I feel privileged to be invited to attend the first of its kind, not only in India but in Asia, the Tagore International Literature and Arts Festival named Vishwarang from 4 to 10 November 2019 at Bhopal, known as the city of lakes. Organized by the Rabindranath Tagore University and the AISECT Group of Universities, Vishwa Rang-2019 aimed to promote and celebrate the Indian languages including Hindi at a global scale as well as promoting traditional Indian arts and culture through various mediums of expression, discussion and discourse.
Over 500 artists and authors from over 30 nationalities participated in the event with 60interactive sessions over three days. The sessions of ‘NRI writers’ were aimed at highlighting the less known works of 25 NRI writers from countries like the United States and United Kingdom, Australia, Russia, Uzbegistan, China, Japan, Ukraine, among others.
The inaugural ceremony began with a Shankh Naad by Acharya Sankul and recitation of Mantras from Riga Veda, Swasti Gyan, by Dhrupad veterans Padma Shri Gundecha Brothers. An 18 volume collection of 630 stories from all over India, ‘Kathadesh, was also released. It gives a comprehensive glimpse of the journey of Hindi literature, spanning nearly 200 years.
For the first time in India, there was a poetry session by the Third Gender poets. Manabi Bandopadhayay, India’s first transgender college principal, was accompanied by a group of 10 third gender poets who also performed and sang their poetry. Exploring the growing role of Hindi across the world, there were sessions where 15 Hindi professors accompanied by their 50 students from the Hindi teaching universities in Russia, China and Japan, among other countries, discussed various aspects of the language, from challenges to solutions.
The international participants include Bangladeshi poet and essayist Mozid Mahmud, South African actress, writer and performance poet Lebogang Mashile, Burmese poet, poetry editor and translator Ko Ko Thett, Filipino poet, essayist and freelance journalist Marra PL. Lanot, Sri Lankan Tamil poet Dr Rudhramoorthy Cheran; Tibetan poet, writer and activist Tenzin Tsundue and Russian poet, essayist, cultural activist and anthropologist Igor Sid, among others.
The focus was on global concerns ‘Environment, Citizenship and Displacement’ while highlighting their importance through poetry of the last 50 years in the postmodern world, through sessions on ‘Tagore, Iqbal and Faiz’ and ‘World Literature in 21st Century’ provided key insights into the workings of the minds of great Indian writers and also expose the audience to the sea of world literature and how it has transformed in the 21st century.
There were two sessions on ‘World Poetry’ where poets from every continent took the centre stage to recite their poetry. Over 50 renowned Urdu poets including Waseem Barelvi, Rahat Indoori, Sheen Kaf Nizam, Rajesh Reddy, and Shaqil Azmi performed for a full house. Vishwa Rang should also be congratulated for providing a global platform to the youth to put forth their unique views through their poetry and short stories at multiple sessions through recitations and translations of their work in different languages. The Festival also kept a proper balance of academic and popular sessions. To keep the youth engaged, the sessions involved actor Ashutosh Rana and poet and lyricist Irshad Kamil, bands like Raghu Dixit Project and Mehfils like Sukhan performed in the evenings.
The Arts Festival also focused on Tagore and his various art forms including a presentation on Tagore’s paintings by Ashok Bhowmick, dance ballad, Gitanjali, Breathing Stone: Exhibition of Abstract Art Photography by the Festival’s Co-Director Mr Leeladhar Mandloi, Sessions on Indian Art covering a period of over last 150 years, Rabindra Sangeet by Peelu Bhattacharya and Group and Tagore’s Bengali Theatrical Drama in Hindi, Chandalika, by Usha Ganguly. The Festival also included the National Painting Exhibition where 158 paintings out of the thousands of entries from round the world were on display at the Bharat Bhawan-Bhopal.
Vishwa Rang 2019 is supported by various literary and cultural government bodies like Department of Culture and Tourism in Bhopal, Sahitya Akademi, Gyan Peeth, National Book Trust and Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts. Approximately 15,000 people, 1500 writers/artists participated in this festival, in which 50 books were also released, newspapers and magazines also released special editions on Vishwa-Rang.
The brain behind this exceptional festival is the author and social entrepreneur, Santosh Choubey, Director, Tagore International Literature and Arts Festival, Founder and Chairman of AISECT, is the Chancellor of Rabindranath Tagore University and Dr C V Raman. His associate is author, critic, filmmaker and editor Leeladhar Mandloi, Head of Vanmali Srijan Peeth’s-Delhi branch and executive director general of All India Radio and Doordarshan, ex Director – Bhartiya Gyanpeeth and editor of Naya Gyanoday. The entire team stands to be congratulated but I must mention Vinay Upadhyay, the celebrated anchor of prestigious programmes, whose voice kept us charmed throughout the festival.
And I must also mention the Pustak Yatra, a movement to bring back the tradition of reading to rekindle the love for literature among youth. Introduced by prominent Bollywood personalities including Rajat Kapoor, Piyush Mishra, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Vinay Pathak and Raghuveer Yadav, it has covered 50 locations in Madhya Pradesh, along with a plethora of activities like interschool poetry, short story writing, painting, competitions, story-telling, etc. A wide coverage can be viewed on www.tagorelitfest.com
Divya Mathur, MA, FRSA, well known author and the ex-Senior Programme Officer of The Nehru Centre-London, is the founder of Vatayan-UK.