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Tagore Festival in Cairo celebrates the life and times of the Bard

Indian Embassy and Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture organise cultural events to commemorate Gurudev's 155th birth anniversary

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By Shillpi A Singh

In 2016, May 8 coincided with Ponchishe Boishakh (25th day of the Baisakh month) of the Bangla calendar that also happened to be Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s 155th birthday. To commemorate the birth anniversary of Gurudev, the Indian Embassy in Cairo and the Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture are currently hosting a five-day festival Tagore Festival that will end on May 12, 2016
Rabindranath Tagore. Wikimedia Commons
Rabindranath Tagore. Wikimedia Commons
“We take many small steps and build as many bridges as possible between the people of the two countries who share strong cultural bonds,” said Sanjay Bhattacharyya, India’s Ambassador to Egypt.
As a build up to the cultural event, the Embassy had organised a month-long online Quiz Completion, which started on April 10 and an essay competition in English, Hindi and Arabic on the Nobel Laureate. 
“There is a special bond between the people of the two countries, especially in the field of culture,” Sanjay said.
Day 1: Painting Exhibition and Book Launch
The Tagore Festival kick-started with an art exhibition showcasing the works of painters from 10 countries. “These 60 portraits on display in the exhibition are a visual representation of Tagore in the minds of artists from across 10 countries, including Egypt and India. It is a new perspective- looking at Tagore through the eyes of artists. We collaborated with the Egyptian Caricature Society in collecting the artworks,” Sanjay said.
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The exhibition was inaugurated on May 8, 2016 by Gomaa Farahat, Chairman of Board of Directors, Egyptian Association of Caricature at Abaad Gallary, Cairo Opera House and will remain open for the entire duration of the festival.
Day 2: Book Exhibition and Dance Drama
“Tagore, Egyptian writers and intellectuals have had a long association. The works of Tagore are quite popular in Egypt. There are almost a dozen translations of the Gitanjali itself and 43 of his works have been translated into Arabic. The Egyptian Culture Minister is keen to take up a project to translate more classics and contemporary works,” Bhattacharyya said.
Egyptian scholars have translated many of Tagore’s works into Arabic and have also written several books on him. These books are available at the National Library of Egypt, which has collaborated with the Indian Embassy in organising an exhibition of all such books. The exhibition was inaugurated by Helmy Namnam, Culture Minister of Egypt. While the Culture Minister read an extract from Gitanjali in Arabic, the Ambassador read the same in English to add to the theme of the day. Dr. Sharif Shaheen, Chairman, National Library and Archives of Egypt was also present at the occasion.
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The Ambassador and Farahat also released a book, Rabindranath Tagore: the Painter, on this occasion. The book has a message from the Ambassador, an introduction by R. Siva Kumar and another article by K.G. Subramanyam.
“It was gratifying to see the enthusiastic response of the people here. They had put up huge posters of newspaper articles relating to Tagore’s visit to Egypt way back in 1926. It shows their love for him and his work. We look forward to more such collaborations in future,” said the Ambassador.
Back cover of the book, Rabindranath Tagore: The Painter
A short film on Tagore was also screened on this occasion.
The Festival also featured Shapmochan (Breaking the Spell), a dance drama based on Tagore’s work by renowned Indian classical dancer Dona Ganguly and her troupe. Dr. Assem Nagaty, Head of National Centre of Theatre, Music and Folk Art, graced the occasion.
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“Bollywood has many takers here in Egypt. I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised to see a huge turnout for the Tagore dance drama “Shapmochan” in Odissi dance style at the Cairo Opera House and I was delighted that the Egyptians enjoyed it. It was a stunning show and the performance by Dona Ganguly and her troupe was marvellous,” he said.
