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2011 marks poet Tagore's 150th birth anniversary. A prolific writer, composer, and a visual artist, Rabindranath Tagore (1861 - 1941) was the first non-European to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, in 1913. In addition to poetry, Tagore wrote novels, short stories, essays and plays, composed music, and became a painter in his late sixties. Contrary to the mistaken image that he was merely a mystic poet from the Orient – he was a leading social and educational thinker striving to build ties beyond borders of race, class, ethnicity, and culture. The national anthems of two countries, India and Bangladesh, are taken from his composition. His ideas of de-colonization, self-reliance, rural reconstruction and autonomy, and a cooperative way of life deeply inspired India’s anti-colonial struggle and have influenced Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Aung San Suu Kyi. He spoke out against nationalism and militarism and instead envisioned a world built on multi-culturalism, diversity and tolerance. Tagore's profound philosophical worldviews, based on the ideas of equality, humanism, peace, justice, environmental conservation, diversity, and universal brotherhood – are more relevant today than ever.

Tagore's educational thoughts were centered around the importance of having children learn in their first language and in their immediate natural surroundings where an awareness and connectedness to the cultures of the wider world develop in a natural and organic way. His was one of the earliest modern voices to address the need to protect the earth and the environment  through his writings. He created a tree planting ceremony as a festival of the earth, which still takes place on the campus of the university he founded in India about a hundred years ago. Based on this tradition, the tree planting ceremony at Vasundhara will feature the making of an Alpana, an Indian form of Mandala art practiced primarily in India and Bangladesh, to mark, bless, and adorn the ground on special occasions.

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