New Delhi: Visva Bharati, the university set up by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore in Shantiniketan, will be made one of the crown jewels of Indian academic world, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Saturday.
Singh opened the 150th birth anniversary of the poet, which is being celebrated jointly by India and Bangladesh.
"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," Singh told the opening ceremony of the anniversary commemorations at the Vigyan Bhavan in Delhi.
The prime minister, who is the chancellor of the university, has taken up a special project with a Rs.95 crore funding to restore Visva Bharati to its former glory and conserve Tagore`s legacy of "books, paintings and manuscripts".
He said the government was working with the Archaeological Survey of India to preserve Shantiniketan, where 27 heritage buildings have been restored.
Singh also 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 be awarded at the end of the commemoration year in 2012.
The prime minister said: "The commemoration events planned over the next year are intended to rekindle interest in Tagore`s thoughts and teachings as much as in his verses, his paintings and his music".
The commemoration was attended by a 19-member delegation from Bangladesh led by Planning Minister A.K. Khandkar.
United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi was the guest of honour at the ceremony, which was also attended by External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, Culture Minister Kumari Selja, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni, Communications, Information Technology and Human Resources Development Minister Kapil Sibal, Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) president Karan Singh, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.
The prime minister said the ministry of culture has introduced a new Tagore National Fellowship for Cultural Research.
"Under the scheme, renowned scholars have been invited to take up research projects on unknown or lesser known cultural resources that lie within our institutions. I invite distinguished scholars from India and the world over to avail of the prestigious fellowship," he said.
Several commemorative souvenirs, including a compilation of the digital prints of Tagore`s paintings, a DVD pack of his restored movies, commemorative stamps and special editions of the ministry of external affairs publications dedicated to Tagore were released to mark the occasion.
Union minister Pranab Mukherjee said: "A new Tagore Cultural Complex Scheme would encourage the establishment of new cultural complexes in big and small towns and the upgradation of the existing Rabindra Bhawans and cultural centres set up during the centenary celebrations of Tagore in 1961".
The government would fund 60 percent of the project cost, he said.
Describing the poet as Bengal`s Shakespeare, Sonia Gandhi said Tagore`s legacy "is part of our common heritage."
She recalled her family`s association with the Nobel laureate.
The foundation for the joint celebrations was laid by the prime ministers of India and Bangladesh in 2010.
The opening was marked by a series of cultural showcases in the national capital spread over the week.