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Day 3: Film Screening: Ghare Bhaire
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The film Ghare Baire by legendary Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray was screened to a packed house at the Hanager Arts Center, Cairo. Based on Tagore’s novel, Ghare Baire weaves a tale of love set in the chaos of the partition of Bengal and vortex of tumultuous emotions.
“The film Ghare Baire by Satyajit Ray is a sensitive depiction of nationalism and feminism within a tale of people in love who are swept away by their circumstances. It was a delight to watch the creative expression of the master novelist and master storyteller, once again,” he said.
Day 4: An evening of Rabindra Sangeet
Shreya Guhathakurta, a renowned Rabindra Sangeet exponent, presented Rabindra Sangeet or the songs written and composed by Tagore to the Egyptian audience at the Artistic Creativity Centre, Cairo Opera House. The performance of Rabindra Sangeet was preceded by a Short Documentary on Tagore “The Story of Geetanjali: Songs Offerings”, produced by the Government of India.
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“Though Tagore’s songs relate to all aspects of our lives, the two important facets which will be featured are his songs on women and his affinity for nature,” said Ambassador, adding, “Guhathakurta is a renowned Rabindra Sangeet singer from Kolkata. She is known for her unique style- a fusion of the old style with a contemporary presentation of the songs that helps connect with the audience.”
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Those present at the musical event included eminent historian and politician Prof. Sugata Bose from India and Minister of Industries Amir Hussain Amu from Bangladesh.
Day 5: A Seminar on Contemporary Literature: Tagore, Shawky & Mahfouz 
The festival will conclude on May 12 with a Seminar on Contemporary Literature: “Tagore, Shawky & Mahfouz”, which will feature Indian and Egyptian scholars and writers and will be conducted by the Supreme Council of Culture. The seminar will have two speakers from the Egypt and one speaker from India, noted historian and politician Sugata Bose. The Seminar will be moderated by Prof.  Amal El Sabban, Secretary General, Supreme Council of Culture, Ministry of Culture, Egypt. The Seminar will be held at the Council Hall of the Supreme Council of Culture, Cairo Opera House.
The Tagore Festival was organised by the Embassy of India and the Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture, Cairo, in association with the Egyptian Ministry of Culture, the Supreme Council of Culture, the Cairo Opera House and the National Library and Museum of Modern Art.  The Festival has also received generous support from Egyptian Indian Polyester Company (EIPET).
The Bard of Bengal:
Tagore was the first Asian to win the Nobel Award for Literature for his book “Gitanjali” in 1913. His poetry, novels, plays, short stories and essays are widely read in India and across the world. His songs have been set to music; his plays have been enacted as dance drama and his novels have been filmed.
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Rabindranath Tagore while reading. Photo credits: Indian diplomacy and Indian Embassy, Cairo
He is an integral part of India’s literary heritage and a towering figure in Bengali literature, who continues to inspire creativity even in the contemporary world. 
For the last 75 years, Tagore has been invoked on his birthday with “He Nutan, Dekha Dik Arbar…”, a song specially written for the occasion, by the man himself.
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Rabindranath Tagore with Gandhiji. Photo credits: Indian diplomacy and Indian Embassy, Cairo
It is a well-known fact that Tagore has written the national anthem of India (Jana Gana Mana) and also of Bangladesh (Amar Sonar Bangla). Tagore also penned the anthem of Sri Lanka at the request of his Sri Lankan student at Santiniketan, Ananda Samarkun, in 1938. In 1940, Ananda returned to his native land and translated the song into Sinhalese and recorded it in Tagore’s tune.
His Egyptian Link 
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Rabindranath Tagore. Photo credits: Indian diplomacy and Indian Embassy, Cairo
 
