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May 10, 2017: Every year in early May, the cultural buzz word in eastern India is the birth anniversary of Rabindra Nath Tagore, Asia’s firs nobel laureate in the year 1913. So much in the adulation that Tagore’s birth anniversary has become a matter of elaborate rituals for many. Cultural programmes based on Tagore’s writings, mainly the rich collection of his songs are held in our state Tripura. The day passes off elegantly amidst mild festivity but in the process a crucial historical fact is kept in oblivion : it was the erstwhile princely state of Tripura and its magnanimous rulers who contributed largely to making Rabindra Nath who he ultimately became. Tagore had been closely associated with four generations of Tripura kings-Bir Chandra Manikya (1862-1896) , Radhakishore Manikya (1896-1909) , Birendra Kishore Manikya (1909-1923) and Bir Bikam Kishore Manikya (1923-1947). Tagore and his dream institution ‘Viswa Bharati’ had also been beneficiaries of the bounties of Tripura.

Tagore with Bir Bikram Kishore Deb Manikya

Leaving aside all other things, on the day of Tagore’s birth anniversary we can recall a creation of Tagore based on Tripura. In the year of 1882 Tagore had requested the Tripura king B ir Chandra Manikya to send him information on Tripura and its history. Tagore wrote his famous novel ‘Rajashi’ on the basis of what the king had sent. This novel, first published in 1886 was rendered into a more famous drama ‘Visarjan’ which has been staged across the world.

‘Visarjan’ is based on the eternal theme of bigotry and liberalism and progress. King Gobinda Manikya was deeply moved by the death of a little girl Hasi who had been shellshocked by a long trail of blood flowing from ‘Mata Bhuvaneshwari’ temple close to royal palace in Uaipur into the nearby river ‘Gomati’.He had called for ban on animal and human sacrifice in the temple and this led to a serious difference of opinion with the fanatical priest Raghupati. By a palace conspiracy king Gobinda Manikya had to flee his kingdom , handing over charge to his ambitious younger brother Nakshatra. But things moved fast as Raghupati’s disciple Jaysingh sensed his preceptor’s deception and out of frustration committed suicide , leaving Raghupati in terrible shock and a realization of the falsity of his views. Gobinda Manikya who had decided to spend the rest of his life as an ascetic was invited by his subjects to come back and take over the reins of power as his younger brother Nakshatra had died. This eternal theme has formed the basis of many literary masterpieces but ‘Visarjan’ retains its charm and attraction. But it is tragic that even on Tagore’s birth anniversary nobody in Tripura seems to care for the historic value and importance of this timeless drama.

-By Tapas Dey

The writer can be reached at dey.tapas@gmail.com

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