boat. As the boats were nearing to the other bank, Chandnighat, with all stairs covered with red clothes while about 10,000 enthusiastic people stood along about a mile from Kazirbazar to the Dak bunglow (present circuit house).

The historic Chandnighat was decorated with red clothes and flowers, flags, festoons, mongolghot etc while the volunteers standing along under the leadership of man like Moulvi Abdullah.

Representatives from different aristocrat families, like Majumderbari, Dastiderbari, Zitu Miar Bari etc were also there on horses to welcome the poet to Sylhet.

A nice bunglow of a father was there on a picturesque on the hillock to the north east of the town. Thomas left a house attached to the bungalow for the guest. Kabiguru was given a grand reception there.

Some young girls sang the song ‘Tomari nam bolbo ami, Bolbo nana Chholey’.

The poet was given warm reception by Brahma Samaj. People thronged the Brahma Mandir and its premises. As the guest, wearing yellow clothes reached the venue just minutes ahead of the schedule, the crowd turned silent.

Next day, on Kartik 20, Thursday morning, the poet was given a warm and joyful reception under the banner of Srihattabashi (inhabitants of Srihatta).

About 5,000 people joined it while Jatindra Mohan Dev Chowdhury presented a song, written by Ambila Babu and Zamini Kanto Roy Dastider played violin to entertain the poet.

Former Assam Education Minister Khan Bahadur Syed Abdul Majid, also the chief of the reception committee, gave a 10-minute lecture in Urdu expressing the extreme gratitude of Sylhet people getting the poet among them and Nagendra Chandra Dutta read out the address of welcome.

As the guest stood for address, the audience burst in cheers. He delivered a one and a half hour lectures on ‘Bangali Sadhona’.

The poet was highly pleased as he was given a hearty and nice reception at their habitat, they erected welcome arches with coloured papers, flowers bamboo and banana plants etc. Charmed with the talented weaving works, he bought some clothes. Enjoying a ‘Rakhal dance’, presented by some Manipuri boys, the poet committed to come back at night the same day for watching dances by the girls.

Tagore was to address a gathering at the Town Hall at 7 pm, but people thronged the venue from 4 pm. There was no room around. Failing to enter inside, many had to stay outside. As Kabiguru reached the venue at 7 PM, the crowd gave him a warm reception. It was the best of his speeches in Sylhet, a number of writings contained.

Next morning, the poet along with his son and daughter-in-law visited the house of Mr. Sinha. He named two children in the house. They were Shubhabrata and Deepti.

He addressed another gathering at the MC College Hostel in the afternoon the same day where about 4,000 people, including 200 students were present.

On the evening, the poet joined a ‘Priti Sammelan’ at the house of Rai Bahadur Nagendra Chowdhury where elites of the town were present.

Kabiguru had an eventful trip and passed pleasant days in Sylhet. He wrote a small poem on Sylhet even. It is ‘Momotabihin kalsrotey…….’ Yet it speaks about the specialty with unique natural beauty of the north eastern part of the country.