Rabindranath Tagore first visited Egypt in 1878 and later as a famous poet-philosopher in 1926 when he met King Fouad and interacted with scholars in Alexandria and Cairo. His friendship with Egyptian poet Ahmed Shawqy is well known. He wrote a moving eulogy on his friend’s death in 1932. 
The author can be contacted at shilpi.devsingh@gmail.com 

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Forks in the Road : 10 places to eat in Delhi

Delhi has so many diverse cuisines to offer. Here is the list of 10 places to eat in delhi which you can not miss

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Foodie Delhi
10 places to eat in Delhi (pexels)

Delhi, the present day cultural hub of India, which was once under the rule of The Parthians, The Turks, The Afghans, The Mughals and The Britishers which left an impact on the city and gave it its own  unique status. Tourists from all over the world come down to Delhi and lose their hearts to it scrumptious cuisines.

It’s winter in Delhi, a perfect weather for sampling Delhi’s most famous attractions- its incredible street food. It’s not just the street food that Delhi is famous for but a lot of history and culture that is mixed up with the food. Everything from Asoka era to Mughals to the invaders who held sway over Delhi to Purana Qila, have left the taste of the food behind.

To the variety of chats that will take you on tour of tangy, sweet and spicy flavours to the non-vegetarian food which will remind of the rich flavours to the food never tasted anywhere, Delhi has it all.

Here are 10 places to visit for indulging into the flavors of Delhi.

  1. Paranthe Wali Gali
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Paranthe Wali Gali since 1870s is the name of a narrow street in the Chandni Chowk area of Delhi known for its series of shops selling parantha, an Indian flatbread. The food is old fashioned, strictly vegetarian and the cooked dishes do not include onion or garlic. Stuffed aloo (potato), Gobi (cauliflower) and matar (peas) paranthas are the most popular ones. Lentil paranthas are also available. The cost could come up to 150 rupees for 2 people. This street is lit from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

  1. Dilli Haat
India Opines

Dilli Haat does not only showcase the rich Indian culture and diverse Indian Heritage, but is also one of the best place to enjoy regional food from all over the country. Dilli Haat provides various food stalls having food from various Indian States that gives you a variety of choice at low cost prices. Its timings are from 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Bijoli Grill- a West Bengal food stall offering Fish curry and Kosha Mangsho; Momo Mia, an Arunanchal Pradesh food stall offering Momos and Fruit Beer; Nagaland Kitchen, a Nagaland food stall offering Raja Mircha and Momos; Manipur Foods, a Manipuri Food Stall offering Fried Rice, Tarai Tong ad Fruit Beer; Rajasthani Food Stall offering Pyaaz Kachori, Desi Ghee Jalebi and Rajasthani Thali; Maharashtra Food Stall offering Vada Pav, Puran Poli, Shrikhand; Dawath-E-Awadh, a UP Food Stall offering Kebabs, Biryani and Phirni and other food stalls from states such as Andhra Pradesh, Assam and Kerala.

  1. Khan Market
The Urban Escapades

Khan Market is not only a place for die hard shoppers, it is also Delhi’s incredible food districts. A neighborhood that never sleeps, whose streets are filled with the scent of mutton kebab and fried rice. Khan Market has restaurants such as Town Hall Restaurant, The Big Chili Café, Yellow Brick Road Restaurant, Wok in Clouds, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Soda bottle opner wala, Azam’s Mughlai, Café Turtle, Omazoni and Market Café.

  1. Spice Aangan
EazyDiner

Tucked away in Safdarjung Development Area’s main market is a hole-in-the-wall tandoor-and-takeaway restaurant known as Spice Aangan. Spice Aangan has been a staple of the SDA market food scene for a while now. The hole-in-the-wall is bang opposite the small, grassless park located at the centre of the market. While there are a couple of steel benches at edge of the park to sit and enjoy their food, it is otherwise a purely takeaway and home delivery outlet. Restaurant serves tandoori snacks–chicken tikka, malai tikka, seekh kebab–as well as mutton dishes, curries, biryani and shawarma rolls. Despite so many options, though, you’d be hard pressed to find the regulars ordering anything other than the chicken shawarma.

