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Shantiniketan

udayan the house of tagore at shantiniketan
Udayan - The House Of Rabindranath Tagore, Shantiniketan

Shantiniketan was a dream of Maharshi Devendranath Tagore that was later on nurtured and practically constructed by his worthy son Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, the world-famous poet, author, dramatist and artist of 20th century Bengal. The very word “Shantiniketan” means the “the abode of peace”. Indeed the place is. Located in the north- central region of West Bengal under Birbhum district, Bolpur-Shantiniketan is the perfect place to find the self because of the serenity and absolute peace.

The tranquil nature and the mesmerizing ambience of the red soil region can be the ultimate destination for those who are looking forward to escape from the city hustles and bustles. Bolpur forms itself with Shantiniketan, Sriniketan and Prantik. The famous Vishva-Bharati University, the open air schools of Shantiniketan created by Tagore and the famous handicraft industries are the most interesting things to explore here.

History

prayer hall upasana griha at shantiniketan
Upasana Griha (Prayer Hall) at Shantiniketan

Once Maharshi was travelling by this wonderful place of the red soil region of Bolpur when he suddenly decided to stop and take a look at the serene place surrounded by Chhatim trees. The preacher of Bramho religion and a great philosopher himself, Devendranath decides to create an ashram there as the place he found to be ideal for meditation. Previously, the place was famed as Bhubandanga that was named after a local dacoit Bhuvan but later on it came under the zamindari of the Tagores. According to another source, it is said that previously the place belonged to Bhuvan Shinha which he later on passed to the Tagores to found the ashram there.

On 1863, Maharshi Devendranath Tagore founded Shantiniketan Ashram. Later on Rabindranath himself founded the Brahmo Vidyalaya school and later on in the year 1901 he established his dream the first open air school. By 1921, this school was expanded to form the famous Vishva Bharati University. This transformation happed few years after Tagore received the first non-European Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913. By 1951, it became one of the best known Central Universities across India. The institute is proud of the alumni like Oscar winner Satyajit Ray, Nobel laureate in economics Amartya Sen, Gayatri Devi, Abdul Ghani Khan, and Indira Gandhi. Famous teachers like C.F. Andrews and Alex Aronson were once associated with this university.

Vishva Bharati is a completely residential university with separate colleges taking care of different disciplines including music, dance, drama, art and sculpture. The Kala-Bhavan, the art college of Shantiniketan which stands out to be one of the flagship institutes across the world to teach art.

Besides, the university is dedicated to patronize the local handicrafts and art to support the rural development as such. This instance is best found at the Sriniketan campus.

Attraction & Activities

santal family by ramkinkar baij
The Santal Family in 1938, Santiniketan (Sculptor Ramkinkar Baij)

Shantiketan celebrates various festivals and fairs all throughout the year. The worth mentioning are:

Rabindra Jayanti: They also call it Ranbindra Janomotsav. This day is celebrated as Tagore’s Birthday and the Bengali New Year- Naboborsho in the mid-April. Young boys and girls of the school and university gather together to sing and dance in the name of Gurudev to celebrate his birthday. Thousands of people gather here to witness the auspicious occasion held at the university grounds.

Briksharopan: On 22nd and 23rd Sravana i.e. August this festival is celebrated by planting saplings. They also observe the day as Halakarshan that means plowing as rainy season is the ideal time of plantations and agriculture in the arid land of Bolpur.

Varshamangal: This is the festival to welcome the rains. During the month of August and September Varshamangal is celebrated.

Paush Utsav/Paush Mela (Fair): This is the most important festivals of Shantiniketan. Mainly to celebrate the harvesting season this fair and fiesta is celebrated. Though, officially it lasts for three days in the month of December, the vendors stay back for the almost the whole month as the fiesta continues. Thousands of people across the country and outside flock down here to enjoy the best baul music here after the mesmerizing Joydev-Kenduli baul carnival. Rabindranath encouraged the popularity of baul music. Therefore, for all these three days music lovers from the corners of the country and the world come here to enjoy the rustic essence of Indian folk music. Besides women appreciate to collect the famous Shantiniketan sarees, kurtas, bags and their very own dokra (metallic) ornaments and miniatures for home décor from the fair held at the Bhuvandangar Math (ground).

There is a brief background of this festival as well. It is said that Maharshi Devendranath Tagore along with 20 other followers accepted the Bhramho religion from Sri Ram Chandra Vidyabagish on December 21st. It was 7th day of Poush as per Bengali calendar. Students of Vishva-Bharati observe this day every year as a reminiscence of this great event in the Maharshi’s life.

Maghotsav: This day is the most auspicious day for the people of Bramho creed to observe the foundation day of the Brambo samaj by Raja Rammohan Roy on January 23rd, 1830. According to the Bengali calendar it is 11th Magh. But this is a day celebrated with khichuri (a Bengali preparation of rice and lentils), mixed vegetables and chutney (Bengali sweet dish).

Joydev Fair: This is famous for the baul music and folk music of Bengal. It starts from the Paush Sankranti or Makar Sankranti and lasts till the 2nd of Magh.

Vasanta Utsav: Also known as dol utsav in Bengal, Vasanta utsav is the festival of colors. This festival is celebrated to welcome spring the season of color and romance. The students of the university dance and sing on the roads of Santiniketan, all dressed in yellow and they only have the colors as their makeup on this day.

Nearby Places

Deer Park, Kankalitala, Khoai-Kopai irrigation systems, saturday hat, Amamr kuthi, Joydev-Kenduli, Tarapith, Massanjore, Nanoor, Nalhati, Lavpur-Fullara, Saintha- Nandesawari, Bakreshwar.

How to reach Shantinietan?

Nearest Airport is Calcutta Netaji International Airport and Shantiniketan is around 212 Kms from there.

It takes around 2-3 hours to reach there, via train from Kolkata (Howrah/ Sealdah). Nearest railway station is Bolpur, 2kms from Shantiniketan.

By road people can reach there too via Durgapur, Burdwan, and Sarnath.

Places to stay

Mark & Meadows, Ranga Mati Tourist Lodge, Maharshi Niwas, Bolpur Lodge and so on.

General Information

Country India
State West Bengal
District Birbhum
STD Code 03463
ISD Code 0091
Languages Bengali, Hindi, English and Santhali
Climate Minimum Temp: 8°C (January in winter)
Maximum Temp: 42°C (June in summer)
Best time to visit November to February
Nearest Railway Station Bolpur, 2kms from Shantiniketan
Near By Airport Netaji International Airport at Dumdum, Kolkata