New Delhi: Multifarious celebrations marking the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore dominated the art and culture calendar in 2011 that also saw the Culture Ministry getting a full-fledged Minister in Kumari Selja.

If it was Tagore this year, it will be the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of 19th century luminary Swami Vivekananda and former Congress presidents Motilal Nehru and Madan Mohan Malviya in 2012 as plans are afoot to mark the events in a grand manner.

2011 also saw the establishment of National Monument Authority under Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment and Validation) Act, 2010 to prevent encroachment and streamline conservation of protected monuments across the country while a last-ditch attempt was made to seek UNESCO World Heritage Site status for Shantiniketan.

For the Ministry, the year began on a positive note with Selja being given the Culture portfolio, which hitherto was handled by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as an additional charge ever since UPA-II assumed office in May, 2009.

The year also saw Selja launching a number of scholarships and schemes providing assistance to artistes, filmmakers and students in an effort to promote art and culture.

In November, India was elected to the World Heritage Committee at the 18th session of the General Assembly of the Convention for the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage, for four years, a position that would enable it be part of the activities of the World Heritage Convention.

As India and Bangladesh launched joint celebrations of the 150th birth anniversary of Tagore in May, the government announced institution of an international Tagore award for Universal Brotherhood to honour the contributions of the genius "towards the promotion of international brotherhood and fraternity".

The year-long celebrations saw a series of exhibitions, festivals, and programmes to mark the landmark year.

Not only in India and Bangladesh, exhibitions of Tagore's art works were also showcased in a number of countries, including the US, UK, Germany, France, South Korea and Rome, among others.

As part of the year, a bust of Tagore was unveiled in the University of Lausanne in Switzerland by President Pratibha Patil during her visit in October, while two more busts would soon be installed in Israel and Columbia.
   
It would have been a remarkable addition to festivities but Tagore's abode Shantiniketan lost the race to be listed as a world heritage site in UNESCO's inscription this year, though India's other entry the Western Ghats were shortlisted.

Shantiniketan, which houses the world-famous Visva Bharati University and attracts thousands of tourists, was India's official entry this year for UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites, along with the Western Ghats, which was nominated in the category of natural sites.

Though Shantiniketan failed to appear on the shortlist for cultural sites this year, but an undeterred Culture Ministry and Archaeological Survey of India launched another round of efforts to make a resubmission to UNESCO by the end of the year.

The ministry also established a screening committee under the chairmanship of eminent filmmaker Shyam Benegal to select films and documentaries to be produced on Tagore with financial assistance from the government.

After planning a year of commemorative programmes for Tagore, the Culture Ministry announced in November that it will now initiate large-scale celebrations on the 150th birth anniversary of Motilal Nehru, a former Congress president and father of the country's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Besides, the 150th birth anniversary of freedom fighter and another former Congress chief Malaviya would also be celebrated on a grand scale, with a National Implementation Committee (NIC) chaired by Rajya Sabha MP Karan Singh and Selja laying out plans for the same.
   
Also on the list of upcoming celebrations is the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Swami Vivekananda. As part of the celebrations, the Centre has sanctioned Rs 100 crore to set up a special Chair named after Vivekananda in the Chicago University.

The American city has a special place in the luminary's heart as it was here he delivered his famous lecture at the World Parliament of Religions September 11, 1893.

The year also saw the Archaeological Survey of India marking its 150 years of existence and a number of events were scheduled to begin in December to mark the landmark.

Prime Minister Singh kicked off the celebrations on December 20 and the events would include a major exhibition, "Rediscovering India 1961-2011", 5 international conferences, lectures by distinguished and eminent archaeologists, philastelic exhibition and special outreach programmes.

(Agencies)