I am delighted to be here today amidst such talented and passionate poets from various countries and all parts of India for the valedictory ceremony of the World Congress of Poets (WCP).
I am happy to be at the Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT) and Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS). With over 27,000 students from across the country and abroad, this institution is growing from strength to strength. I am happy to know that it has received several international and national awards and accolades for its abiding commitment to excellence.
The institution’s dedicated efforts to educate children from tribal communities are also truly noteworthy.
I congratulate KIIT for being awarded the 'Status of Eminence' for its dedication to the cause of quality education for all. I also take this opportunity to congratulate and appreciate the dynamic founder of KIIT, Shri Achyuta Samanta. His relentless endeavors towards reforming and transforming lives of millions of Adivasi people are truly commendable.
I also commend him for envisioning poetry as the best medium to promote brotherhood and peace. It is this vision of his that has brought all of us here together to celebrate thoughts, words, languages, rhythm and meaning.
It is a matter of great pride for us that the Congress is happening in India this year, in the beautiful and historical state of Odisha.
I am absolutely touched by the theme of this conference “Compassion through Poetry”.
I believe compassion is innate to all of us. We just have to realize it and practice it consciously till it becomes our habit and all our actions, subconsciously, exhibit compassion, kindness and positivity. Compassion is central to poetry.
The first verse of the Adi-Kavya, Ramayana starts with the utterance of ‘ma nishada’, Sage Valmiki’s compassionate appeal to the hunter to spare the life of a bird. It is his ‘shoka’ or his despair at the loss of a precious life that became ‘shloka’ or poetry.
Compassion begets compassion.
This extremely important idea, when propagated through the powerful medium of poetry, attains the capability to change the world.
I welcome poets who have come from all over the world to Odisha. I am sure that you will carry wonderful memories of this Congress and your experiences in India.
My dear sisters and brothers,
Poetry is one of the finest expressions of human emotions. It conveys the deepest insights, wide range of emotions and elevates human experience to highest levels of consciousness. What is however important is to recognize its impact on the inner chemistry of human emotions. How we perceive, how we respond and how we behave – all this is shaped by literature and fine arts to a large extent. Among the literacy forms, poetry has a specially profound influence.
Poetry is not just expression; it is an expression that has beauty in it. Poets do not just express themselves in mere words but paint images with their words. They breathe life into words with rhyme, rhythm and melody.
Poetry speaks of deep feelings, creates stunning images and beautiful lyricism and blends truth with beauty.
India’s tryst with poetry is as old as the civilization itself. Poetry flourished in ancient India.
The great Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata are considered to be among the finest specimens of poetry ever written.
They are celebrated not just in India but all over the world for the grandeur of their themes, the extraordinary literary heights and the depth of the messages they convey.
These epics are considered to be treasure houses of India’s traditions and great encyclopedias of ethics, religion, politics and morals.
India has a long illustrious poetic tradition and includes such luminaries like Kalidasa, Mira Bai, Tulsi Das, Amir Khusro, Kabir Das, Sarojini Naidu, Subrahmania Bharati, Mirza Ghalib and Shri Rabindranath Tagore mesmerized one and all with their poetic genius.
Let me recall what Mark Twain had said about India – “India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend and the great grandmother of tradition.
My dear sisters and brothers,
I believe that it is crucial to promote arts and culture in order to build an enlightened and healthy society.
Arts nurture creativity in the society. Without a creative voice, a society will become stagnant.
Biologists have argued that the development of creativity was the most important step in human evolution, and that society cannot move forward without creative people.
Artists enliven lives. Some artists transform our lives. They change our perception, our world view.
Artists are very often the conscience keepers of a society. They constantly question the absurd and the illogical and help instil positive values in society.
By sharing common cultural threads, art unites hearts. It brings out latent human characteristics to the force.
Poetry is a powerful vehicle of intergenerational transmission of values and knowledge. Songs and poetry have been used to pass on traditional wisdom and lessons in morals and values from generation to generation. Indian tradition has relied on poetry for transmission of wisdom and even scientific knowledge.
More than anything else, poetry has the capability to change attitudes, mindset and social norms. If we aim at a more compassionate world, poetry can be one of the most powerful instruments.
Dear sisters and brothers,
I am glad to be amidst so many poets. Each and every one of you present here has the capability to be an influencer and opinion-maker.
You have the unique potential to shape thoughts, feelings and attitudes. I am confident that you will use this tremendous power at your disposal to build a better world.
Poetry should promote peace, motivate people to cultivate universal brotherhood, social harmony and tolerance. Poetry can serve as a powerful catalyst that could hasten the process of social transformation.
I urge schools to make poetry reading and appreciation a compulsory part of the curriculum.
I also ask universities to encourage literature, arts and humanities education. We need poets and writers and artists and singers as much as we need doctors, engineers and scientists.
Promotion of literature is also an impactful method to preserve and promote languages, a cause that is very close to my heart.
The best way to preserve or promote any language is to use it extensively in everyday life. More and more people should be encouraged to write poetry, stories, novels and dramas in their native languages.
I hope events such as the World Conference of Poets will serve as platforms for sharing your poetic masterpieces with the world. At the same time, I am confident that this event would inspire budding poets to get inspiration from other poets.
Let me conclude with a statement made by a famous Indian poet Mammata. When he was asked as to why he wrote poetry, he said, “I write for earning name and becoming famous. I write to earn my living. But, above all this, I write because I believe I can change the ways of the world by reducing negativity and whatever is not good for humanity.”
I do hope that larger public good will serve as the underlying, unseen but undiminished source of inspiration as you continue to weave the silken threads of poetry and enthrall as well enlighten multitudes of people across the world. I wish you all the very best.