This book is the first ever attempt for an English rendering in fully-rhymed lyrical poetry of the Brajabuli original of Rabindranath Tagore's Bbanusingher Pada ball: admired all over Bengal and India for its exquisite verses on Radha-Krishna amour. The melodiously-tuned poems -- sung as well as danced by all the classical and contemporary genres in our land — is only dimly understood, as far meaning goes, due to its old literary style. This book takes up all the 22 songs that Tagore composed with ‘Bhanusingha' or Bhanu' pen-name in Brajabuli language and makes them available in English for a universal readership: complete with its resonance, alliteration, metrical pattern and internal rhyme. It carries also an authentic and comprehensive Introduction on the background and context of Tagore's valuable work.
Dr. Utpal K Banerjee was awarded Ph.D. (as Commonwealth Scholar) from University of Manchester, UK, 1968-72. He has been an adviser on Management & Information Technology for 30 years. He has been teaching at IITs, IIMs, MDI and several other institutions, including leading foreign universities in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Dalian and Kunming. With an abiding interest in Indian art and culture, he writes to leading newspapers and magazines over last 35 years. He has been a prolific contributor and anchor-person for cultural & professional programmes at British BBC, Indian AIR and Doordarshan. He was National Project Director for UNDP at IGNCA in 1991-93. He travelled for ICCR to lecture on Indian art and culture in Canada and South America. He has been visiting lecturer on Indian art and culture at Foreign Service Institute for Afro-Asian diplomats. He received Senior Fellowship in 2007-09, from Min. of Culture, GOI, to work on "A journey with the Buddha", Vol. I & II. He worked as Chief Coordinator for "Leaders of India", a project under GOI in 2008-09 on Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi for creating an interactive Website. He has been "Tagore Research Scholar" under Tagore National Fellows scheme, GOI, for streamlining Audio-Visual Cultural Archive of IGNCA, 2012- 14. He was awarded Padma Shri by president of India, 2009, for literary output of more than 35 books on Indian art & culture, Tagore studies and pioneering works on IT and management over the decades.
Bhanushingho Thakurer Padabali (The Songs of Bhanushing-ho Thakur) is an inimitable collection of Vaishnava lyrics composed in Brajabuli by Rabindranath Tagore which he had penned at the age of sixteen.
First published on 1 July 1884, BhanusimhaThakurer Padabali was dedicated to Kadambari Devi, Tagore's sister-in-law There is a prevailing myth that "Bhanusingha" (Rabindranath Tagore) was in love with Kadambari Devi.
Later known as Bhsnusingher Padabali, the anthology of 22 songs — unmistakably attributed to Tagore's penmanship with his alia aat each poem's end -- has been a perennial hit with the Indian performing arts exponents. Its melodious music has been visualised all over the land and abroad, in striking chore-ography ever since Tagore's own time.
In 1980-87 — celebrating Tagore's 125' birth anniversary -- a very worthwhile rendition of these balladic songs was taken up by the legendary Odissi guru Kelucharan Mohapatra; with his talented son Ratikanta enacting the role of Krishna and the noted Odissi danseuse Sharmila Biswas appearing as Radha: in a glittering production in Delhi, with a memorable set-design by the thespian Khaled Chauduri
In the recent years, the celebrated dance-guru Valmiki Banerjee took up the production of the ballad in Rabindranatyam style (spearheaded by him nationally and internationally) again in Delhi: with dancers from his well-established centre, Del hi Ballet Group. This performance, too, has drawn encomium from the spectators.
Now, Kalamandalam in Kolkata is observing its Golden Jubilee with a new production "Suncho° Bhanusingha ? (Bhanusingha, are you listening ?) as an adaptation from Bhanusingher Padabali.
Here the director has imagined the ballad as if Tagore sought to justify that his unspoken love for his sister-in-law Kadambari Devi (who was a few years older than Tagore) was platonic and divine, -- comparing the same to the mythical love-story of Lord Krishna and Radha, where Radha was elder to him and his Aunt in relationship.
Kalamandalam's stage production takes one through a time-period which shows young Rabindranath Tagore in conversation with Kadambari Devi where she shares her love and fear, agony and despair which are interspersed in between by appropriate selected songs from Bhanusingher The dances have been choreographed by guru Dr. Smt. Thankamani Kutty in Bharatanatyam style.
The costumes are experimental and extremely colorful. The performers are members of the Kalamandalam Performing Wing which travels worldwide with its various productions. The Direction and the concept is by Somnath G.Kutty as well as the dancers The uniqueness of this production is in that probably it is the first time, that Bhanusingher Padabali has been choreographed in Bharatanatyam style: with Tagore and Kadambari Devi cast as characters on stage in the production.
The songs used in this production are as follows:
1 Sawana Gagane... 2 Sundari Radhe Aoye Bani... 3 Sajani Sajani... 4 Sunlo Sunlo Balika... 5 Gahana Kusuma Kunj Maajhe...
