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Tagore's sojourn to 'Abode of Clouds'

By The Assam Tribune
Tagores sojourn to Abode of Clouds
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Source: Malabika Bisharad

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Guwahati, May 9: "Gormi jokhon tutlo na aar pakhar haowa sarbote- thanda hote daure elum- Shillong namak porbote" -When the heat of the summer could not be mitigated by fans and sharbat (soft drink), I rushed to the hills called Shillong- an excerpt from 'Shillonger Chiti' deciphers Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore's fondness for the hill State. The calmness and tranquility of the place surrounded by pine and deodar trees are reflected in Tagore's verses where he spent a considerable period in the year 1919, 1923 and 1927.

The poet laureate during his visit to Shillong stayed in different locations, including the Brookside Bungalow situated in Rilbong. The scenic beauty of Brookside inspired Tagore to pen down one of his magnum opus, 'Shesher Kobita'. Almost 13 chapters of this novel have Shillong as the backdrop.

To understand more about the stalwart's life and work in Shillong, The Assam Tribune reached out to researcher and activist Malabika Bisharad who threw light on how the place has come to life in the writings of Tagore.

Malabika Bisharad

First Visit: 1919

Nobel Laureate Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore visited and stayed in Brookside bungalow at Kenches Trace Rilbong locality, Shillong (formerly Assam) for the first time in October 1919 for three weeks during British rule in India. Shillong was then the capital of Assam province. The house belonged to K. C Dey and it was rented by Tagore where he stayed along with his family members.

During his first visit to Shillong, Tagore was extremely busy with his translation works for his next tour to Australia (later it was cancelled). Tagore penned two very small stories, "Ekti Chowni"(A glance) and "Ekti Din"(one day) at Brookside during his stay. He used to send letters to his family members and friends from Brookside. Tagore was highly impressed with the natural beauty of the place and the aka-beka (zigzag) roads which has often been mentioned in his letters.

Second Visit: 1923

During his second visit Tagore stayed at Jitbhumi bungalow in the same locality of Kenches Trace Rilbong, Shillong during summer in 1923. He rented the house most probably from Rai Bahadur Jatindranath Chakraborty. Earlier, Jitbhumi belonged to Dr Debendranath Chottopadhyay (Tagore's niece Manisha Devi's husband).

Tagore composed the first draft of Rakta Karobi/Red Oleanders drama), Shillong er Chitti/Letter from Shillong(poem), Prachi (poem) and few songs. He wrote few letters to his family members and friends which unveiled the social atmosphere of Shillong during the British rule.

Third Visit: 1927

Tagore visited and stayed at Solomon Villa bungalow (later it was named as Sidhli house) at Upland Road, Laitumkhrah, Shillong during his third and last visit in 1927. During that time, he was invited by his friend and merchant Ambalal Sarabhai to come and stay at Shillong during summer. Tagore came along with his family members and friends to stay at Solomon Villa. During this time, he composed the novel Tinpurush. Later he changed the name as Yogayog. He penned few poems like Suksari, Debdaru, Susamoy Nutan, Griholaxmi etc. at Solomon Villa. He also wrote few songs and wrote letters to his family members and friends.



In the words of Bisharad, Tagore was highly impressed with the scenic beauty of Shillong. He described about the springs, the mountain ranges, the clouds, the zigzag road through pines in his letters written from Shillong and written far away from Shillong. He sketched the story of Shesher Kobita/ Farewell My Friend after visiting Brookside and Jitbhumi. It has been proved by the authors through research work. Tagore liked Shillong very much except the rains. Nevertheless, Shillong was very much closer to his heart than Darjeeling.

During the British rule the political scenario of the country was disturbed and the British government came down hard on leaders of the Indian National Congress. The infamous Rowlatt Act also came into force in 1919. Tagore was a critic of the act and even went to the extent of denouncing Knighthood on May 31, 1919, as a fallout of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre on April 13, 1919.

