The Story of Shantiniketan
An ode to Kobiguru Rabindranath Tagore !
And a greater ode to His Father Maharishi Devendranath Tagore.
The story goes that Maharishi Devendranath Tagore, a Bengali erudite philosopher, a Spiritual Teacher, and a religious savant, was taking a boat ride in the river Ajay in the Birbhum District of
West Bengal, when he, by chance happened to lay his eyes on a tract of land on the eastern bank of the river which he thought would be perfect for Meditation and Upasana for his creed of pupils. So he approached the Talukdar of Raipur, Bhuban Mohan Sinha to discuss matters weighing his Heart. That
was the year 1862.
With a paltry sum of Rs 5/- as a yearly payment, he managed to beget 20 acres of lush green land on lease,
with an extra topping of two chhatim trees which will bear great significance later on!
After procuring the land he thought of dedicating the entire property to build a Brahmavidyalaya. “A School for the Brohmosamaj –Society of Brahmans.” But it was not easy. Because, a few kilometers opposite to that area, in a place called Bhuvand anga, lived a gang of dacoits called Bhuvan Dakaat. They left no stone unturned in thwarting Maharishi’s dream of building an ‘Abode of peace’, with the ruckus and mayhem they created. But Maharishi was undeterred! With his inner will and strength of purpose, he transformed Bhuvan Dakaat into a good Samaritan who not only helped him develop that area but became his ardent follower as well.
In the tract of land that he procured, Maharishi at first build a simple guest house and called it Shanti Griho a
home serenading peace. In due course of time its popularity grew and the entire area took the shape of a city
known as Shantiniketan of today! So, as you alight from any of the trains connecting Kolkata with Bolpur city of the Birbhum district of West Bengal, You are 2 km away from experiencing a city which is nestled in Nature’s lap constituting lush green meadows, canopy of Chhatim trees, Ranga maati and Aaka
Baka nodi. Welcome to Shantiniketan!
You can literally feel the ‘Tagorian Air’ as you step into the premises of Vishwa Bharti University which is the focal point of Shanti Niketan. It was here under the chhatim trees known as Chattim Tola that Noble Laureate
Rabindranath Tagore started his Experimental school The Vishwa Bharati school, in the year 1921 with a bunch of 5 students including his eldest son Rathindranath Tagore. His Gurukul system of study was different from the present didactic ways of teaching and remains undiluted till date. He believed that Mother Nature is the biggest teacher and a child’s innate abilities can be harnessed not in some artificial structured setting but amidst Nature! As time went on, the school grew to the stature of a University and was declared a Central University in the year 1951. It features a plethora of Components, streams and faculties that are rooted in its tradition at the same time producing students of world repute. Some of the Infrastructural components worth visiting are Rabindro Bhavan, Kala Bhavan , Kalo Bari, Upasana Griho, Singho Sadan, Taludhoj, Teen Pahar, Ghanta tola Uttarayan -a set of 5 houses including that of another Noble Laureate Dr. Amartya Sen, each boasting of great architectural design and history of pedagogy. Also, you will find elementary schools of Vishwa Bharati churning out little angels set out to rule the world with qualities of the head and heart but feet kept firmly on the ground alike their predecessors. Sprawling University playground reminds
us once again that when a child plays more, he learns more in keeping with Tagore’s idea of Naturalism!
It is in these playground and other areas too, that many of the University’s programmes are held which is open for all. Notable among them are Poush Mela, Bosonto Utsav Magh Mela, Anando Mela, Pochishe baishak and many more, each glorifying the cultural heritage of the Land and its people. Every year people all over the world visit this a place to be a part of these rich cultural activities.
A little away from Visha Bharati campus, in a place called Shonajhuri is held the famous Shonajhuri haat or market which is a temporary Market set up every Saturday by the local Marketeers, selling innumerable local traditional items of clothing, artifacts, jewelry, handcrafted decorates etc. attracting a large number of tourists. Other noteworthy areas of Shantiniketan are the Bhallavpur Deer park, The Central library, Gitanjali museum near Bolpur Railway Station and the Khopai river.
To sum up, Shantiniketan as of today draws nearly 1.2 million tourists annually. Vishva Bharati University itself plays a big role in this. It boasts of alumni ranging from Oscar-Winning Satyajit Ray to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Noble Laureate Amartya Sen, Architect Nandolal Ghosh, Great Painter, and Craftsman Ram Kinkar Baij, Poetess Mrinalini Dutta, Philosopher, and Educationist Rathindranath Tagore, the list continues, adding more and more glory to Shantiniketan and making it a force to reckon with!
Written by : Mrs Reema Tarafdar