The renovation of Shilai-daha Kuthibari has been completed under the Department of Archaeology, Ministry of Cultural Affairs. However, Tagore devotees as well as the masses have certain questions regarding the renovation.
Silaidaha Kuthibari is now a protected national monument where a Thakur Memorial Museum has been established by the government.
Noble laureate poet Rabindra-nath Tagore stayed for over a decade at irregular intervals between 1891 and 1901 at Shilaidaha Kuthibari, on the south bank of river Padma in Kumarkhali Upazila, Kushtia district.
Kuthibari is a picturesque three-storied, pyramid-shaped, terraced bungalow, constructed with brick, timber, corrugated tin sheets and Raniganj tiles. The bungalow is nestled within eleven acres of orchards of mango, jackfruit and others, a flower garden and two ponds.
Tagore exponent Dr Sanjida Khatun, who was one of the members of a committee, which demanded for the construction of the Rabindranath Complex at Shilaidaha, is disappointed with the mismanagement of the Kuthibari.
According to her, "New constructions in front of any historical sight is a disgrace. Likewise the construction of 'Alo Complex' in front of the Kuthibari, by a local high up, has demeaned the importance as well as the beauty of the building. And the Tagore bust at the entrance of the Kuthibari has no aesthetic value. It should have been done by a renowned artist. Furthermore, the complex should have proper fencing."
"While renovating a historical site, one should be aware of the history. There were Mango, Jackfruit, Bakul, Chhatim trees, which had historical relevance with many of the works by Tagore. For example, Tagore wrote Bijoyini under the Bakul tree. These tress should've been replaced by trees of same species", added Sanjida.
During a visit to the Kuthibari, it was noticed that people from nearby villages were using the open stage for personal purposes such as drying paddy. Moreover, through further investigation, different mismanagement and stories related to illegal activities were revealed. The compound has apparently become a hangout joint for drug abusers. More over, people flock there for picnic parties. Concerned individuals believe that as Kuthibari has no authorised officials, mismanagement in different levels is taking place.
In fact, when the 'project of Tagore Complex' was underway, there was a post of a Custodian (between 1999 and 2001). After the project ended, the post was not absorbed in the revenue budget.
Sources from the Department of Archaeology informed that several times the department through the Ministry of Cultural Affairs has requested Ministry of Establishment to allocate a post of a 'Custodian' for Shilaidaha Kuthibari, but it has always been ignored.
Even the change of colour of Kuthibari from red to off-white has raised question amongst historians and researchers.
M Shafiqul Alam, director in charge of Department of Archaeology, claimed that the colour should be 'off white' not red. To quote him, "Scrutinising the 'Black and White' photographs of that period and verifying it with other Tagore Bungalows at Shahjadpur in Pabna and Patisar in Rajshahi, World Heritage Committee, Bangladesh, has come to the conclusion that the colour of the Kuthibari should be off-white. I believe during the first renovation of the Kuthibari in Pakistani period the colour was changed to red, which continued for a long period. That's why people are under the impression that it was originally red."
Sitting in Kuthibari or on a boat on Padma, Rabindranath wrote a number of masterpieces such as Sonar Tori, Chitra, Chaitali, Katha O Kahini, Ksanika, most of the poems from Naibedya and Kheya, and the songs from Gitanjali and Gitimalya. It was here, in 1912, that the poet started translating his Gitanjali into English, which earned him the Nobel Prize in 1913. Rabindranath was deeply attached to Shilaidaha and Padma, which is evident in his Chhinna Patrabali.
But, at present traces of Tagore's works are hardly found at Kuthibari. Local bauls render Tagore songs in the dialect of Kushtia and in the traditional baul tune for the entertainment of the visitors. And at the complex along with Tagore's classics, books by mediocre writers with titles such as Bhalobashar Nayane Ke Dilo Jol, Keno Tumi Etota Pashan and more are being sold.
Even the national arrangement of Tagore's birth anniversary on Baishakh 25, has been labelled as an 'eyewash'. Sanjida Khatun complained, "I went there once to participate at the National programme and I found it to be totally politicised. Most of the discussants at the programme had no sound knowledge on Tagore or his works."
Rabindranath Tagore once wrote in a letter, "The holy place of my literary pursuits during my youth and middle age was the village of Shilaidaha kissed by the waves of Padma".
Shilaidaha, with memories of the poet, certainly deserves a better treatment.
The Daily Star - Vol. 5 Num 826, Fri. September 22, 2006