"Tagore disliked the timid attitude of the government servicemen, who kept distance from him during his visits. Tagore denounced the title "Sir" in protest against the Jalianwala Bagh massacre at Amritsar Punjab in May 1919 before his first visit to Shillong in October 1919. The people of Shillong or the British government didn't felicitate the Nobel Laureate during his visits. People of Shillong were very much afraid of the strict rule of British Raj. Though many people visited Tagore at Brookside, Jitbhumi and Solomon Villa. Tagore loved Shillong from the core of his heart and made Shillong famous by writing "Sesher Kobita"/Farewell My Friend in 1928 at Srilanka and India," asserts Bisharad.

Cementing ties

The 'native' versus 'outsiders' debate in the Indian state of Meghalaya has been a long drawn one. On being asked about how Tagore's work or revival/preservation of his work will help in cementing ties between the linguistic communities of the State, Bisharad states, "Tagore always believed in peace and brotherhood. He had seen the culture of Khasi tribe and was fond of it. When Tagore visited Shillong, people from all communities loved and respected each other. Then their fight was against the British rule in India. Tagore's messages, write ups, letters, songs will definitely help the people to respect and love each other."

Beyond Language

Considering his popularity Tagore's work has been widely translated. Almost all his works, which ranged from history, language, politics and philosphy have been translated in several languages, Khasi and Garo were no exceptions.

E. Weston Dkhar and Pascal Malngiang translated and transcreated Tagore's Gitanjali into Khasi languages. S.Norindel Roy and Sweetymon Rynjah also translated Gitanjali in their mother tongue. "There are many Khasi and Garo Tagore admirers in Meghalaya. They are very good Rabindra Sangeet singers and they love and respect Rabindranath Tagore from their heart. Wilson Marak translated Tagore works as "Rabindranath Tagore Ni Basegimin Golporang Aro Poidorang". D.S Rangmuthu translated Lila Mazumder's book on Rabindranath into Garo language," says Bisharad.

She further adds that in 1930 when Tagore was alive Dr Binod Bihari Roy translated many Rabindra Sangeet into Khasi language. Aguner Parosh Moni (Ha Jingim to pyndei ka dingmaw lyngnai) is one of them. There are many writers who are very much interested to translate Tagore's Shesher Kobita and other works into their language.

While highlighting the need for more translation of Tagore's work, she states that people of Shillong from all communities now celebrate Tagore's birthday every year and the Department of Arts and Culture Meghalaya also support them.

Reminiscing the visit of former President Pranab Mukherjee, Bisharad states Brookside has been blessed by the visits of the Governors of Meghalaya and President of Bangladesh. Many prominent personalities, authors from different parts of the world visits Brookside to search the backdrop of Shesher Kobita/Farewell My Friend.

Revival of Brookside

As informed by Bisharad, Brookside has been purchased by the State Government of Meghalaya from its owners in September 1989. The government then opened the 'Rabindra Art Gallery' in the front side of Brookside bungalow in January 1992.

"People of Rilbong Kenches Trace locality used to celebrate Tagore's birthday at Jitbhumi which is located in Rilbong. Very few people used to come to Brookside owing to the zigzag roads covered with pine trees. Due to some negligence Brookside was almost dilapidated during first part of 2000. In the last part of 1990's, many pine trees were removed to make an auditorium at Brookside. The natural beauty of Brookside was hampered," said Bisharad.

In August 2010 renovation works of the house Brookside was started by the State Government of Meghalaya. However, the Solomon Villa was destroyed and it's memorial Plaque was removed by its owner. "Now Brookside bungalow needs renovation and proper maintenance. It is needed to be declared officially as a Heritage site by the State Government of Meghalaya," adds Bisharad.

Bisharad also informed that the Minister of Arts and Culture Sanbar Shullai has called on her and informed that the State Government of Meghalaya will open Rabindra Bhawan in the auditorium where the Temporary Assembly is set up and the project will be funded by the Central Government.

"Rabindra Bhawan is a long standing demand of Tagore lovers of Shillong since 1961. We hope that the State Government will fulfill the public demand and people of Meghalaya specially the students will be benefited through the endeavour. They will experience the educational and cultural atmosphere which is received at Viswa Bharati Santiniketan in their own place. Brookside has the potential to become the cultural nerve centre of North East in particular and Nation/world at large," says Bisharad.




