history


Background

Tagore Research Institute was founded on 1st January, 1965. In 1961 the entire nation celebrated the birth centenary of Rabindranath Tagore, the first Nobel laureate of the country. Stage performances of Tagore’s songs, plays, dance-dramas and poetry recitals were held all across the country. Lectures were delivered and symposiums held. Numerous books and articles on Tagore appeared in voluminous anthologies.

However, there was a gap – a failure to come to grips with who Tagore was. He was not just a poet; he was an educationist, a philosopher, a social reformer – a visionary in the truest sense of the word. Those celebrating his birth centenary made no systematic effort to study Tagore’s numerous writings covering such crucial topics as education, social, economic and political issues and rural development and his endeavor to implement it. His relentless strive to gather experience from different parts of the world documented in his many letters are relevant even today. Where do we find examples of the best poet of the country dedicating his time and money (part of the ancestral property acquired as a rural landlord) in order to alleviate poverty? Nor do we find examples of a poet voicing his concerns about eradicating conservative and superstitious ideas that had engulfed Indian society. Apart from his social efforts, he took a political stand, protesting against atrocities committed by the British rulers. These aspects of Tagore were not in the foreground during the centenary celebrations.

Sri Somendranath Bose, a major Tagore scholar, felt that it was essential to study Tagore meticulously in order to spread his message, for the vast range of concerns in his writings would be of lasting value to successive generations. About thirty residents of Kolkata associated with this effort met at Sri Saumyendranath Tagore’s residence, 4 Elgin Road (now Lala Lajpat Rai Sarani). They enthusiastically agreed that a research centre had to be established and Tagore Research Institute was born. Among those present at that meeting were Sri Ananda Gopal Sengupta (poet-cum-journalist), Sri Prabhat Sen (ex-revolutionary and one of the founder members of R.C.P.I.), Sri Narendra Deb (poet), Prof. Nirmal Chandra Bhattacharya, Prof. Santi Kumar Dasgupta, Prof. Dhyanesh Narayan Chakrabarty, among others.


Tagore Research Institute

Establishing the Tagore Research Institute was not the first endeavor of Sri Somendranath Bose.

For a long time Somendranath felt that there was no consistent and serious effort in India to study Tagore. The extent of Tagore studies in the regular curriculum of literature in the universities was limited. In 1960, he initiated the publication of a quarterly journal, Rabindra Prasanga. Moreover, entirely on his own, Somendranath began to compile a Tagore studies dictionary, Rabindra Abhidhan; the first volume of which was published in 1961, the Tagore Centenary year.

However, he felt that such piecemeal work is not enough to appreciate Tagore. An academic institute was necessary to bring Tagore to the students and scholars. His third venture was to establish the Tagore Research Institute, an institute dedicated entirely to the study of Tagore. The power of the name ‘Rabindranath Tagore’ and Somendranath’s courage, conviction and magnetic personality brought together a critical mass of academics, independent scholars and ordinary men and women from various walks of life, who provided support and made this venture possible.

When the institute was launched, Sri Saumyendranath Tagore wrote from abroad: “Glad to see that you have taken up such a huge project with so much devotion. Whatever you do, I would like you to do it with total sincerity.”

Sri Pramatha Nath Bishi, a student of Rabindranath Tagore and one of the first teachers in Santiniketan, visited the Institute two years after its inception – and stayed on. He became a life member, was elected president in 1968, and retained an intimate association with the Institute until his death in 1985.


RabindraCharchaBhavan

The name “RabindraCharchaBhavan” is sometimes treated as equivalent to “Tagore Research Institute”. However, it is essential to clarify that the two designations are not synonymous. The Institute itself has only one name, “Tagore Research Institute”. It is currently accommodated in the building called “RabindraCharchaBhavan”.

For the first eight years the Institute was based at Sri Saumyendranath Tagore’s outhouse. For the next two years, the Institute functioned from two small rooms at 73 Lansdowne Road (now known as Sarat Bose Road). In 1975 a part of the building that housed the Banga Bhasa Prasar Samity on P2 Lake Road was made available for Tagore Research Institute. However, by this time it was constantly felt that the Institute would need a habitat of its own.

Once the decision to construct a building was made, the question of fundraising was deliberated. There was agreement, from the outset, that no government funding would be requested. Those associated with the Institute decided to raise the funds through small donations from common men and women. Leaflets were distributed, in Bengali and English, to spread the word. The journal, which by then was known as Rabindra Bhavna, also carried the message to its readers. A few cultural programmes were held as fund-raising charity shows. No prosperous individual came forward with any significant contribution. However, the entire amount raised consisted of modest donations. The volunteers went so far as to accept one rupee or two rupees from passers-by.

Till today all additions and maintenance of the building has been done with private donations. Only once did the Institute receive any government grant. This was in 2008, when the local MLA sanctioned Rs 1,74,000/- from the local area development fund for repair and maintenance of the building. Only a part of the construction work was done in the first phase. A big hall, with a small room at the back, and a toilet were ready by 1980. However, this met the modest expectations of those associated with the Institute. The inauguration of the new building was scheduled for 4th May, 1980.


Procession singing Tagore Songs

On 4th May 1980, the city of Kolkata witnessed a historic moment when 1500 people marched down the streets singing Rabindra Sangeet, reciting Tagore’s poems and carrying posters with quotations from Tagore. The traffic was not disturbed, for the procession maintained perfect decorum. The scorching heat of May did not inhibit the spirit of the participants. Among those present on that day were Sri Sushil Kumar Mukhopadhyay (ex-VC of Calcutta University) and his wife, Sri Pratul Chanda Gupta (ex-VC of Visva Bharati and Rabindra Bharati University), Sri Binayendra Dasgupta (ex-VC of North Bengal University), Sri Debipada Bhattacharya (VC of Rabindra Bharati), Smt. Maitreyee Devi, Sri Pramatha Nath Bishi, Sri Santosh Kumar Ghosh, Sri Ananda Gopal Sengupta, Sri Sudhangshu Mohan Bandyopadhyay, Sri Dhyanesh Narayan Chakrabarty and many others. Sri Bhudeb Choudhury and Sri Somendranath Bandyopadhyay came from Santiniketan. Among the political personalities present were Prof. Dilip Chakrabarty, Prof. Ashok Mukherjee, Prof. Sandip Das, ex-revolutionary Sri Sunil Das and the then minister for PWD Sri Jatin Chakrabarty. They left their party affiliations behind; they took part in the event as well-wishers of the Institute, on account of their commitment to Tagore.

The procession stopped briefly at Triangular Park to meet Sri Debabrata Biswas, who could not take part in the procession due to his ill health. However, he was eagerly waiting outside his house to greet the procession.

The procession started at 8 am with the blowing of the conch-shell and the singing of Rabindra Sangeet. Male participants in the procession wore kurta-pajama and a yellow scarf and women wore red-bordered sarees with yellow blouses. Along with many famous personalities and teachers from schools, colleges and universities (not directly associated with the Institute), some schoolchildren and college students took part in the procession.

At 9:15 the procession reached the Bhavan. The gathering was received at the gate of the Bhavan by Sri Suddhasattwa Basu. Sri Sukumar Sen, the eminent scholar who formally inaugurated the Bhavan, said in his speech that although he had received many prizes and awards in his lifetime, the privilege of inaugurating abindraCharchaBhavan was the greatest honour that had come his way. Also present was the then Governor of West Bengal Sri Tribhuvan Narayan Singh.

A plaque installed outside the building commemorates the appreciation of common people.