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Learn about the 2023 Tagore Festival

Rabindranath Tagore is seated in a black and white photo surrounded by others listening to him speak
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Editors note: The date and location for the festival has changed since publication. The article has been updated to reflect the updated event information.

The 2023 Tagore Festival is going to be held on November 5th at the Channing Murray Foundation (Here is a link to the changed program schedule). There has been an annual Tagore Festival held in Champaign-Urbana since 1989. The festival is a cultural celebration of Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941), a Bengali activist, poet, author, artist and scholar. His wide range of prose can touch any human emotion, and he was the first non-European to receive the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913. Tagore’s life is celebrated through performances from members of the community, lectures on his impact and studies, and more.

Rabindranath Tagore has had a special connection to C-U during his life. His son, Rathindranath got a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture from the university. Tagore himself stayed at the University of Illinois as a visiting scholar for many months from 1916 to 1917. During his stay at the U of I, Tagore founded the Cosmopolitan Club, gave numerous lectures, and spoke out against injustices and social issues such as the First World War.

The Tagore Festival is a locally historic cultural event that is very important to the Champaign-Urbana area. Usually, the festival is at the Channing Murray Foundation on campus, where Rabindranath Tagore has given lectures in the past during his visits to the U of I campus. These lectures, which were filled with audiences of students, scholars, and locals interestingly were his first in English. This year’s festival is different from any that has been done before in honor of Tagore. The festival is a great place for those who have an interest in literature, Eastern culture, and a love for theatre. Even if you may not be familiar with Rabindranath Tagore, this festival is sure to enlighten a curiosity in you and will definitely be a fun night!

This year’s festival is going to feature U of I’s visiting artist Suman Mukhopadhyay’s presentation of the play The Post Office. The program, which includes other cultural festivities, is completely free and open to the public, no tickets or reservations are required. Seating will begin at 3 p.m. for the play, and from 2 to 2:30 p.m. there will be cultural performances by students and the community celebrating Tagore’s songs, dances and more.

At 3:30 p.m. The Post Office, a play by Tagore will be performed. This version will be based on playwright Vivek Narayan’s adaption of The Post Office called Walking to the Sun. Suman Mukhopadhyay is an award-winning film and theatre director from Kolkata, India.

Tagore’s play The Post Office is about a young boy Amal who is very sick and cannot leave his house. His life adventures are often through talking to others through his bedroom window. This play was performed many times in the Warsaw Ghetto, a place where Jewish people and other marginalized groups were forcefully located during World War 2.

Walking to the Sun, the adaption that will be performed at this year’s annual Tagore Festivalis a blend of two worlds. In this play, there are both scenes from Tagore’s original play and alsoexamines the experiences of Janusz Korczak, a Polish doctor, and the orphanage he ran in the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland during World War 2. The play will be presented on a split stage.

Along with the Tagore Festival director Suman Mukhopadhyay will be involved in other events as well. On Friday, October 27th at Knight Auditorium in the Spurlock Museum on campus, a screening will be held of Suman Mukhopadhyay’s most recent film Nazarband (2020). This movie centers around a young woman Vasanti and her journey after five years in prison trying to navigate a new Kolkata, and find her husband and son.

The 2023 Tagore Festival is a guaranteed enriching and enjoyable time. The fact that the event is free makes it openly available to all who want to join. I believe this cultural event is a very important one to our local culture due to Tagore’s great ties with this town. I encourage anyone who is curious about this event to come on out!

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