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Tagores sojourn to Abode of Clouds

Guwahati, May 9: "Gormi jokhon tutlo na aar pakhar haowa sarbote- thanda hote daure elum- Shillong namak porbote" -When the heat of the summer could not be mitigated by fans and sharbat (soft drink), I rushed to the hills called Shillong- an excerpt from 'Shillonger Chiti' deciphers Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore's fondness for the hill State. The calmness and tranquility of the place surrounded by pine and deodar trees are reflected in Tagore's verses where he spent a considerable period in the year 1919, 1923 and 1927.

The poet laureate during his visit to Shillong stayed in different locations, including the Brookside Bungalow situated in Rilbong. The scenic beauty of Brookside inspired Tagore to pen down one of his magnum opus, 'Shesher Kobita'. Almost 13 chapters of this novel have Shillong as the backdrop.

To understand more about the stalwart's life and work in Shillong, The Assam Tribune reached out to researcher and activist Malabika Bisharad who threw light on how the place has come to life in the writings of Tagore.

Malabika Bisharad

First Visit: 1919

Nobel Laureate Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore visited and stayed in Brookside bungalow at Kenches Trace Rilbong locality, Shillong (formerly Assam) for the first time in October 1919 for three weeks during British rule in India. Shillong was then the capital of Assam province. The house belonged to K. C Dey and it was rented by Tagore where he stayed along with his family members.

During his first visit to Shillong, Tagore was extremely busy with his translation works for his next tour to Australia (later it was cancelled). Tagore penned two very small stories, "Ekti Chowni"(A glance) and "Ekti Din"(one day) at Brookside during his stay. He used to send letters to his family members and friends from Brookside. Tagore was highly impressed with the natural beauty of the place and the aka-beka (zigzag) roads which has often been mentioned in his letters.

Second Visit: 1923

During his second visit Tagore stayed at Jitbhumi bungalow in the same locality of Kenches Trace Rilbong, Shillong during summer in 1923. He rented the house most probably from Rai Bahadur Jatindranath Chakraborty. Earlier, Jitbhumi belonged to Dr Debendranath Chottopadhyay (Tagore's niece Manisha Devi's husband).

Tagore composed the first draft of Rakta Karobi/Red Oleanders drama), Shillong er Chitti/Letter from Shillong(poem), Prachi (poem) and few songs. He wrote few letters to his family members and friends which unveiled the social atmosphere of Shillong during the British rule.

Third Visit: 1927

Tagore visited and stayed at Solomon Villa bungalow (later it was named as Sidhli house) at Upland Road, Laitumkhrah, Shillong during his third and last visit in 1927. During that time, he was invited by his friend and merchant Ambalal Sarabhai to come and stay at Shillong during summer. Tagore came along with his family members and friends to stay at Solomon Villa. During this time, he composed the novel Tinpurush. Later he changed the name as Yogayog. He penned few poems like Suksari, Debdaru, Susamoy Nutan, Griholaxmi etc. at Solomon Villa. He also wrote few songs and wrote letters to his family members and friends.



In the words of Bisharad, Tagore was highly impressed with the scenic beauty of Shillong. He described about the springs, the mountain ranges, the clouds, the zigzag road through pines in his letters written from Shillong and written far away from Shillong. He sketched the story of Shesher Kobita/ Farewell My Friend after visiting Brookside and Jitbhumi. It has been proved by the authors through research work. Tagore liked Shillong very much except the rains. Nevertheless, Shillong was very much closer to his heart than Darjeeling.

During the British rule the political scenario of the country was disturbed and the British government came down hard on leaders of the Indian National Congress. The infamous Rowlatt Act also came into force in 1919. Tagore was a critic of the act and even went to the extent of denouncing Knighthood on May 31, 1919, as a fallout of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre on April 13, 1919.

