‘Shantiniketan, where Rabindranath meets Lalon everyday’
On my way back from Shantiniketan, I saw this tagline at Kolkata airport – ‘Shantiniketan, where Rabindranath meets Lalon everyday’. I was mesmerized by the glorious cultural feel hidden inside this quote rightly advertised by the West Bengal Tourism. Shantiniketan is such a place where the spirit of Lalon Fakir, undoubtedly one of the prominent identities of Bengali Folk (Baul) culture, mingles with the height of Rabindrik (Rabindranath Tagore’s) ideals seamlessly. You can feel it everywhere in Shantiniketan – starting from the open sky classrooms located under the mango trees to the soothing sound of the flute played by an unknown folk artist somewhere.
Rabindranath Tagore was not only a Nobel Laureate (in Literature) but also the most important visionary for Shantiniketan and its unparallel educational and cultural traditions. Rabindranath, who is also called as ‘Gurudev(The Teacher)’ is one of the transformers of Bengali art & culture. In 1901 he started the journey of Shantiniketan with a “Brahmacharyashram School”, completely based on the Hindu traditions, but later on these so called traditions transformed into a vast openness and a new Rabindrik philosophy evolved which is still persisting at the core of the Shantiniketan’s education system. So, come and feel the rich traditions and calm your mind in Shantiniketan, an Unesco world heritage site.
How to reach?
- From Kolkata International Airport (Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport) you can hire a taxi/cab to reach Shantiniketan. Distance – 164 KMs along NH19 and NH114. Fare – not more than Rs. 3.5K (excluding toll tax, which will cost around Rs.500 more). Duration – 3.5 to 4 hours.
- From Sealdah or Howrah Railway station several trains are available to reach Bolpur railway station which is only 3KMs away from Shantiniketan. You can book tickets/reservations from irctc.co.in or from any other major websites such as makemytrip.com etc. Train fare ranges from few hundred rupees to few thousand rupees. An AC first class express train ride from Sealdah railway station will take you to Bolpur in just 2.5 hours and the ride will cost you around Rs. 1.5K.
What to see?
Whether you are a traveler, an art & culture enthusiast or simply an explorer searching for a place to clam your mind, Shantiniketan would be the perfect place for you. Here are some of the famous places to visit in Shantiniketan –
(1) Uttarayan Complex – This is the heart of the Visva Bharati campus, where Rabindranath lived at different times in five architecturally varied houses (Konark, Udayan, Shyamali, Punascha and Udichi). Also inside Uttarayan, the Tagore Museum is located. Please note that the Museum remains closed to the visitors on every Wednesday and Thursday.
(2) Chatim Tala(Under the Chhatim Tree) – This is the center of the Shantiniketan Ashram. Rabindranath’s father Maharshi Debendranath Tagore founded this place to practice meditation and prayer.
(3) Upasana Griha (Prayar House) – This was also founded by
Maharshi Debendranath Tagore. There is no idol in this Upasana Griha and this is dedicated to people of all the religions.
(4) Amrakunja (A garden of Mango Trees) – Famous for open sky classrooms, Rabindranath’s Noble Prize felicitation ceremony etc.
(5) Nutan Bari (New House) – It was made in 1902. Rabindranath planned to live here with his wife and children but before the completion of this house, unfortunately, his wife Mrinalini Devi passed away.
(8) Dehali – Located at the east of Nutan Bari. After his wife’s death Rabindranath lived in this house until 1919. From this house he shifted to
Konark in Uttarayan.
(9) Sal bithi – The favorite road of Rabindranath. The road runs along a row of Sal(Shorea robusta) Trees.
(10) Shinghasadan(the house in between Purbatoran & Paschimtoran), Purbatoran(East Gate) and Paschimtoran(West Gate) – Purbatoran and Paschimtoran were made for students,teachers and delegates from the eastern & the western world respectively. Shinghasadan was designed by Mr. Surendranath Kar. Students can identify from the no of times the bell clangs from top of Shinghasadan,which function or activity is about to happen next. In 1940, the Oxford University awarded D. Lit to Ranbindranath in this house.
(11) Patha Bhavan – In 1901, Rabindranath started his Brahmacharyashram School in this building.
(12) Gour Prangan(The Open ground located in between Shinghasadan & Patha Bhavana ) & Ghanta tala(The Bell)
(13) Kala Bhavan (The house of Art) and Kalo Bari (The Black house – Hostel for the Students in Kala Bhavan)
(14) Sangeet Bhavan – The House of Music
(15) Shilpa Sadan (The Training and Shopping center of different artwork) – This is located in Sriniketan
(16) The ‘Shantiniketan‘ House
(17) The Central Library
(18) Artworks by Ramkinkar Baij
Other Places to see –
(01) Deer Park
(02) Amar Kutir – A well known place to buy handicrafts
(03) Kongkali Tala
(04) Joydeb Kenduli – The famous Sanskrit (of 12th Century) poet Jaidev wrote the famous epic poem ‘Gita Govinda’ here.
(05) Khowai Haat & Khowai River
(06) Srijani – Cultural Center
(07) Pratichi – The house of another Bengali Nobel Laureate (in Economics) Mr. Amartya Sen
(08) Santal Village – Enjoy your walk along the Santal Village and have a look at the two storied huts made of mud.
(09) Salboni Forest – Fullfill your desire of photography. A very famous spot for film shooting.
Famous festivals to enjoy & things to do…
Basant Utsav – Although this is celebrated all over India as Holi but in Shantiniketan, this is known as Basant Utsav. Through the festival the spring is welcomed following Rabindrik traditions. The inflow of tourists reaches its peak during Basant Utsav so if you want to come during this time, plan well in advance. I would say that Basant Utsav is a festival when the best of Bengali beauties are seen.
Poush Mela – Poush Mela is another major attraction of Shantiniketan. ‘Poush’ i.e. during the 9th month, as per the Bengali calendar, the festival of Poush Mela is organized in Shantiniketan. Different traditional bengali folk arts are celebrated during the festival.
Santal Dance – At Khowai Haat, join hands with the local Santal Tribeswomen and dance with the rhythm of ‘Lal Mati’ (through ‘Lal Mati’, the red soil areas of Bengal are often classified. These are the land of the primitive Santal Tribes of Bengal)
Where to eat ?
Bengalis love food and its uncountable varieties, Shantiniketan is not an exception to it. Inside Shantiniketan there are sevaral famous Bengali hotels such as the ‘Ram-Shyam’ (located near Khowai Haat) where you can eat your lunch in just Rs.150. I am sure that you shall never forget the taste of the begali foods in Shantiniketan, once tasted from a good hotel. There are so many price hotels by the roadside where you can get good food too but the appearance may not impress you in the beginning.
In fact, starting from the people to the society they live in, everything in
Shantiniketan is so simple and yet so rich in its value that you would love to come back here again and again.
If you are travelling by road from Kolkata to Shantiniketan, on your way at Shaktigarh, you can try some of the famous sweets of Bengal – ‘Langcha’, ‘Sitabhog’ & ‘Mihidana’. The mouthwatering taste of the sweets will remain as a memory in your test buds.
Best Time to Visit…
Except for monsoon, I guess, you can catch most of Shantiniketan’s beauties throughout the year. If you are a nature lover, Shantiniketan can offer you different experience at different part of the year, however the basic theme of these experiences remain the same – the complete peace of mind.
Guide Map of Shantiniketan…
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