New Delhi: World acclaimed orchestra conductor Zubin Mehta was today conferred the prestigious Tagore Award for Cultural Harmony by President Pranab Mukherjee here, the second recipient after Sitar maestro late Pandit Ravi Shankar.
Mehta (77), a maestro in western classical music who conducts the Bavarian State Orchestra, was described by the President as a “distinguished son of India” whose mission “has been to bring peace where there is misery and conflict.”
At a ceremony in the Rashtrapati Bhawan, the President presented a golden plaque, a citation, shawl and Rs one crore to Mehta, a day before he performs with his troupe on the banks of the Dal lake in Srinagar.
The award citation pays Mehta rich tributes and says that “no other Indian has achieved such distinction in the world of Opera”.
“In our divided world, there are few who rise above nation yet stay rooted to home, remain proof against prejudice and sensitive to suffering and bring joy to people through their lifelong work. One such individual is Zubin Mehta,” read the citation.
Calling Mehta's felicitation with this award a “wonderful choice”, Mukherjee said his work as a composer was a deep devotion to the cause of humanity.
“It's only appropriate that this award should be conferred upon him,” Mukherjee said. The award is given to a person who has worked selflessly for promoting cultural harmony irrespective of whether he holds a high public office or not.
Calling himself a “simple musician”, Mehta, who has earlier been decorated with the Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan, spoke about Nobel laureate Tagore and lamented that Mahatma Gandhi was not awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
“The Nobel Peace prize was not given in 1948 when Gandhi was killed,” he said, adding that it should be considered now.
“Who deserves (the Nobel) more than Mahatmaji?,” he said. Mehta spoke about the power of music in healing the mind and the soul.
“We must never underestimate the power and inner peace that music brings. Look at our country, from north to south every village sings and dances,” he said.
Mehta said he was proud to be the successor of Pandit Ravi Shankar who received the award last year.
In his acceptance speech, Mehta extolled Gurudev Rabindra Nath Tagore who was not only a poet but also a philosopher, composer, author and an educationist. “This man's aura has always been with us,” he said.
Congratulating Mehta, the President wished him a long life, good health and purposeful years of brilliant music.
“As he (Mehta) reaches out, through his music, to inspire states and their people with his message of tolerance and peace, we pay tribute to him for his unfailing efforts to foster unity and understanding among the communities of the world.
“His spirit and dedication is an affirmation of Rabindranath Tagore's vision of ‘that heaven of freedom' where the world is not divided ‘by narrow domestic walls',” he said adding that it was a matter of pride that despite being away from the country for long, Mehta has retained his Indian citizenship.
“We are recognising his (Mehta's) untiring efforts, over the decades, to convert music into an instrument of peace and harmony. He has made it his mission to bring hope and reason wherever there is conflict and discord. Zubin Mehta's music has the power to transcend boundaries. He has earned for himself a unique position in the musical narrative of the world,” the President said.
The event, at Rashtrapati Bhawan, was attended by Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and Culture Minister Chandresh Kumari Katoch.