Shantiniketan – On hearing the name of this city of education, the image of Ravindra Nath Thakur is revealed to the nuns. From childhood we had heard and read about Rabindranath Thakur and his Karma Bhumi Santiniketan. For a long time, I had a strong desire to see this Santiniketan. That is why I was thrilled when I landed at Bolpur railway station. My hair was crawling all over the body. This happens to me at a time when my much desired desire to visit a place is finally fulfilled.
History of Santiniketan
Shantiniketan was founded around 160 by Devendranath Thakur. The land of Santiniketan was always owned by the Thakur family, but at some point there were probably dacoits living there. Even this place was named after one of them, Bhuban Dakt. Devendranath was enchanted after seeing the landscapes filled with red soil and sixth trees (Saptaparni) of this place. He decided to build a building for himself here. He named his building Santiniketan. At that time he did not even imagine that one day this name would become famous as a symbol of culture. Shantiniketan literally means the abode of peace. Over time, this residence took the form of an ashram which was open for meditation and for every seeker seeking spiritual knowledge. This place played an important role in the Brahmo Samaj movement of Bengal.
Rabindranath, the son of Devendranath started the school here, which was a small school of 5 students. Instead of sitting inside the classroom and studying outside, studying in the context of nature, this was his concept. Later this system became famous as Ashram system. I think this is the perfect confluence of the ancient master-disciple system and the modern classroom system. Even today, you can see the trees in the shade of huge trees here.
Today this small school has developed into a world university.
How to do a meaningful interview with Santiniketan?
You can see most of the attractions of Santiniketan in one day. Here I have tried to guide in relation to a meaningful overview of the attractions of Santiniketan. Hope you will benefit from this.
Rabindra Bhavan Museum (Thakur Museum)
This small but interesting museum is located in one of the many houses of the Uttarayan complex. The entire museum is dedicated to Rabindranath Thakur. The most special attraction of this museum was the Nobel Prize medal awarded to Thakur which was stolen from here a few years back. After that the employees here have become more alert. I was surprised to see such a large number of employees and watchmen here. Most of the time, the number of employees and watchmen is more than the number of visitors and tourists.
The museum darshan begins from the lineage of the Thakur family. Here, personal items of the family such as vessels, combs, objects of worship and medicine boxes are displayed. The Thakur family has a collection of artifacts gifted from China, France, Japan and Rome. There is also a collection of personal items of Rabindranath Thakur, such as related objects of his painting, paintbrush, color etc.
The museum also holds the passport of Rabindranath Thakur which is in the form of a letter. It is not known when the passport came into circulation in today’s book in India.
The museum has many photographs. In a photograph, Thakur himself is shown painting. There are many articles related to Thakur’s interactions with Gandhi, Einstein, Sigmund Freud, George Bernard Shaw, Helen Adams Keller, Subhash Chandra Bose, Jawaharlal Nehru and many other legendary personalities of that period. Many correspondence with him has also been displayed.
Everything here is written in Bengali. It was a big hurdle for me in the museum and other departments of Uttarayan. They must have been translated into Hindi or English language.
Photographs are not allowed within the museum.
The Uttarayan complex has several houses built by members of the Thakur family. Some of them are Udayan, Konark, Shyamali, PS and Udichi. At first darshan, these houses with reefs painted in pale yellow and white colors and ground painted red, seem very simple. Their grandeur comes from the objects displayed in them. A printing machine is placed outside a house. Rabindranath Thakur’s car is kept in a garage. Some houses have exquisitely carved wooden plaques. In some houses I saw beautiful divans which had excellent decoration.
In the garden, beautiful trees and exquisite crafts seem to compete with each other.
There is an open deodorant called Mrunmoi.
There is a huge banyan tree with numerous branches which has stood here uninterrupted for many years. Looking at him it seems as if he is telling me that he has been at this place ever since the place was nothing more than a hut.
A plain has a famous craft of a Santhal family.