  1. Karim’s
Musafir

Karim’s is a historic restaurant located near Jama Masjid Gali Kababian, Old Delhi, Delhi. It is know that this is the best restaurant in Delhi, serving non-vegetarian food since 1913. The original Karim’s is bang opposite Jama Masjid in the walled city area of Delhi. It is close to a market known as Darya Ganj. Those visiting Karim’s for the first time will be surprised at the location. Getting there is not easy, you will need to ask locals for help. Mutton Burra, Mutton Raan-this starter is huge, and is meant for four or five people. There is a wide range of kebabs including Seekh Kebabs, Shammi Kebabs and Mutton Tikka. Chicken Seekh Kebab, Tandoori Chicken or Chicken Tikka for those who love chicken. Mutton Korma, Mutton Stew and Badam Pasanda Chicken Noor Jehan and Chicken Jahangiri are the main courses to be tried once you get there. As for the bread Khamiri Roti is something not to be missed. Karim’s serves two main desserts Kheer Benazir and Shahi Tukda.

  1. Pandara Road
ScoopWhoop

Delhi serves delectable food in almost every nook and corner of the city. Whether it is crowded streets of Chandni Chowk or the sophisticated eateries of Khan Market. One such stop is Pandara Road Market, located near India Gate, the place serves best non-vegetarian food of the city, so all the meat lovers out there fill your wallets. Havemore offering the best Butter chicken and garlic naan and Gulati which is best known for its Dum Biryani and kebabs with the cost price of 1500 rupees for two, and many other restaurants like Chicken Inn, Pindi and Ichiban.

  1. Amar Colony
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Amar Colony is generally known to be the hub of garments but it is also the hidden street food hub. Home to a diverse population from India, Africa and Afghanistan, there is no doubt, diversity in food here too. A number of small joints for street food in Amar Colony exist which serve the most delicious dishes for you. Most of the shops are situated in the main market and are close to each other. Nagpal Chole Bhature, Hunger Strike, Tibb’s Frankie, Biryani Corner, 34 Chowringhee Lane, Sharma Chaat Bhandar, Deepaul’s Café, Dolma Aunty Momos, Muttu South Indian Anna, High On Burger are the best places to visit when on Pandara Road.

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  1. Hudson Lane, GTB Nagar
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Hudson Lane, very close to the main North Campus area, is one place where you will find one of the finest cafés and best restaurants in Delhi. Mostly serving Italian, Café, and Fast Food Cuisine, these quirky joints offer an amazing culinary experience at an extremely pocket-friendly price. Woodbox Café, Mad Monkey, Indus Flavors, QD’s, Ricos and Big yellow Door are the most recommended places to munch at.

  1. Jung Bahadur Kachori Wala
Delhipedia

Situated near Paranthe Wali Gal, Jung Bahadur Kachori Wala is a small but popular street stall that’s been serving sought- after Kachoris since the early 1970s. Kachori stuffed with urad dal and served with special spicy chutney is a must try ther.

  1. Connaught Place
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From fancy revolving restaurants to the delicious local rajma chawal, Connaught place does not discriminate when it comes to food. Home to some of the best restaurants in Delhii and also ironic dahbas, one can relish all kinds of cuisines here be it local, regional or international. Kake Da Hotel, Parikrama, Jain Chawal Wale, Minar and much more are the places to step up with.

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5 Events Of November Which Are Ideal For Family Vacations

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Events in November which will give you a vacation mood.
Events in November which will give you a vacation mood. Wikimedia.

As we approach the year’s end, Indians not just bid adieu to their summer outfits but also welcome the festival seasons. October and November are two months in India which are full of cultural events and festivals, which make these months, the ideal time for going on family vacations.

Below are the events of November 2017 which you will regret missing. They are worth the try for family vacations:

1.  Dev Deepavali, Varanasi

family vacations
Representational Image. The ghat of holy city Varanasi. 

Varanasi, the holiest city of India, celebrated Dev Deepavali on Kartik Poornima every year. The festival is celebrated with joy. The ghats of Varanasi are lit with beautiful diyas (earthen lamps). God is believed to have descended to the banks of Ganges, to take a holy dip. The festival will take place on November 3, 2017.

