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Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Celebrate Rabindranath Tagore Anniversary

2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Rabindranath Tagore. He was born on 7 May 1861, the youngest son of Maharshi Debendra Nath Tagore and grandson of Prince Dwarkanaith Tagore. A noted poet, novelist, musician and painter he was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (1913). He wrote what are the national anthems of India and Bangladesh.

For Unitarians Tagore should be a significant figure. The Tagore family were closely connected with the Brahmo Samaj; the monotheistic movement for social and religious reform which had links with Unitarianism going back to the Ram Mohan Roy, who founded the movement in Calcutta in 1828.

Tagore delivered the Hibbert Lectures on "The Religion of Man" at Manchester College, Oxford in 1930. William Radice explored this visit in an article in the most recent "Faith and Freedom" (vol 63, part 2, Autumn and Winter 2010).

In 1961 the London Brahmo Samaj celebrated the Tagore Centenary with a service at Gandhi Memorial Hall in Fitzroy Square. We have the impressive programme at Essex Hall. Rev Dudley Richards, then General Assembly Assistant Secretary, led an opening prayer. Indeed, the GA even advertised in the programme.

A Tagore poem is included in "Hymns for Living" (no 299) - "Now I Recall my Childhood". "The Real Presence" by Tagore is part of a service by Will Hayes, the well-known Unitarian Minister, in "Every Nation Kneeling" (1954).

UNESCO are playing a major role in the celebrations. A statement says that by observing his 150th birth anniversary globally, it hopes to "build up a conception of the universal reconciled with the particular, now that peace is being jeopardized nationally, regionally and internationally by identity-related and spiritual tension".

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