Many artefacts have been displayed in the open courtyards of Santiniketan and among the houses. After some time I came to know that art is an integral part of the culture of Santiniketan. Wherever you stand in this city, you will see many artifacts around you. Some of them are works of eminent artists like Nand Lal Bose. Most of the artists were students of Santiniketan.
Hathi in Vishwan Bharati of Santiniketan
We started this Padbhramana from the Brahma temple i.e. the house of worship. The marble plaque behind the iron gate had a sloka written in Sanskrit.
In the center of the garden is an ornate glass chamber. This is exactly what you often see in the gardens left behind by the British. This is actually the Brahma temple. It opens only on certain days. Generally, it remains closed for most of the year.
From here, we went a little further. There we saw a free class. Rounded planks of low height were placed around an ancient tree. A bell hung above the red frame. This frame seemed to be a simple form of archway of Sanchi Stupa.
The structure of the university was simple, but the glimpse of Indian and Islamic architecture is clearly visible in it. Our guide showed us the hall where Indira Gandhi had lived for some time. Some buildings were exquisitely painted. Original works painted by some eminent painters of that period are still preserved.
Vishwa Bharati’s design school shook me. This black building has many frescoes in white color which are very attractive. Another structure near by has also been painted in black color, but it is a raised sculpture.
The immediate students of the university were busy creating many works of art. He was making a fascinating increase in the artistic aura of this entire art field. I spoke to some students and tried to learn more about their field of work. The entire environment was getting very creative. Such an environment provides ample opportunity for one’s creativity to emerge and flourish.
Psalms were written in Bengali on the entire surface of a building with silky aura. At that time I felt very sorry that I did not have knowledge of Bengali language.
Another mural depicts some of Ellora’s scenes.
Small huts have been given a new look by the student artists here and have made them very visible. A hut adorned with colored pieces of glass, I am very brother.
Rabindranath Thakur’s glory
Touring within the Santiniketan complex is like touring India 100 years ago. It seems as if Rabindranath Thakur will come out of one of his houses now. It seems like they will discuss the shape with you outside of a school right now. They do not come directly, but they seem to communicate with you in every corner of Santiniketan, through every place composed by them.
It was the month of May. Flowers of yellow-colored amalatas were giving a golden aura to the entire package. Due to him, the premises of Santiniketan seemed very bright and bright. It seemed as if the mesmerizing nature was competing with the works composed by poet and philosopher Rabindranath Thakur.
A few kilometers from Visva Bharati is a Shilpgram which celebrates the heritage of the tribal tribes of India. Here, frescoes and many other works of art by tribal tribes of most tribal areas of India are displayed.
It is my idea to publish the first edition on the frescoes of Srjani Shilpgram. Therefore, I am not presenting a more detailed description about them here.
According to your interest towards tribal art and graffiti, you can spend 1 to 2 hours here. You can never call this place complete. There is a continuous development of art and artifacts here. Hence, work is always in progress here.
Amar Kutir is a store of goods made by handicraft, from where you can buy handmade artifacts at Shilpgram itself. Among the purchasable items from here are more popular, apparel, textiles, Dhokra artifacts, artificial jewelery made of coconut, leather items, etc.
Music of Baul sect in Santiniketan
Baul is a Vaishnava sect of Bengal. The region of Bengal in which Santiniketan is located is very famous for bowl singers. We had the good fortune that day we met a bowl singer singing under a tree near the Amar cottage. We thoroughly enjoyed Rabindranath Tagore’s work ‘Ekla Chalo Re’ sung by him.
I was so impressed with the singer that I dedicated an entire version to him. The name of that version is ‘Ekla Chalo Re’.
Santiniketan is conveniently connected to Kolkata by rail and road. Bolpur is the nearest station on the rail route. It is located very close to Santiniketan. In fact, you will get first glimpse of Santiniketan at Bolpur place.
We made our stay at the West Bengal Tourism Lodge in the city. This lodge is located at a walking distance from most tourist spots. Battery-powered rickshaws or tuk-tuk are also available at all locations.
Translation: Madhumita Tamhane