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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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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.

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Ten Inspiring Quotes by Famous Personalities on World’s Oldest Religion “Hinduism”

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A Temple in India, Hinduism
Hinduism is a choice of living and is only one absolute, pure and eternal reality that can be found through enlightenment: A Temple in India. Pixabay

– by Tusheeta Kaushik

About hinduism:

June 24, 2017: “Hinduism” Being the oldest and the third largest religion in the world and with over a billion followers – many believe that Hinduism is a choice of living (way of living) and is only one absolute, pure and eternal reality that can be found through enlightenment. Its all about spirituality.

Some Hinduism practitioners and scholars refer to it as Sanātana Dharma, “the eternal tradition,” or the “eternal way,” beyond human history. Scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion or synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions,[7][note 5] with diverse roots and no founder.This “Hindu synthesis” started to develop between 500 BCE and 300 CE following the Vedic period (1500 BCE to 500 BCE)

Its sacred writings date as far back as 1400 to 1500 B.C. It is also one of the most diverse and complex, having millions of gods. Hindus have a wide variety of core beliefs and exist in many different sects. Although it is the third largest religion in the world, Hinduism exists primarily in India and Nepal.

The main texts of Hinduism are the Vedas (considered most important), Upanishadas, the Mahabharata, and the Ramayana. These writings contain hymns, incantations, philosophies, rituals, poems, and stories from which Hindus base their beliefs. Other texts used in Hinduism include the Brahmanas, the Sutras, and the Aranyakas.

This faith has taken on the form of everything we see today- including gods and goddesses. So even though they worship many gods, in reality it’s a monotheistic religion. 

10 Inspiring Quotes on Hinduism By Famous Personalities

 

  1. George Bernard Shaw believed Hinduism to be a monotheistic religion. He said that Hinduism is so elastic and subtle that the most profound Methodist and crudest Idolator are equally at home with it.”
    10 Inspiring Quotes on Hinduism
  2. Sir Charles Norton Edgecumbe Eliot didn’t consider Hinduism as a religion but a way of life. He also said “The Hindu has an extraordinary power of combining dogma and free thought, uniformity, and variety, here utmost latitude of information is allowed and in all ages Hindus have been devoted to speculation”.
10 Inspiring Quotes on Hinduism

3. Mark Twain believed that the only way to save oneself from any danger, loss or harm would be through Hinduism. He also said ” Our most valuable and instructive materials in the history of man are all treasured up in India, it is already becoming clear that a chapter which had a western beginning will have to have an Indian ending if its not to end in self destruction of the human race. In Hinduism we have the attitude and spirit that can make it possible for the human race to grow together into a single family.”

10 Inspiring Quotes on Hinduism

4. Dr Arnold Toynbee believed in the concept of spreading love, honesty and attaining enlightenment- mentioned in the holy book of Hindus. He said that “This spiritual gift i.e Hinduism that makes a man human is still alive in Indian souls, go on and give the world Indian examples of it, nothing else can do so much to help mankind to save itself  from destruction.”

10 Inspiring Quotes on Hinduism

5. Mahatma Gandhi strongly believed in hunting of truth through non- violent means and that Hinduism is a constant trailing after truth. He also said ” Ancient India has survived because Hinduism was not developed along material but spiritual lines.

10 Inspiring Quotes on Hinduism

6. Swami Vivekananda was proud to belong to a religion which taught the world forbearance at the time of adversity and a worldwide acceptance. He also said “I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all the nations of the earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the purest remnant of the Israelite s, who came to the southern India and took refuge with us in the very year in which there holy temple was shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny.”

10 Inspiring Quotes on Hinduism

7. Sir Monier Monier Williams relentlessly believed in the strength of infinite adaptability to the infinite diversity to the human character and human tendencies mentioned in the holy books of Hindus. He stated that “no description of Hinduism can be exhaustive which does not touch on almost every religious and philosophical idea that the world has ever known.”

10 Inspiring Quotes on Hinduism

8. Will Durant fervently believed in the teachings of Bhagwat Gita on tolerance, gentleness of mature mind and spreading love in the world. He further added – “It is true that even across the Himalayan barrier, India has sent such gifts such as grammar, logic, philosophy, fables, hypnotism, chess and above all numerals and the decimal system to the west.”

10 Inspiring Quotes on Hinduism

9. Thomas Berry believed Hinduism to be a dynamic process and said “For this reason, Hinduism must be studied not as a fixed body of doctrine but as a developing tradition that has changed considerably throughout the centuries and which is still changing in the creative direction, everything in India makes sense in the light of the changing process.”

10 Inspiring Quotes on Hinduism

10. Alain Danielou a.k.a Shiv Sharan believed that the Hindus live in perpetuity, while in Banarus, Danielou converted to Hinduism taking the initiates name of Shiv Sharan.

– by Tusheeta Kaushik of NewsGram