24th annual Tagore Festival set for Saturday

URBANA — The 24th annual Tagore Festival, set for Saturday at the Channing-Murray Foundation, will mark the 100th anniversary of poet Rabindranath Tagore's first visit to Urbana.

The date for the festival, which features cultural events and a catered dinner at the foundation, 1209 W. Oregon St., U, coincides with the date a century ago that Tagore gave his first lecture at the same location, then the Unitarian Church of Urbana.

The theme for the 2012 festival is "Meeting of Minds: Tagore and the Unitarians in Urbana, 1912." The keynote lecture, "Rabindranath Tagore and the Unitarians," will be delivered at 8 p.m. by Rebecca Manring, a professor of religious studies at Indiana University.

The festival will open at 4:30 p.m. with a reception and opening song by Aditi Das, followed at 5 p.m. by a performance of Tagore songs by the Unitarian Choir Group.

The cultural programming highlighting Tagore's work will continue until the catered dinner at 6:30 p.m. All of the events are free except the dinner, which costs $15 for adults, $12 for students and $10 for children 6 to 12. Dinner reservations were due Nov. 3; email office@channingmurray.org for information.

After Manring's talk, there will be a screening, around 9:15 p.m., of Satyajit Ray's documentary, "Rabindranath Tagore," which was produced by the Government of India Films Division in 1961.

Tagore (1861-1941) visited Urbana twice, in 1912-13 and 1916-17. He sent his son, Rathindranath, to study agriculture at the University of Illinois; after receiving his bachelor's degree, Rathindranath returned to Urbana a few years later to pursue graduate studies but had to return to India before he could finish the degree.

While in Urbana, Rathindranath found the town to be an expanding center for international scholars. Driven by his vision to expand the alliance beyond the classroom, he co-founded an international students' organization — the Cosmopolitan Club — that remains vibrant today.

Rabindranath Tagore was received with warmth and enthusiasm by the university and local community when he first visited in 1912.

When he returned four years later, he was much more of a celebrity — the first non-European or non-American to receive the Nobel Prize in literature. He also was a powerful voice against the "Great War."

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