Japana Theke Jorasamko: Cithi O Dinalipi (1916-1917)

Japana Theke Jorasamko: Chithi O Dinalipi (1916—1917)Front Cover, Japana Theke Jorasamko: Chithi O Dinalipi (1916—1917)
Photo: Mukul Dey Archives

by Mukul Chandra Dey, ed. by Satyasri Ukil

 In 1916 Rabindranath Tagore visited USA, via Japan, on a lecture tour. This was his first visit to Japan. Tagore was accompanied on this trip by two of his English friends, Charles Freer Andrews and William Winstanley Pearson; and, a young Bengali art student Mukul Chandra Dey.

The present title is a compilation of Dey’s letters from Japan and USA in 1916 – 1917, along with two of his diary fragments composed in 1917. The compilation is edited and annotated by Satyasri Ukil and published by New Age Publishers (Pvt.) Ltd., Calcutta in 2005.

 Mukul Dey was the first modern Indian artist who visited Japan. On this trip, being a disciple of Tagore, he got the rare opportunity to study under two very famous Japanese artists—Yokoyama Taikan at Tokyo and Shimomura Kanzan at Yokohama. Also they were fortunate to be guests of the noted Japanese art collector Tomitaro Hara at his sprawling landscape garden and heritage architectural complex known as Sankeien in Yokohama.

 For a young Mukul Dey this was incredible experience. He came directly in contact with various forms of traditional Japanese art and architecture, and interacted with people who were not oblivious to their own national heritage and essence. For this he ever remained indebted to Japan. In a number of his letters to his family members in India, Dey reported on his experiences there, which provide rare glimpses into the very best of Japanese life about a hundred years ago.

 In the present compilation only two fragments of Dey’s diary are added. One is of March, 1917 while on their way back to India; and, the other part records the artist’s life and experiences during August – December, 1917 when Mukul Dey was living with the Tagores at their Jorasanko house in Calcutta. During this time he was teaching the art of etching and printmaking at the famed Bichitra studio, where he, along with Nandalal Bose and Asit Kumar Haldar, were foundation members.

 The title has rich appendices wherein the British-Indian governmental viewpoint on Rabindranath Tagore’s first trip to Japan during the raging first WW are compiled for the first time from original papers in the National Archives of India, New Delhi, and the book is illustrated with rare photographs from Mukul Dey Archives, Santiniketan.