Discover India - Shantiniketan



Gandhiji and Tagore at Shantiniketan

Shantiniketan is a famous university town in West Bengal. It is mainly known for the university set up by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, one of Bengal's greatest figures.

Shantiniketan also spelled Santiniketan, was previously called Bhubandanga (named after Bhuban Dakat, a local dacoit), and owned by the Tagore family. It is also a tourist attraction because Rabindranath wrote many of his literary classics (namely Tagore songs, poems, novels etc) here, and his house is a place of historical importance.

 

History

In 1862, Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, father of Rabindranath Tagore, came across a landscape, which he found to be very peaceful and an ideal place for meditating. He renamed it Shantiniketan, which means abode (niketan) of peace (shanti). It became a spiritual centre where people were invited to join for meditation and prayers. Debendranath Tagore founded an 'Ashram' here in 1863.

In 1901, Rabindranath Tagore started a school at Shantiniketan. Tagore's vision was a world where man exists in perfect harmony with nature. It was named 'Patha Bhavana' and started with only five students. Open-air education as opposed to being cloistered in the four walls of a classroom became a reality here. It was a school of his ideals, whose central premise was that learning in a natural environment would be more enjoyable and fruitful. After he received the Nobel Prize, the school was expanded into an International University. It was renamed Visva Bharati.

Tagore envisioned a centre of learning which would have the best of both the east and the west. He established the Visva Bharati University in West Bengal. The university holds two campuses. One is at Shantiniketan and the other at Sriniketan. Sriniketan focuses on agriculture, adult education, village welfare, cottage industries and handicrafts.

Quick facts on Shantiniketan 

Indian Nobel laureate Amartya Sen was born in Shantiniketan. It was Rabindranath Tagore who christened Amita Sen's son Amartya. It contains some splendid sculptures and paintings of many of Bengal's famous artists. It is surrounded by a beautiful wooded area and a Deer Park.

Uttarayan Complex in Shantiniketan was the place where Rabindranath Tagore lived. It has a number of architecturally unique buildings such as the Udayana, Konark, Shyamali, Punascha and Udichi. The Museum and Art Gallery in the Uttarayan complex displays Tagore's manuscripts, paintings and personal items.

Leaves of the Saptaparni trees are given to graduating students at the annual convocation. The Prime Minister of India is the Chancellor (Acharya) of the University. Of the many seasonal festivals celebrated at Santiniketan, Poush Mela is the most important, with cultural programmes like dance, music, Bauls (wandering musicians) and folk performances.

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