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Rabindranath Tagore & Santiniketan

Santiniketan is situated in the Birbhum district of West Bengal, India, 205km by road from Kolkata (earlier named Calcutta) via Panagarh and 165km via Guskara.

Santiniketan was earlier known as Bhubandanga (named after Bhuban Dakat, a local dacoit i.e. robber). In 1862, Maharshi Devendranath Tagore (father of Rabindranath), while on a journey to Raipur, came across a landscape with red soil and meadows of lush green paddy fields. Rows of Chhatim trees and date palms charmed him. He acquired the land, planted more saplings and built a house for himself. He called his home Santiniketan (abode of peace). Santiniketan became a spiritual centre where people from all religions joined for meditation and prayers. He founded an ‘Ashram’ there in 1863.  

Later, on December 22, 1901 Rabindranath Tagore started a school at Santiniketan named Brahmacharyya Ashrama, modelled on the lines of the ancient gurukul system. After he received the Nobel Prize which enhanced not only the pride of India but also the prestige of Santiniketan, the school was expanded into a university. It was renamed Visva Bharati, its symbolic meaning being defined by Tagore as “where the world makes a home in a nest”. The aim of this educational institute was quest for truth, blending the methods of learning of the East and the West. Visva Bharati, now more than a hundred years old, is one of the most prestigious universities of India with degree courses in humanities, social science, science, fine arts, music, performing arts, education, agricultural science and rural reconstruction. It is now a central university under the control of the Government of India and its chancellor is always the Honourable Prime Minister of India.

In the year 1922, Rabindranath started a rural development centre at Sriniketan, 2.5 km. from Santiniketan in order to train local youths in handicrafts enabling them to chalk out a livelihood. Later, certain other institutions also came up there- Palli Siksha Sadan, Silpa Sadan, Siksha Chhatra etc.

At Rabindranath’s behest, the annual Paus Utsav (festival), normally held from December 23 early morning to 25 December midnight, became an important cultural event where students and teachers of his school took an active part along with local and internationally renowned artists and artisans. Paus Utsav became Paus Mela, a meeting ground for urban people and rural folks. Rural artisans bring their wares like batik printed materials, the most famous Santiniketan leather bags, earthen wares, paintings, etc. to the fair while urban entrepreneurs set up stalls so that rural people could buy the new industrially produced goods that were revolutionizing life in the cities.

Beside Pous Mela, other important events like Basonta Utsav (Holy festival) during February or March, Magh Mela at Sriniketan during 6-8 February every year, Barsha Mangal and Brikkha Ropon Festival, Nandan Mela (1-2 December every year), Anandabazar on Mahalaya day every year, Pochishe Baisak (9 May) & Bayeeshe Srabon (8 August) every year are observed in befitting manner. 

Apart from Visva Bharati, the Bengal Institute of Technology and Management (BITM) are also located in Santiniketan.

All these developments together with its natural charm have made Santiniketan an important and famous place, which attracts tourist from various destination of the globe.