Tagore and Freedom – a Sheffield celebration
By Dr Debjani Chatterjee, MBE (author and poet)
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth …
begins a favourite poem in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka; a ‘freedom’ poem by Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941), India’s national poet, composer of the national anthems of India and Bangladesh, and the inspiration behind Sri Lanka’s anthem. Composed a century ago, it enthused the freedom movements in these countries.
This being the UK-India Year of Culture, as well as India’s 70th year of independence and the traumatic Partition that was the price paid for independence, it is understandably a poem that many are reciting as they ponder the meaning of ‘freedom’, and Tagore’s insightful views on freedom, nationalism, and humanism. It is therefore fitting that this year’s Off the Shelf Festival of Words opens with Sheffield Hindu Samaj’s Tagore and Freedom, an exciting programme celebrating Tagore’s rich and diverse international legacy.
As well as Hindu Samaj and the University of Sheffield, the three other community organisations contributing to the programme are: Bengali Women’s Support Group, whose members originate from Bangladesh and India; Aastha Over 50s Group; and Bal Gokulam, a Hindu children and parents’ group. Among the visiting celebrities are: Bisakha Sarkar, MBE – Artistic Director of Liverpool’s Chaturangan Indian Dance, Professor Bashabi Fraser – Director of the Scottish Centre of Tagore Studies, and Ashim Dutta from the universities of Dhaka and York.
The four Tagore and Freedom events will take place at three venues:
- A Poetry Workshop at the Quaker Meeting House in Sheffield city centre is inspired by Tagore’s poetry and art, and led by Bashabi Fraser and Debjani Chatterjee.
- A Dance Workshop for Seniors at the Hindu Samaj Centre in Burngreave is inspired by Tagore’s songs and dances, and led by Bisakha Sarkar.
- A talk, discussion and readings from Tagore at the University of Sheffield’s Humanities Research Institute is led by Bashabi Fraser, with panellists Ashim Dutta and, from the University of Sheffield: Richard Steadman-Jones, Ranjan Sen and Oliver Godsmark.
- A community celebration of Tagore at the Hindu Samaj Centre, Burngreave is led by Bashabi Fraser and Debjani Chatterjee, and features recitations, talks, songs and dances.