Sundeep Bhutoria

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ess bee

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Dartington - Tagore fest in England's Shantiniketan

In Dartington
21 June, 2014, London: Yesterday night I reached Dartington. 
I should rather call it England's Shantiniketan since this lush 1160-acre sprawl of forests and farms is dedicated to education, learning, art, life experiments and sustainable projects partly inspired by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore and his Shantiniketan
I am in Dartington for a Tagore fest in Shakespeare's land. Thanks to the organizers I was given the most beautiful suite to stay in. The one in which, Her Majesty, The Queen of England, had stayed.
The three-day Dartington Tagore Festival is being held at the Dartington Estate in South Devon from June 20 - 22 at the Dartington Hall
With Scott Furssedonn Woods (British High Commissioner in Kolkata), Sir David Green (Chairman, Dartington Trust), Sanjoy Roy (Jaipur Literature Festival) and Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and his wife Subhalakshmi at the Dartington Estate
For three days, starting yesterday, Dartington will celebrate the works of Tagore through dance, music, art, yoga, debate, films and food. Chair of Dartington Trustees, Sir David Green, is a passionate advocate of the Tagore Festival and its key supporter.

At the entrance of Tagore Fest in Dartington
The grounds for my Dartington visit took shape when I met Sir Green in mid January 2014 in Jaipur. Sir Green was on research trip to India, particulary Bengal, to discuss the possibility of a Tagore inspired festival in India and UK.
This time, among others, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Dr Kalyan Kundu, Sangeeta Datta, Sukanta Chaudhuri, Tavlin Singh, Satish Kumar, Scott Furssedonn Woods (British High Commissioner in Kolkata) playwright Peter Oswald are participating.
Singer from Bengal, Swagatalakshmi Dasgupta was also scheduled to attend but could not due to some visa issues. The High Commissioner of Bangladesh in London, Mohamed Mirajul Quayes, attended the festival all three days with his family. 
The puchkas sold by the Indian stalls was a big hit.
With Lord Meghnad Desai at a phuchka stall

Another scrap of information that I want to share is that three paintings out of the ten Tagore paintings that Dartington Trust owns were put up for auction and some Bangladeshi industrialist bought it.
At the Dartington Estate I just attended a Round Table Meeting and yesterday had dinner with sarod maestro Ustad Amjad Ali Khan and his wife Subhalakshmi. Till date, Dartington has run four Tagore Fests in 1976, 2011, 2012, 2013. Dartington draws a million visitors from the corners of the world each year, many of them are art lovers, thinkers and community workers and activists. 
Dartington Hall was co-founded by Leonard Knight Elmhirst who was a personal friend and later, the secretary, of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore who stayed in Bengal for three years. Leonard, an agronomist and philanthropist, first met Nobel Laureate Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore in 1913 while studying at Cornell University. He returned to Bengal in 1921 to work as Tagore's secretary and created a department of rural reconstruction at Surul village (now Sriniketan) near Shantiniketan.

At the rail station of Dartington- Totnes
Inspired by Tagore, Leonard and his wife Dorothy founded the Dartington Hall in 1931 as an experiment in education, spirituality and the arts. Tagore had also helped Leonard during his younger days when he was courting Dorothy Straight nee Dorothy Whitney Payne - a philanthropist and one of the wealthiest American women of early 20th Century - whom he married later. 
Dartington Tagore Festival once again confirmed the huge influence that Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore has had across the globe. I have travelled to almost all the continents and found Tagore's overwhelming influence across cultures and how the people of far away lands, belonging to different cultures, have held the Bard of Bengal in high esteem.

With Sir David Green, Satish Kumar and others after a performance on the inaugural day
I am going back to London today and will miss Ustad Amjad Ali Khan's performance.
ess bee

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