Tuesday, 3 May 2011

The Vision Becomes a Reality

Tagore 150 at Dartington Hall Estate
1st to 7th May 2011

O Sun of India's sky,
O World-Poet,
O Moon of Bengal's heart,
You were beautiful in your inner life,
You were beautiful in your outer life,

You were beauty incarnate in God's entire creation.
Gloriously and triumphantly you secure your place
In the world-assembly with your creative force,
Supremely meaningful and fruitful in various walks of life.”
- Sri Chinmoy from 'My India'
Illustration by Norman Young

There could be no better or appropriate place in England than the Dartington Hall Estate to hold the celebratory festival marking 150 years since the birth of the great artist, philosopher and social activist, Rabindranath Tagore. The festival has been two years in the making and spearheaded by Tagore adorer and Resurgence Editor in Chief, Satish Kumar. The high level of organisation involved; the vision and passion to honour Tagore and his life's work is now buzzing through Dartington Hall and the surrounding grounds. There is a palpable sense of pride at the many events on offer and the list of luminaries who have signed up in great number to discuss their unique interpretations of Tagore's work and life.

I am drawn to the festival as a writer and I confess, prior to the first day on Sunday the 1st of May, I was for the most part, ignorant to the scale of Tagore's work and its impact on the world.

My many teachers told me about the great writers and poets, but only ever about the English ones. I never heard the name, Tagore once mentioned. He began to get my attention proper soon after I moved to Dartington in 2008 in relation to his significant influence on the founders of the Dartington Hall Trust, the Elmhursts'. But Tagore still remained pretty much, just a name, making little impact on my ill educated western mind. I had also not heard of Tagore's epic work of poems 'Gitanjali', which won him the Nobel prize for literature in 1913.

An interpretation of 'Gitanjali' was presented on Sunday evening in the Great Hall as an audio visual event to mark the opening day of the festival. Within five minutes of being immersed in the beautiful montage of slides projected onto the Great Hall walls, Tagore's poetry writ large alongside, exemplary live music and dance and pitch perfect recitations, I became fully and acutely aware of what the fuss was and still is, all about. The poems featured within these sublime ninety minutes were clearly devotional and expressed the pure joy of Tagore's life in relation to nature and nature in relation to the fullness of blissful, human experience. Believe me, it's not easy to write poems about bliss. Poems about pain and heartache flow easy compared to the unique ability to express a view of the world through joy and a pure heart without reverting to shmaltz. Tagore achieves simple, clean and beautiful devotional poetry with apparent ease, producing something brilliant, clear and memorable. The show received a much deserved standing ovation.

Preceding 'Gitanjali' was the staged performance piece, 'The Awakening' bringing together three women from Tagore's poetry, fiction and drama. Four very accomplished dancers brought this work to life accompanied by a storyteller and traditional musicians. Aside from an early problem with sound, this was superb. Another first for me. Their skill as dancers was mesmerising; each with their own individual style. Having the story unfold through dance, alongside recitations kept me fully engaged throughout and falling a little in love with the colour of the outfits and the beauty of the dancers.
I noticed an artist scribbling away next to me trying to capture their rapid movement and energy. I asked him to scan and send them to me to share them with you here:

Tagore Tales
After Wilfred Owen lost his life in the first World War, a letter written for his mother in the event of his death was found in his tunic. It quoted Tagore with these chilling, beautiful words from 'Gitanjali':
When I go from here, let this be my parting word, that what I have seen is unsurpassable”

Caspar Walsh is the film editor for Resurgence. He is an author, journalist and wilderness teacher. His new novel Blood Road is available in paperback. www.casparwalsh.co.uk

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