Father John Felix Raj, SJ, Hon’ble Vice-chancellor of St Xavier’s University, Kolkata (SXUK)delivered the first Annual Christmas Lecture at Parasmani,Santiniketan on December 16, 2021. Parasmani, theCentre for Research and Social Outreachruns as a unit of SXUK in Ratanpally, Bolpur. Fatherspoke on ‘Christ in the eyes of Tagore’ before the august gathering.Teachers, noted civil society members and other dignitaries from both Santiniketan and Kolkata attended this lecture.
“Jesus and Tagore have many things in common. They were great spiritual leaders and teachers ... they had similar vision, ideas and teachings”,he said. While referring to Gurudev Tagore and his activities for the social development, he also referred to the patron saint of the University, St. Francis Xavier, whose philosophies highly match with the works of Tagore.
Fr. Felix Raj, in his delightful lecture referred to the 10-month stint of Tagore as a student at the St Xavier’s School, Calcutta. “He studied there until April 1876. He was uncomfortable with formal schooling and left….. The person who had the greatest impact on young Tagore was Father Alfonso de Penaranda, a Spanish Jesuit,” he added.
Thirty–six years later, at the age of fifty, Tagore acknowledged Fr. Penaranda’s influence in his autobiography. “His countenance had for me a strange attraction. Whenever I looked on him, his spirit seemed to be in prayer, a deep peace seemed to pervade him within and without,” Fr. Felix Raj quoted.
Fr. Felix Raj also threw light on the beginnings of Visva Bharati and how on the request of Tagore, Brahmabandhab Upadhyay and BrahmachariRewachandAnimandanda shifted their ‘Srasvata-Ayatana’ school from Swami Vivekananda’s birthplace in SimlaStreetin Kolkata to Santiniketan.
While focusing on Tagore’s writings on Jesus, Fr. Raj referred to his two poems namely ‘The Child’ and ‘The Death of the King’. ‘The Child’ is the only poem Tagore wrote in English in 1930. The poem is in ten sections and blends the cultural contexts of the East and the West with profound prophecies. Tagore later translated it into Bengali as ‘Sisutirtho’. Tagore wrote ‘The Death of the King’ in 1939 at the age of 78.
While concluding, Fr. Vice-Chancellor said that the universal vision and the spiritual depth of Jesus Christ, the first century Teacher and Master are seen echoing in the verses of Tagore, the greatest poet of the twentieth century. ‘Tagore’s writings deeply reflect Jesus’ teaching,’ he added.
This annual lecture at Parasmani aimed to promote the research and social outreach programmes of SXUK at Santiniketan. Amid the lush greeneries, there are ample opportunities left for the development of downtrodden society.
Faculty members from both SXUK and Visva Bharati have been invited to workcollaboratively for innovation and research in the related sectors. Active participation of students from both institutions to co-assist their teachers have also been sought. The core team led by Fr. Mourlin Fernando, SJ is planning for collaborative programmes between these two esteemed institutions of repute.