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Ninth Annual India Poetry Reading at Harvard University

Bijoy Misra


In keeping with tradition, the Outreach Committee of the Department of Sanskrit  and Indian Studies, Harvard University, had its Ninth Annual India Poetry Reading event on 14th May. The Committee arranges monthly lectures on second Saturdays from November through May every year on themes of scholarly and cultural interest to the community.  The lectures this year included a presentation on ‘Tibetan Sources of Indian Tradition’ and ‘The Bhagavad Gita.’ The lectures and events are announced in  and through email listing.  Please contact Professor C. Gopinath at if you wish to be included in the mailing list.  While the outreach lectures began in 1995, the poetry reading event was initiated in 1997. 


As in the past, members of the community had been invited to participate in the event. The theme of the session was ‘Nature’ and poems were presented in various languages including Bengali, English, Gujarati, Hindi, Malayalam, Punjabi, Sanskrit, and Urdu.  Those who participated by reading poems included: Sajjad Kamal, Nirajan Dudani, Pramod Thaker, Naseem, P. M. John, Marij Kirmani, Ajit Chaddha, Satyapriya Sarkar, Onaly Kapasi, Shelly Jankowski, Sapna Ray, Rosie Kamal, Maya De, Alok De, Quazi Nuruzzaman, Manjushree Sen,  Azhar Abbas, Rahul Ray, Subhas Sehgal, and Arjun Ray.


While many read from their own compositions, readings wewre made from Rg Veda, Rabindranath Tagore, Emily Dickinson, Shamsur Rahman, Changanpuzha and Meer. The enthusiasm of the participants was evident with their emotional connection to the poetic rendering on “Nature” in its many manifestations.  The articulation and expression occasionally led to singing and in one special case by Ranjani Saigal to dance movements to convey the meaning. 


It is said that poetry is an expression of the heart and soul and this was clear to those who attended the session. Poems were read to express the nurturing power of nature and its beauty. Other poems observed its destructive force, such as the recent tsunami. Many of the poems chosen also revealed concern over our own role as human beings in not taking care of the environment.


This annual meeting attracts poetry-enthusiasts from the community and many joined to enjoy the literary beauty and power of expression.  The mood in the Hall was one of sound and immersion.  The languages were no barrier to the celebration of “Nature”.  Prof. Bijoy Misra, Harvard University and Convener of the Outreach Committee introduced the event with his rendering of the Naasadiya Suuktam. Mr. Jaspal Singh introduced the theme with his composition ‘Indradhanoosh.’ Brother Blue, the well known story-teller and philosopher in Cambridge, brought the event to a close with his expressive enunciation of ‘Truth.’


The event concluded with small refreshments and social greetings of the poets and the audience. The Outreach Committee lectures and events are open and free to all.  Please contact the Department at 617-495-3295 or write to with any comments or suggestions.

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