 2. Dharamsala International Film Festival

Filmmaker, cinema buffs or all those people interested in the art of films come together of Dharamsala International Film Festival (DIFF). This film festival will witness filmmakers coming from different regions to show films on various issues- socially relevant, contemporary etc. DIFF will take place from November 2 to November 5. If you are a movie buff, then you should immediately pack your bags and seal a date for attending the festival.

3. Pushkar Camel Fair, Rajasthan

Family vacations
Representational Image. Camel Fair is celebrated in Pushkar. Pixabay

Pushkar Camel fair, a cattle fair, in Pushkar which truly defines the real meaning of culture. The Pushkar Camel Fair has been in tradition for a very long time. The fair attracts a huge crowd every year. One of the most ideal and happy places for family vacations. It will take place between 23rd October to 4th November.

Also Read: 7 Beautiful Places To Visit In North East India

4. NH7 Weekender

The five seasons old Indian multi-city music festival has indeed garnered a lot of attention and love from the musically inclined youngsters across the country. It is a combination of national and international studies coming together. In Meghalaya, the event will take place from October 27 to October 28.

5. Guru Purab

family vacations
Sikhs celebrating Guru Purab. Wikimedia.

Guru Purab, one of the most important festivals for Sikhs. The golden temple celebrates it with a lot of joy. The celebration which Amritsar witnesses at this time are unbelievable. It will take place on November 2017. Golden temple is indeed one of the best places for family vacations.

-by Megha Acharya of NewsGram.  She can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya.

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Rituals Exist in All Cultures and they are Important

Rituals play a prominent role in every culture

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Religion
Ancient Indian Religion.

Hinduism is a practice, which is known for its rich rituals. From the Vedic ages, Hindus perform certain activities right from the time they wake up in the morning until the time they sleep. These activities may include, Pooja (worshipping lord) and Karya (Working), which integrate their culture. The events manifest a certain beauty, without which Hinduism is incomplete.

Different sects of Hindus worship different deities. Various Poojas are held for different festivities and occasions called the ‘Utsavas’. People during different festivals not just gather to worship the god, but also come together to celebrate life, with beautiful colours, clothes and delicious food. This itself proves that rituals manifest the beauty and celebration of life in Hinduism.

Meaning Of Rituals:

However, certain sections of the society have a preconceived notion about the rituals Hindus perform, which leads to them being called ‘superstitious’ or ‘overtly religious’. But is it fair to tag them? What is the meaning of the ritual? Ritual can be any activity which you perform. It is a way of communication. A teacher teaching his or her students can be a ritual. A mother feeding her baby is a ritual. Ritual is a generic term, which must not be linked with traditions, religion and beliefs? And, even if it is associated with these customs, then Hinduism should not be the only target. Every religion follows some beliefs. For example, a Muslim reading Namaz is a ritual; Christians visiting church on every Sunday is a ritual or Thanksgivings, when people have dinners with their friends and families. Hindus may have more rituals to act on than Muslims or Christians, but this gives no one the right to invalidate their belief. The rituals which Hindus perform don’t just have a connection with God, but also scientific reasons behind them. For example, Surya Namaskar is good for health as facing the light at that time of the day is good for your eyes, and makes you a morning person.

Also Read: Navratri 5th Day, The Tales That Speaks About Mother-Son Relationship

The reason why people not like rituals is due to their stifling and obligatory nature. Since our childhood, we have been asked to adhere to certain activities, and never taught the reason behind them. This develops disconnection towards them.

Benefits Of Rituals:

Rituals should be seen as art. We must not do it for the sake of doing it. We must sense its meaning like we sense the meaning of art. There is a side of these customs which we don’t want as well, but at the end of the day, they generate a sense of unity and belongingness. They bind you as a community. As long as we live as humans, these practices will have an integral role to play in our life, which can not be neglected.

by Megha Acharya of NewsGram.      Megha can be reached at Twitter @ImMeghaacharya.