About the Project

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) was the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize in literature (1913). Tagore wrote in Bengali, his mother-tongue. Gitanjali (Song Offerings, 1912), for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize, is a collection of poems Tagore translated into English himself.

The University of Illinois and the town of Urbana have special connections with Rabindranath Tagore. His son Rathindranath earned his Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture here, and returned a few years later to pursue graduate studies. During his stay in Urbana, Rathindranath found Urbana an expanding center for international scholars. Driven by the vision to expand the alliance among peers beyond the classroom, he co-founded an international students’ organization–the Cosmopolitan Club–that still exists.

Rathindranath’s father, the Nobel prize-winning poet, visited Urbana twice, in 1912-13 and in 1916-1917. When Rabindranath Tagore visited Urbana in 1912 he was received with great warmth and enthusiasm by the University and the local community. When the poet returned to Urbana for a second visit in 1916, he was much more of a celebrity – a Nobel Laureate (the first non-European/American to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature) and a powerful voice against the ‘Great War.’

The chapel that hosted Tagore’s first lectures, the Channing-Murray Foundation (previously the Unitarian Church of Urbana), is now a National Historical Building. The Annual Tagore Festival, commemorating Rabindranath Tagore’s 1912 lecture at the Channing-Murray Foundation, has been celebrated at this historical site annually since 1989.

The translation project was initiated in November 2016 by Rini B. Mehta (rbhttchr@illinois.edu, Comparative Literature), who is a Member of the Board of Governors at Channing-Murray Foundation. Translations to Spanish, Arabic, German, Russian, Portuguese, Hebrew, and Yiddish were displayed on behalf of the Channing-Murray Foundation at the IPRH work-in on December 6, 2016. Mehta is working with Joyce Tolliver (joycet@illinois.edu), Director of Center for Translation Studies, and Roman Z. Ivashkiv (roman904@illinois.edu, Slavic and CTS), to continue and expand the project.

If you have any questions or requests, please write to us, using the emails provided.