Tagore telegram shows special relationship with Tripura kings

PTI | | Updated on: Nov 12, 2017


Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore had close relationship with successive Tripura kings and one of them had paid Rs 3,000 to the bard for accompanying a famous sculptor from the State on a trip to Bali and Java in 1927, a document, hitherto unpublished, reveals.

Tripura's last king Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur paid Rs 3,000 to Tagore for accompanying sculptor Dhirendra Krishna Debbarman, on a trip to Bali and Java, Vice-Chancellor of Tripura University, Arunoday Saha, said recently while releasing a copy of an unpublished telegram.

Saha, who is an authority on the special relationship that kings of Tripura had with Tagore and Viswa-Bharati university, received the telegram from Prajna Devi, a member of Tripura's royal family.

Telegram sent in 1927

The telegram, which was sent by Tagore on June 28, 1927, read, “His Highness, Maharaja Tripura, Agartala, May I seek your help about Dhiren's expenses approximately three thousand rupees accompanying me to Java, giving him unique opportunity for his artistic career - Rabindra Nath Tagore.”

Dhirendra Krishna Debbarman, who is a close relative of the Tripura king, later became a renowned painter, sculptor and principal of Kala Bhavan, Visva Bharati, Saha said.

Holding up the copy of the telegram, Saha said, “It bore the signature of King Bir Bikram, dated July 5, 1927 and an order from the king for payment of the amount.”

Dhirendra Krishna, later in his article - Ashram School and reminiscences of Rabindra Nath, wrote that Tagore's entourage to Java and Bali included stalwarts such as Suniti Kumar Chatterjee and Surendra Nath Kar.

Struck by sea fever, Dhirendra Krishna had fallen sick on the tour and informed Tagore. Pretending to examine him, Dhirendra Krishna wrote, Tagore teasingly said the sea wind had nothing to do with Dhirendra's fever but had something to do with his separation from his newly wedded wife.

“Tagore gave some medicine from his personal stock and this was enough to cure me,” Dhirendra Krishna wrote.

For about 60 years Tagore had intimate relationship with four successive Tripura kings. When Tagore was in his 20s, Maharaja Birchandra Manikya Bahadur (1862-96), also a painter, photographer and composer, identified Tagore as a genius as early as 1882. Tagore was taken by surprise when a minister of the Tripura king visited the poet's ancestral house at Jorasanko in Kolkata in 1882 as an emissary of the king and conveyed the message that the king was moved by reading his ‘Bhagna Hriday' (Broken Heart).

Tagore visited Tripura seven times and was close to four successive kings - Birchandra, Radhakishore, Birendra Kishore and last king Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur, said Panna Lal Roy, a writer, who wrote a number of books on relation of Tagore with Tripura kings.

“Tagore was like friend, philosopher and guide of Manikya kings which started with Birchandra who not only complemented the poet for composing Bhagna Hriday also invited him to accompany him during his trip to Kurseong in 1894,” Roy told PTI.

“Association of Tagore with Radhakishore had lasting impact on Tripura's ties with greater Bengal. The benevolent Maharaja contributed liberally in various literary, cultural and scientific endeavours of Bengal,” Bikach Chowdhury, a scholar on Rabindranath, wrote in an article, ‘Tagore's immortal ties with Tripura'.

“Tagore once approached Radhakishore for financial grant for the scientific research work of Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose who was in dire financial state at that time in England. Radhakishore himself was in a very tight financial condition as the palace at Agartala had been struck by a severe earthquake,” he said.

Tight financial condition

Radhakishore wrote to Tagore that he was prepared to deprive his would-be daughter-in-law from a piece or two of jewelleries for he was sure that in return Jagadish Bose would decorate mother India in a much befitting manner, he said, adding Radhakishore kept his promise and granted Rs 50,000, a huge sum in those days, with the only condition that his name should not be made public.

“Radhakishore also sanctioned an annual grant of Rs 1,000 for Tagore's Viswa Bharati which was continued for nearly 50 years till the death of the last ruler, Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore,” Chowdhury said.

Tagore last visited Agartala in 1926 during the reign of Tripura's last king Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore. In 1939, Birchandra's great-grandson - Maharaj Bir Bikram Kishore, visited Shantiniketan. He deputed Rajkumar Buddhimanta Singh from Tripura as a Manipuri dance teacher at Shantiniketan.

Published on June 14, 2011
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