Believed to be lost until August 2010, Dr Samuel Berhet stumbled on some Tagore’s photographs stashed away in the Alain Danielou and Raymond Burnier Photo Collection at Zagarolo in Italy. All the photographs were taken between 1932 and 1940, the period when Alain Danielou and his companion Raymond Burnier travelled between Europe and the subcontinent and resided in Shantiniketan. After the rigamarole of restoration, all the 99 restored photos of Tagore and Shantiniketan have been put up in exhibition curated by Dr Samuel Berthet himself. The restoration work has been largely done by Nazir Uddin Mahmud Liton, photographer from Bangladesh.
‘Shantiniketan became the first international cultural and educational centre in a world still under colonial regime. Tagore opened windows to intercultural dialogue, pioneering intangible heritage, pan Asian studies and multidisciplinary approach to arts, notions which by that time were yet to take shape.’, says Dr Berthet. While Shantiniketan has been proposed as a site for World Heritage owing to Tagore’s epochal approach on the consummation of arts of the world in the realm of lively heritage or intangible heritage. Shantiniketan has attuned people of the likes of Satyajit Ray, K.G.Subramanyam, Amaratya Sen, Alain Danielou, Elizabeth Brunner and Indira Gandhi among others. ‘Shantiniketan marked a turning point in the world history of art and culture.’, says Dr Bethet.
Shantiniketan’s architectural journey is fascinating and educative though people are hardly aware of it’s prudential facet. Tagore himself in his concern over environment wrote in his essay Sadhana: ‘The west seems to take pride in thinking that it is subduing nature, as if we are living in a hostile world where we have to wrest everything we want from an unwilling and alien arrangement of things….But in India the point of view was different, it included the world with the man as one great truth. India puts all her emphasis on the harmony that exists between the individual and the universal.’
Samit Das has delved considerably on the pragmatism of Shantiniketan architecture. He corroborates, ‘Far from deleting the natural elements, the poet incorporated them at the core of his educational system, following the ideals of ancient Indian Cave temples….Rabindranath, always eager and extremely receptive towards cross-cultural ideas and methods had invariably included artists and scholars in his travel troupes to the foreign lands.’ Shantiniketan stood out to represent world culture. It is a parody that our present society finds this austerity and pristine precinct to be rather insipid and primeval.
The exhibition also bears testimony to the impact upon Alain Danielou. Dagmar Bernstorff, Director of Danielou India Committee says, ‘His immersion into Indian culture lasted for nearly thirty years, from 1932 when he first visited this country, particularly Shantiniketan, and his lifelong friendship with Rabindranath Tagore began’.
This exhibition is part of the one year celebration program ‘Tagore, Bangladesh and the World’ jointly conducted by Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Alliance Francaise of Chittagong and Alain Danielou India Committee. The exhibition travelled to Dhaka, Spain, France, Italy and India.