"Tagore disliked the timid attitude of the government servicemen, who kept distance from him during his visits. Tagore denounced the title "Sir" in protest against the Jalianwala Bagh massacre at Amritsar Punjab in May 1919 before his first visit to Shillong in October 1919. The people of Shillong or the British government didn't felicitate the Nobel Laureate during his visits. People of Shillong were very much afraid of the strict rule of British Raj. Though many people visited Tagore at Brookside, Jitbhumi and Solomon Villa. Tagore loved Shillong from the core of his heart and made Shillong famous by writing "Sesher Kobita"/Farewell My Friend in 1928 at Srilanka and India," asserts Bisharad.

Cementing ties

The 'native' versus 'outsiders' debate in the Indian state of Meghalaya has been a long drawn one. On being asked about how Tagore's work or revival/preservation of his work will help in cementing ties between the linguistic communities of the State, Bisharad states, "Tagore always believed in peace and brotherhood. He had seen the culture of Khasi tribe and was fond of it. When Tagore visited Shillong, people from all communities loved and respected each other. Then their fight was against the British rule in India. Tagore's messages, write ups, letters, songs will definitely help the people to respect and love each other."

Beyond Language

Considering his popularity Tagore's work has been widely translated. Almost all his works, which ranged from history, language, politics and philosphy have been translated in several languages, Khasi and Garo were no exceptions.

E. Weston Dkhar and Pascal Malngiang translated and transcreated Tagore's Gitanjali into Khasi languages. S.Norindel Roy and Sweetymon Rynjah also translated Gitanjali in their mother tongue. "There are many Khasi and Garo Tagore admirers in Meghalaya. They are very good Rabindra Sangeet singers and they love and respect Rabindranath Tagore from their heart. Wilson Marak translated Tagore works as "Rabindranath Tagore Ni Basegimin Golporang Aro Poidorang". D.S Rangmuthu translated Lila Mazumder's book on Rabindranath into Garo language," says Bisharad.

She further adds that in 1930 when Tagore was alive Dr Binod Bihari Roy translated many Rabindra Sangeet into Khasi language. Aguner Parosh Moni (Ha Jingim to pyndei ka dingmaw lyngnai) is one of them. There are many writers who are very much interested to translate Tagore's Shesher Kobita and other works into their language.

While highlighting the need for more translation of Tagore's work, she states that people of Shillong from all communities now celebrate Tagore's birthday every year and the Department of Arts and Culture Meghalaya also support them.

Reminiscing the visit of former President Pranab Mukherjee, Bisharad states Brookside has been blessed by the visits of the Governors of Meghalaya and President of Bangladesh. Many prominent personalities, authors from different parts of the world visits Brookside to search the backdrop of Shesher Kobita/Farewell My Friend.

Revival of Brookside

As informed by Bisharad, Brookside has been purchased by the State Government of Meghalaya from its owners in September 1989. The government then opened the 'Rabindra Art Gallery' in the front side of Brookside bungalow in January 1992.

"People of Rilbong Kenches Trace locality used to celebrate Tagore's birthday at Jitbhumi which is located in Rilbong. Very few people used to come to Brookside owing to the zigzag roads covered with pine trees. Due to some negligence Brookside was almost dilapidated during first part of 2000. In the last part of 1990's, many pine trees were removed to make an auditorium at Brookside. The natural beauty of Brookside was hampered," said Bisharad.

In August 2010 renovation works of the house Brookside was started by the State Government of Meghalaya. However, the Solomon Villa was destroyed and it's memorial Plaque was removed by its owner. "Now Brookside bungalow needs renovation and proper maintenance. It is needed to be declared officially as a Heritage site by the State Government of Meghalaya," adds Bisharad.

Bisharad also informed that the Minister of Arts and Culture Sanbar Shullai has called on her and informed that the State Government of Meghalaya will open Rabindra Bhawan in the auditorium where the Temporary Assembly is set up and the project will be funded by the Central Government.

"Rabindra Bhawan is a long standing demand of Tagore lovers of Shillong since 1961. We hope that the State Government will fulfill the public demand and people of Meghalaya specially the students will be benefited through the endeavour. They will experience the educational and cultural atmosphere which is received at Viswa Bharati Santiniketan in their own place. Brookside has the potential to become the cultural nerve centre of North East in particular and Nation/world at large," says Bisharad.