Sri Lanka on Saturday will join the list of countries to have issued a postage stamp in honour of Noble laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Priced at LKR 5, the stamp will be issued to commemorate the poet’s 150th birth anniversary. The postage stamp will have Tagore’s portrait and his name spelt in Sinhala, Tamil and English. It’s not only the launch of a stamp; the celebrations will include the publication of a collection of essays on Tagore in all three languages and a number of functions to remember the great Indian poet’s contribution to Lankan culture.
Several countries including Venezuela, Argentina and Vietnam have issued stamps in Tagore’s honour through the years. In February this year, Uruguay issued one on Tagore to commemorate 150 years of his birth. With Sri Lanka, Tagore had a special link. He visited the country last in 1934 with his Shaap Mochon troupe. His influence on Lankan culture is still talked about, analysed and celebrated today. While Tagore is unique for writing the national anthems of two countries, India and Bangladesh, his contribution to the Lankan national anthem is not that widely known.
The writer Ananda Samarakoon spent time in Shantiniketan as Tagore’s disciple and anyone who’s heard Rabindrasangeet, Tagore’s body of songs, will be able to discern similarities of that tradition in the Lankan anthem `Sri Lankan matha’. It is believed he wrote the song soon after returning to Sri Lanka.
In his message, President Mahinda Rajapaksa said, “He also had great influence on Ananda Samarakoon who wrote and composed our own national anthem.” Incidentally, after retuning from Bengal, Christian Samarakoon changed his name and religion. A long line of artists from Sri Lanka went to Shantiniketan, subsequently. During his last visit, Tagore also laid the foundation of a liberal university modelled on Visva Bharati near Colombo. He proposed its name as Sri Palee or ‘where beauty reigns’. Later in the year, the High Commission of India is also planning a festival of films based on Tagore’s stories in Colombo.