We are absolutely delighted that we have now an opportunity to bring the classic work by the youthful Tagore — for the first time ever — in an English poetry edition with fully-rhymed verses rendered by "Padma Shri" Dr Utpal K Banerjee, -- illustrated by a few images from the Kalamandalam production.
We are also most thankful to Shri Sanjay Arya of Shubhi Publications to undertake the production of this book and organise its much-needed distribution for global readership.
Rabindranath Tagore's inspiration for penning Bhanitsingher Padabali began not in 1877 when he was barely 16, but stemmed from the far-away England and its child-prodigy Thomas Chatterton who lived one century before him and composed, precociously, some exquisite religious verses. Although father-less and raised in poverty, Chatterton was an exceptionally studious child, publishing mature work by the age of 11. He was able to pass off his work as an imaginary 15th-century poet, called Thomas Rowley, chiefly because few people at the time were familiar with medieval poetry. At 17, Chatterton sought outlets for his writings in London, but his earnings were not enough to sustain him, and he poisoned himself in despair. His unusual life -- and death -- attracted much interest among the romantic poets, and Alfred de Vigny wrote a play about him that is still performed today. The oil painting, The Death of Chatterton, by the Pre-Raphaelite artist Henry Wallis has enjoyed lasting fame.
Two stories about Chatterton may evoke some interest in passing. Once, his sister wished to know what he would like to be painted on his gift- bowl and he fervently replied, "Paint me an angel, with wings, and a trumpet, to trumpet my name over the world...". On another occasion, while walking along a famous churchyard, he -- much absorbed in thought -- took no notice of an open grave: newly dug in his path and tumbled into it. His walking companion helped Chatterton out and told him, in a jocular manner, that he was happy in assisting at the resurrection of genius! Chatterton replied, "My dear friend, I have been at war with the grave for some time now." Chatterton would commit suicide three days later on 24 August 1770, by drinking liquid Arsenic in his attic, after tearing into fragments whatever literary remains were at hand. He was then only 17 years and nine months old.
Tagore was very vaguely aware of Chatterton, as he recorded in My Reminiscences, "I had heard from Akshay Chowdhury the story of the English boy-poet Chatterton. What his poetry was like I had no idea, nor perhaps had Akshay Babu himself. Had we known, the story might have lost its charm. As it hap-pened, the melodramatic element in it fired my imagination; for had not so many been deceived by his successful imitation of the classics? And at last, the unfortunate youth had died by his own hand. Leaving aside the suicide part, I girded up my loins to emulate young Chatterton's exploits. One noon the clouds had gathered thickly. Rejoicing in the grateful shade of the cloudy midday rest-hour, I lay prone on the bed in my inner room and wrote on a slate the imitation Maithili poem: Gahana kusuma kunja majhe..."
That was the genesis of Bhanusingher Padabali, but not without its most hilarious sequel. In Tagore's own inimitable words, "I was greatly pleased with it and lost no time in reading it out to the first one I came across; of whose understanding a word of it there happened to be not the slightest danger, and who consequently could not but gravely nod and say, 'Good, very good indeed!' To my friend mentioned a while ago, I said one day: 'A tattered old manuscript has been discovered while rummaging in the Adi Brahma Samaj library and from this I have copied some poems by an old Vaishnava Poet named Bhanu Singha;' with which I read some of my imitation poems to him. He was
profoundly stirred. 'These could not have been written even by Vidyapati or Chandidas!', he rapturously exclaimed. 'I really must have that MS. to make over to Akshay Babu for publication.' Then I showed him my manuscript book and conclusively proved that the poems could not have been written by either Vidyapati or Chandidas, because the author happened to be myself. My friend's face fell as he muttered, 'Yes, yes, they're not half bad'." What an inglorious reception of a budding poet!
There was another pretty humorous footnote, added by Tagore, "When these Bhanu Singha poems were coming out in Bharati, Dr. Nishikanta Chatterjee was in Germany. He wrote a thesis on the lyrical poetry of our country comparing it with that of Europe. Bhanu Singha was given a place of honour as one of the old poets, such as no modern writer could have aspired to. This was the thesis on which Nishikanta Chatterjee got his Ph. D.!" Was it finally some poetic justice done to Tagore's own genius?
Before we pass on, there are three striking parallels -- one may note: -- between Chatterton and Tagore. First, Chatterton's intensely religious oeuvre on Christianity tragically ended when he had just crossed 17, which was around the age when Tagore began his lyrical outpouring on the mystical-duo, Radha-Krishna in Indian traditrion and their Lila. Second, if Chatterton's was an imitation of the 15th-century medieval literature, Tagore's was also an inspired take-off from the 18th-century literary genre. Third, while Chatterton fell back upon the pseudonym of one 'Thomas Rowley', Tagore, too, played upon his own first name to coin a similarly exotic appellation: Bhanusingha'.
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