Rabindranath Tagore is the most eminent Bengali renaissance poet, philosopher, essayist, critic, composer and educator who dreamt of a harmony of universal humanity among the people of different origin through freedom of mind and spiritual sovereignty. Gitanjali is a collection of poems by Rabindranath. The original Bengali collection of 157 poems was published on August 14, 1910.
On the way over to England in 1912, Rabindranath began translating, for the first time, his latest selections of poems, Gitanjali, into English. Almost all of his work prior to that time had been written in his native tongue of Bengali.He decided to do this just to have something to do, with no expectation at all that his first time translation efforts would be any good. He made the handwritten translations in a little notebook he carried around with him and worked on during the long sea voyage from India. Upon arrival, his son left his father’s brief case with this notebook in the London subway. Fortunately, an honest person named Rothenstein took help of his friend W. B. Yeats, the famous Irish poet and finally published the book through India Society of London. The English Gitanjali or Song Offerings is a collection of 103 English poems . It contained translations of 53 poems from the original Bengali Gitanjali, as well as 50 other poems which were from his drama Achalayatan and eight other books of poetry — mainly Gitimalya (17 poems), Naivedya (15 poems) and Kheya (11 poems).
The translated poems were extremely well received. In 1913, Tagore became the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, largely for the English Gitanjali. The English Gitanjali became very famous in the West, and was widely translated. The word gitanjali is composed from “gita”, song, and “anjali”, offering, and thus means – “An offering of songs”; but the word for offering, anjali, has a strong devotional connotation, so the title may also be interpreted as “prayer offering of song”.
“… Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action,
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”