Santiniketan, the renowned cultural hub nestled in West Bengal, has achieved a significant milestone by securing a coveted spot on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The announcement of this prestigious inclusion was made by UNESCO on its official platform on a Sunday.
In a tweet, UNESCO proudly declared, "New addition to the @UNESCO #WorldHeritage List: Santiniketan, #India. Congratulations!" This recognition has been a long-cherished aspiration for India, particularly for the Birbhum district, where Santiniketan is located.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his delight at Santiniketan's inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List, stating, "Delighted that Santiniketan, an embodiment of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore's vision and India's rich cultural heritage, has been inscribed on the @UNESCO World Heritage List. This is a proud moment for all Indians." His words encapsulate the significance of this achievement for the nation.
India had long been striving for UNESCO recognition for Santiniketan, a cultural treasure nestled in Birbhum district. The decision to include Santiniketan in the prestigious list was taken during the 45th World Heritage Committee Meeting held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee also expressed her joy and pride in the news. She remarked, "Biswa Bangla's pride, Santiniketan, was nurtured by the poet and has been supported by the people of Bengal over the generations. We from the Government of West Bengal have significantly added to its infrastructure in the last 12 years, and the world now recognizes the glory of the heritage place. Kudos to all who love Bengal, Tagore, and his messages of fraternity. Jai Bangla, Pranam to Gurudev."
The Archaeological Survey of India celebrated this momentous achievement, declaring it as "a momentous achievement for India" and marking Santiniketan as the 41st World Heritage Property of India.
Noted conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah, who played a pivotal role in preparing the dossier for Santiniketan's inclusion, couldn't contain her joy. She exclaimed, "We had worked on the dossier in 2009, and maybe time wasn't right then, but we always believed in the beauty of Santiniketan, and today we feel vindicated seeing it in the UNESCO list." Lambah, known for her award-winning works in the field of conservation, stated that once ICOMOS recommended its inclusion, it was almost certain to happen.
A few months ago, the landmark site was recommended for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), a France-based international non-governmental organization dedicated to the preservation and enhancement of architectural and landscape heritage worldwide.
This historic site, founded over a century ago in 1901 by the illustrious poet and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore, originally served as a residential school and a center for art rooted in ancient Indian traditions. Tagore envisioned it as a place that transcended religious and cultural boundaries, promoting the unity of humanity. In 1921, it transformed into a 'world university,' adopting the name "Visva Bharati."
Santiniketan's architectural style stands apart from the prevailing British colonial and European modernist influences of the early 20th century. Instead, it embraces a pan-Asian modernity, drawing inspiration from ancient, medieval, and folk traditions across the region.
Today, Santiniketan has blossomed into a serene and picturesque town, with its university at its heart, attracting tourists seeking a blend of knowledge and aesthetic brilliance. It is truly a unique haven where the lines between education and artistry gracefully converge.