Santiniketan: The Abode of Peace Where Nature and Learning Unite

Santiniketan, which means abode of peace in Sanskrit, is a well-known university town today. It is located in the Birbhum District in West Bengal. Originally, Santiniketan was known by the name "Bhubadanga" which was the village in which it was located. --IMAGE credit

The history of Santiniketan

  • Shantiniketan was founded by Maharshi Devendranath Tagore, father of Rabindranath Tagore. 

  • Devendranath Tagore was a Brahmo Samaj adherent, a Hindu reform organization that highlighted the worship of one ultimate God as well as the value of education and social transformation.

  • During a visit to Raipur in 1862, Debendranath Tagore expressed a keenness in a land near Birbhum. There was just one structure there.

  • In 1863, he purchased the piece of land and named it "Santiniketan".

  • He built an ashram on the land in 1863 and began teaching the principles of the Brahmo Samaj.

  • Slowly, Shantiniketan became a spiritual retreat where people from all religions were invited for prayers and meditation.

  • Debendranath built a 60-foot-by-30-foot hall for Brahmo prayers after being inspired by the Crystal Palace in London. 

  • The roof was tiled, and the flooring was made of white marble, however the remaining part of the building was glass.

  • Maharshi erected the Santiniketan Griha (place of residence) and the magnificent stained-glass temple. A lovely garden was set up on the outer edges of the Santiniketan Bari.

Rabindranath Tagore in Santiniketan

  • In 1878, Rabindranath Tagore first visited Santiniketan, when he was just 17 years old.

  • Rabindranath Tagore, born in Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1861, was profoundly impacted by his father"s teachings and devoted most of his early years in the Santiniketan ashram. 

  • In 1901, Rabindranath established a Brahmachary ashram, which eventually came to be known as Patha Bhavana in 1925. 

  • This Santiniketan experimental school had five pupils.

  • The school which was located in a natural setting strived to integrate teaching with a commitment to society.

  • The curriculum naturally centred around nature, blending the finest of western and conventional eastern systems of education, with lessons held in the open air. 

  • Tagore wanted his pupils to feel free while being in a formal learning environment.

  • The school later came to be known as Patha Bhavan.

Establishment of the Visva Bharati University

  • In 1913, Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel Prize for Literature for his poetry collection "Gitanjali".

  • The year 1921 was a turning point in the history of Santiniketan.

  • Rabindranath Tagore transformed the small school at Santiniketan into Visva Bharati University.

  • In 1951, Visva Bharati was designated as a Central University and an institute of national significance.

  • It is one of the most renowned universities in India. 

  • The Visva Bharati University offers various courses in multi disciplines. 

  • Some of them include science, social science, agricultural science, humanities, arts, etc.

  • Tagore"s motto for Visva Bharati University, Yatra visvam bhavatyekanidam (where the whole globe can find a nest), mirrored his dreams for the university.

  • Annual festivals like as Basanta Utsav (Holi) and Poush Mela became prominent cultural events due to Tagore"s demand, with pupils and educators from Santiniketan taking part in the festivities.

  • The entire campus enjoys a festive atmosphere on different occasions and events, with baul (traditional traveling musicians of Bengal) music, tribal performances, and other cultural events being organized across the township.

  • Santiniketan Rabindranath Tagore has been able to conserve Bengal"s rapidly vanishing rural crafts tradition through folk markets like the recurring Bondangaar Haat and rural associations like Amar Kutir.

Sriniketan – A crucial part of Visva Bharati

  • Sriniketan, a section of Visva Bharati dedicated to rural restoration. 

  • It is 2 kilometres away from Santiniketan.

  • The art of pottery, leatherwork, batik print, and handicrafts are among the cottage businesses found here.

Establishment of Kala Bhavan and Sangit Bhavan

  • In Santiniketan Rabindranath Tagore, other institutions were also established. 

  • These include Sangit Bhavan, a school of music, and Kala Bhavan, a school of fine arts.

  • The Kala Bhavan is recognized as one of the best arts colleges across the globe.

A distinguishing characteristic of Santiniketan is its abundant greenery and visually appealing campus, which attests to Tagore"s idea that the strong connection between man and environment should be a cornerstone of education.

Shantiniketan is well-known for its distinctive educational approach that stresses the combination of the natural world, innovation, and holistic learning. It is based on the idea of an open-air classroom, where children are urged to acquire knowledge in close proximity to nature. Santiniketan has evolved with the times. But the spirit of the location remains true to Tagore"s vision.

With its various cultural institutions, beautiful greenery, and rich past, Santiniketan has become a renowned tourist destination. It is a key component of India"s cultural and intellectual legacy, and it remains to be a centre of study and cultural interaction.

Santiniketan was recently proposed for inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), an International advisory organization.