New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday urged people to imbibe the ideals laid down by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore and "rise above the desert sands of dreary habits". On the poet-philosopher`s 150th birth anniversary, he also announced a Rs 95 crore grant to restore Visva-Bharati.
Addressing an elite gathering at Vigyan Bhavan here to mark the opening ceremony of the 150th birth anniversary commemorations of Tagore, the prime minister announced a special project to restore Visva-Bharati, the university set up by Tagore in Santiniketan in West Bengal, to its former glory and conserve the poet`s legacy of "books, paintings and manuscripts". The prime minister is chancellor of Visva-Bharati.
He said the "government was working with the Archaeological Survey of India to preserve Santiniketan and 27 heritage buildings have been restored".
"In commemorating Gurudev`s birth anniversary, I hope we can inspire each one of us to a moment of quiet reflection of his ideals and an urge to rise above the desert sands of dreary habits in the immortal words of the poet," he said, from the poet`s "Where the Mind is Without Fear".
The function was attended by a 59-member delegation from Bangladesh led by the country`s Planning Minister A.K. Khandkar. The 150th birth anniversary commemorations are a joint endeavour by India and Bangladesh.
UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi was the guest of honour at the function.
In an effort to perpetuate the ideals of Tagore, the prime minister said a special international prize has been instituted "in the name of Rabindranath Tagore to recognise every distinguished contribution towards the promotion of international brotherhood and fraternity". It will awarded at the end of the commemoration year.
The prime minister said, "the commemoration events planned over the next year are intended to rekindle interest in Rabindranath Tagore`s thoughts and teachings as much as in his verses, his paintings and his music".
"The audience has gathered here (Vigyan Bhavan) to salute and celebrate the life and work of a multi-facetted genius who was a poet, painter, philosopher; but above all a humanist who inspired and elevated his fellow and women."
"The Great Sentinel, as Mahatma Gandhi called him - was a moral force behind our freedom struggle and one who gave a vivid and expressive voice to the depressed soul of India.
Reading Tagore`s sublime poetry or masterly prose, one wonders if humankind today has lost some of the finer sensibilities that inspired his works - the intimacy with nature, the quest for inner truth, the sense of solidarity and community that transcends borders and breaks presumed barriers of religion, race or language," Manmohan Singh said.
"A wide range of projects are being undertaken as part of the commemorations to make Rabindranath Tagore`s works more accessible to a wider audience and to preserve his work for posterity. A digital collection of his paintings, entitled the `Rabindra Chitravali` (in four volumes), released today, was put together for the first time with great effort and with the support of our government," he added.
He said "Visva-Bharati should rightfully be one of the crown jewels of our academic world. But a lot of work needs to be done to restore this institution to its former glory and for it to live up to the true ideals of its founder."
Besides Sonia Gandhi, the others at the event were External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, Culture Minister Kumari Selja, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni, Communications Minister Kapil Sibal, ICCR president Karan Singh, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.