Napier University in Edinburgh has opened a special centre dedicated to the life and works of Rabindranath Tagore (right), the first ever Indian Nobel Prize Winner. Tagore was a Bengali poet and philosopher who is said to have reshaped his region’s literature and music, by introducing new prose and verse forms and the use of colloquial language into Bengali literature. In his time, he was highly influential in introducing the best of Indian culture to the West. The opening of the centre — to be known as ScoTs (the Scottish Centre for Tagore Studies) — marks the 150th anniversary of his birth.
Based in the university’s Institute of Creative Industries, which has the second largest Indian student population of any Scottish university, ScoTs will “promote Indian culture, education, philosophy, art and literature by highlighting Tagore’s legacy’’. The first chair of the centre will be Professor Indra Nath Choudhuri (below), a former Member Secretary and Academic Director of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts.
“Edinburgh Napier is the only university in the world,” he said, “besides Tagore’s own university, which has a Tagore centre and which India recognises. It shows how much Scots are keen to the organic unity of minds, lives and culture which enable us to seek the truth, the ultimate aim of education. Tagore said that education is not to gather knowledge but to create drive for knowledge and ScoTs will ultimately create that kind of a drive for the broadening of the horizon of knowledge.”
Tagore won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913 and wrote thousands of poems, songs, novels and short stories before his death in 1941. He had strong links to Scotland, holding a long standing friendship with pioneering town planner Sir Patrick Geddes. Tagore’s grandfather, the entrepreneur Prince Dwarkanath, was also honoured with the Freedom of the City award by Edinburgh in 1845.
Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs in the Scottish Government, described Tagore as India’s “greatest artist, musician and poet”. She added that he had “many close ties to Scotland. ScoTs will celebrate these connections and Tagore’s legacy, deepening the relationship between our two countries. I am delighted that the centre is being launched in this, our Year of Creative Scotland,” she said.
The Centre was set up under an agreement with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), which is funding two PhD fellowships on the works of the influential writer.
Professor Dame Joan Stringer, Principal & Vice-Chancellor of Edinburgh Napier University, said: “It is a great honour to welcome Professor Choudhuri to the University. The works of Rabindranath Tagore have an eternal appeal and we are proud to be able to celebrate his vision and influence by establishing Scotland’s first centre for Tagore studies.”