Tagore’s impressions on Lithuania reconnoitered through Kounteya Sinha’s lens

Kolkata, January 24, 2015 (Washington Bangla Radio):
The who’s who of Kolkata came together to relish a piece of Lithuania, the European nation which is the southernmost state of the three Baltic nations.

It was a photography exhibition by Kounteya Sinha where he showcased the frames he captured in the heavenly country. The exhibition titled “6262”: Impressions from Lithuania was inaugurated by H.E. Mr. Laimonas Talat Kelpsa, the Ambassador of the Republic of Lithuania, and Mrs. Madhu Neotia.

           From Left: Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury, Kounteya Sinha, Shantanu Moitra, Gargi Roy Chowdhury, Madhu Neotia

With the compilation of thirty odd photographs, the incredible exhibition unraveled for the first time ever, the remarkable story of Rabindranath Tagore’s profound impact in Lithuania’s struggle for freedom and several such cultural impacts of India on Lithuania.

                                      Madhu Neotia & Lithuanian Ambassador to India, Laimonas Talat Kelpsa

The title “6262” denotes the exact distance in kilometers between Santiniketan – Tagore’s home to Lithuania. The collection of photographs was based on the adventurous journey undertaken by Kounteya Sinha over six days on the road covering 1,110 kilometers in Lithuania. The exhibition also documented a fascinating and unknown country and its daily life. The exhibition featured nearly thirty photographs that not only revealed Lithuania’s connection to India and Tagore but also unraveled a country hidden from the naked eye.

                                                    Photos of the exhibition

Very little has been known about the link, if any, between these two distant countries. Lithuania is a country in Northern Europe, one of the three Baltic States that became the first Soviet Republic in 1990. It is a member of the European Union. The exhibition titled “6262” is a remarkable journey to unravel a phenomenon – the obsession the country has quietly harbored around Rabindranath Tagore. It is widely acknowledged that there is a close similarity between the Lithuanian and Sanskrit languages, Lithuanian being the Indo-European language grammatically closest to Sanskrit, signifying possible close ancient links.  

                           From Left: Kounteya Sinha, H.E. Mr. Laimonas Talat Kelpsa,and Madhu Neotia

Interestingly on November 28 2014, the President of India and the Governor presided over the convocation ceremony of Calcutta University. They handed a posthumous D Lit to Lithuanian traveler and anthropologist Antanas Poska who undertook an amazing journey to India on a motor bike all the way from Vilnius in 1929. Poska’s daughter came to Kolkata to receive the D Lit from the governor of West Bengal. Also there have been people in Lithuania who have translated Tagore’s works into Lithuanian and they had hidden those, lest they be destroyed during Soviet occupation.

                       One of the major photo of the exhibition(Tagore's Impact on the Land of Lithuania)

Few Picture Descriptions:

Lady with Tagore: The exhibition’s title too is unique. It reveals to the world, among others, a story of a 91-year-old woman who woke up one morning after being married to her husband for over 40 years to stumble upon a chest filled with hand written notebooks. They were all translations of Tagore’s work into Lithuanian that the man had been carried out in secret all his life.
Hill of Crosses: This is one of the world’s most mysterious places – the Hill of Crosses. The tradition of leaving crosses is believed to have started after an uprising against the Russian tsar who was put down in 1831. Relatives of the dead rebels, with no bodies to bury instead left crosses on this hill to commemorate their fallen. Today there are over 200,000 crosses, carvings and shrines at the site made out of everything from wood to metal. Crosses appearing on the hill became a symbol of resistance to the communist regime and in response the KGB twice bulldozed the hill. Some crosses stand as much as three meters tall, while there are also countless tiny examples hanging upon the larger crosses. When crosses continued to appear the soviet authorities stationed KGB agents around the site to stop people sneaking through the forest to plant crosses. In 1990, when Lithuania acquired its long awaited independence, the hill became a dual symbol of Lithuania’s Catholic faith and her national identity.

Hill of Crosses with Bhagwat Gita: Interestingly while observing each individual cross and the messages on them, from among the 200,000 crosses a page from the Bhagwat Gita is pinned with a cross.