Shantiniketan: The Home and the World

Shantiniketan: The Home and the World
Upasana Griha at Shantiniketan, Photo Credit: Shutterstock

On Rabindranath Tagore's birth anniversary, we take you through the enchanting world of Shantiniketan

Uttara Gangopadhyay
May 07 , 2021
12 Min Read

Located at a distance of 212km from Kolkata, Shantiniketan is a broad-based name for the area that encompasses the university (Viswa Bharati) and the expanding township (Bolpur).

Approaching Shantiniketan
Located to the west of Kolkata, Shantiniketan in Birbhum district, can be reached by road but the train journey is more interesting. You will find itinerant baul singers, flute-players and maybe even a snake charmer, regaling the passengers on train; donate a small sum only if you feel like it. Bolpur is the station to get down at for Shantiniketan.


Choose a homestay

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Stay at a homestay in Shantiniketan if you are keen to know about local culture and cuisine. Some of the popular homestays in and around Bolpur are Nayana’s, Krishnachura, Mitali (currently closed for renovation), etc.

Enjoy a cycle ride in Bolpur

Detox at Babli

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Babli, in Dwaronda village, is a farm-based retreat, about 15km from Bolpur, where you stay in the middle of acres of agricultural land, eat organically grown food and go for long walks into the unpolluted countryside. The owners are actively involved in rural development and you can also see the work they do.

Explore Khowai
Located to the north of the university township, khowai is a large tract of land consisting of red laterite soil. Eroded by the wind and water, the land has given way to gullies. A canal runs nearby. During monsoon, the dark sky, the green forest and the red soil seems like an artist’s canvas, a photographer’s dream.

Knowing about Tagore
Poet, Noble laureate Rabindranath Tagore founded a small school based on the back-to-nature educational system, in 1901, in Shantiniketan, an ashram-style abode founded by his father Maharshi Debendranath Tagore. The school later grew into the university called Viswa Bharati.

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With permission, you are allowed to see the verdant university complex but be careful lest you disturb the classes, some of which are still held in the open-air, under shady trees, just as Tagore had prescribed. A visit to the Uttarayan complex is a must, where you will see the quaint houses where Rabindranath Tagore lived and the museum containing Tagore-related paraphernalia. 

Join the seasonal festivals

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Tagore had decided that Shantiniketan's festive calendar would be guided by the seasons. As the monsoon is the season for agricultural activities in India, Shantiniketan holds the Halakarshan or the ploughing ceremony and Vriksharopan ceremony (August 8 and 9, 015) with much fanfare. Varshamangal (August 16) is a cultural presentation of Tagore's monsoon-based compositions through songs, dances and recitations.

Marvel at the natural sculptures
A private museum showcasing natural rock sculptures in the open air garden and an indoor display of sculptures from drift wood and dry wood, it is situated adjacent to Sonajhuri forest. Check it out here. 

Retreat to Sabuj Bon
To see and feel what rural Bengal is like, you can make an overnight visit to Sabuj Bon (green forest). About 15km from Shantiniketan, it is a sprawling resort with lots of greenery around and a river for a neighbour. You stay in mud huts with straw thatched roof; basic amenities in place; no television or telephone facility in the rooms.

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But you can see the beauty of monsoon unfold as the dark clouds roll in from the horizon, the rains draw a water curtain over sky and land, and the surrounding forests turn into a deeper shade of green. 

Shop for ethnic products
Shantiniketan is a shopper’s paradise. Batik on textiles and leather is one of most attractive items found here. Bolpur town is dotted with shops selling hand-crafted artefacts and textiles. The showroom at Amar Kutir stocks a wide variety of locally made products, including batik leather artefacts. Every Saturday, the Sonajhuri forest near Khowai, is the venue of a weekly market where local people come to sell handicrafts.

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Browse through the mind-boggling displays – jewellery made of terracotta, kantha-stitched sarees, patchwork bags, products made of wood, musical instruments used by the folk singers, folk paintings, etc. You can also buy home-made pickles and savouries, and listen to the baul singers

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Spend a day at the Tepantar theatre village
Stay with the theatre practitioners of Tepantar, a hamlet about an hour’s drive from Shantiniketan. Residents here stay amidst a rural setting, earning their livelihood through poultry farming, fishing, growing fruits, etc. They specialise in all aspects of the art form – acting, music, dance, martial arts, prop-making, etc. and will be more than happy to share their knowledge and experience with you.

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You can also go on an excursion to the 600-year old Shyam Rupa Temple in the middle of a forest and to a 70-feet tall terracotta temple known as Ichai Deul. Accommodation is available at Tepantar. 

Visit Ballavpur Wildlife Sanctuary
The sanctuary is mainly known for its deer (and birds in winter). Visit during the morning hours, especially during feeding time, when the otherwise shy animals crowd at the feeding enclosure. Entry and camera charges apply. You can stay at the Park Guest House adjoining the sanctuary.

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