Edinburgh Napier University, Scotland, UK, welcomed its first chair in Tagore studies on March 13. Professor Indra Nath Choudhuri, former member secretary and academic director of Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, will promote the study of Tagore’s philosophy and works at The Scottish Centre for Tagore Studies (ScoTs), which is based at the university. More than the honour, Prof Choudhari says that the sense of duty and love for Tagore and an inner urge to disseminate Tagore’s literature in Scotland and beyond, forced him to take charge. Excerpts from an interview...
What do you hope to achieve through this initiative?
The very fact that Edinburgh Napier University is the first university in the world, besides Tagore’s own Visva-Bharati, to create a Tagore centre, unfolds our vision of bringing the world into a nest and building an international hub of literary culture and understanding of Tagore in the world literary context. It is a happy coincidence that Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) came forward to create the First Tagore Chair in the Edinburgh Napier University and focus on the Tagore’s vision for unity of man, during India’s best known cultural icon Rabindranath Tagore’s 150th birthday celebrations. I feel the urgency all the more to work in fulfilling this vision of both Edinburgh Napier and ICCR.
What are your plans?
The Chair’s role is to play a major part in supporting ScoTs, which is a branch of the Centre for Literature and Writing (CLAW) in the university’s Institute for Creative Industries. The primary and long term role of the Chair of Tagore Studies is to act as an ambassador for ScoTs by engaging with external institutions and public bodies to ensure that ScoTs has a high external profile.
The immediate plan is to develop an innovative website on Tagore for crafting an international focal point for all possible information about Tagore and his times. There are also plans to organise a series of events starting on his birthday in May and to construct academically very sound and attractive modules based on comparative literature methodology related with Tagore and Indian literature, social sciences and culture.
One of the major activities of ScoTs will be to establish Scottish/Indian networks that will build on the historic links between the two countries and thus bring an international dimension to ScoTs’ activities. This can be possible by planning a series of events to celebrate Tagore in Scotland and also by researching the relationship between Tagore and Sir Patrick Geddes and other Western cultural figures such as Einstein, WB Yeats and Ezra Pound, and many others to establish the importance of the relationship between Tagore and the West.
How will ScoTs help India’s higher edu sector?
ScoTs doesn’t have any such mandate but in its terms of reference, Tagore’s notion of education figures prominently. On that basis I strongly feel that the educational system of India or any other country should follow Tagore’s view that the object of education is the freedom of mind, which can only be achieved through the path of freedom. Educational institutes should give students the completeness of the world. Tagore once said that the university is there to offer us an opportunity for working together in a common pursuit of truth, to know the complete world and the Mother Nature all around us and also to create an atmosphere of ideas.
Do you plan to engage with institutes here?
In addition to an already established relationship with Visva- Bharati, ScoTs has plans to network with Indian institutes like Indira Gandhi National Open University, New Delhi, Modern Indian Languages Department, University of Delhi, Central University, Kerala, Central University, Gujarat, National Academy of Letters, India, New Delhi, and similarly with School of Oriental and Africal Studies, London, Tagore Centre, London, Millennium Trust, Kant, etc, for academic interaction, joint seminars and workshops and other activities. The following areas of research which are still very relevant are earmarked for PhD students: The notion of nationalism, cosmopolitanism and the issue of universality, violence, Tagore and Gandhi, Tagore and post-colonialism and the philosophy of Tagore and the Upanishadic impact.
We hear research fellowships will also be offered....
The fellowships given to ScoTs by ICCR are for a period of six months to pursue research in India. Details at firstname.lastname@example.org.