Friday, May 20, 2011
Statue of Tagore boosts cultural exchanges between India and Korea
A bust of the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore was erected in Seoul on May 18, as a visible demonstration of the deep ties between Korea and India. The unveiling took place on what would have been Tagore’s 150th birthday.
Tagore was the first Asian to receive a Nobel Prize, having the literature award in 1913 for his book, Gitanjali. One of the Indian subcontinent’s best-known artistic personalities, he worked in the fields of music, theater and literature, becoming the voice of India’s spiritual heritage. He composed the national anthems of India and Bangladesh, and was a close friend of Mahatma Gandhi.
Koreans have long had a special regard for Tagore and his works. During the Japanese colonial period, Tagore wrote the poem “Lantern of the East” about Korea after being impressed by the pro-independence March 1 Movement in 1919.
The ceremony was attended by several important figures, including the Indian ambassador to Korea, Skand R. Tayal, Park Hee-tae, Speaker of the National Assembly of Korea and First Vice-Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Mo Chul-min, along with more than 100 members of various diplomatic delegations.
The statue was first proposed in 2006, when the former president of India, Abdul Kalam, visited Korea. When President Lee Myung-bak visited India last year, the project regained prominence and found momentum as part of the “Year of Korea” in India and “Year of India” in Korea.
The 1.2-meter statue by Indian sculptor Gautam Pal was erected in the Daehangno area, near Hyehwa Station. Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Choung Byoung-gug said it was especially meaningful to have the statue places in an area so well-known for the arts and theater.
During the ceremony, Ambassador Tayal said, “I hope many Asian countries, including Korea and India, are encouraged by Tagore and his poems.” He added that it will boost cultural exchanges between India and Korea.
First Vice Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Mo said, “He gave the Korean people hope and comfort by calling Korea ‘the Lamp of the East’ during dark times,” before going on to say that he hopes the two countries will grow to understand each other’s cultures better through active exchanges.
The opening ceremony for the “Year of Korea” in New Delhi, India took place in March, hosted by the Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism and the Korean Embassy in India. The opening ceremony for the “Year of India” will be held on June 30 at the Sejong Center in Seoul.