Santiniketan is a neighbourhood of Bolpur town in the Bolpur subdivision of Birbhum district in West Bengal, India, approximately 152 km north of Kolkata. It was established by Maharshi Devendranath Tagore, and later expanded by his son, Rabindranath Tagore whose vision became what is now a university town with the creation of Visva-Bharati.
In 1863, Debendranath Tagore took on permanent lease 20 acres (81,000 m2) of land, with two chhatim (Alstonia scholaris) trees, at an annual payment of Rs. 5, from Bhuban Mohan Sinha, the talukdar of Raipur, Birbhum. He built a guest house there and named it Shantiniketan (the abode of peace). Gradually, the whole area came to be known as Shantiniketan.
Binoy Ghosh says that Bolpur was a small place in the middle of the 19th century. It grew as Shantiniketan grew. A certain portion of Bolpur was a part of the zamindari of the Sinha family of Raipur. Bhuban Mohan Sinha had developed a small village in the Bolpur area and named it Bhubandanga. It was just opposite Shantiniketan of those days. Bhubandanga was the den of a gang of notorious dacoits, who had no compunction in killing people. It led to a situation of conflict and confrontation, but the leader of the gang, ultimately, surrendered to Debendranath, and they started helping him in developing the area. There was a chhatim tree under which Debendranath used to meditate. Inspired by The Crystal Palace built originally in Hyde Park, London, to house the Great Exhibition of 1851 and later relocated, Debendranath constructed a 60-foot × 30-foot hall for Brahmo prayers. The roof was tiled and the floor had white marble, but the rest of the structure was made of glass. From its earliest days, it was a great attraction for people from all around.
Tagore family at shantiniketan :
Shantiniketan was founded and developed by members of the Tagore family. It was founded by Debendranath Tagore. Rabindranath Tagore wrote many of his literary classics at Santiniketan. His son, Rathindranath Tagore was one of the first five students at the Brahmacharya asrama at Santiniketan. After the death of his father in 1941, Rathindranath took over the burden of all responsibilities at Santiniketan. When Visva Bharati was made a central university in 1951, Rathindranath was appointed its first vice-chancellor.
Pratima Devi, Rathindranath’s wife, had active links with Visva Bharati from a very young age. She lived in Santinketan till her death in 1969.
Mira Devi, Rabindranath’s youngest daughter, after her failed marriage, lived in Malancha built for her in the Ashrama complex in 1926. She died at Santiniketan in 1969. Krishna Kripalani, husband of Nandita (Buri), daughter of Mira Devi, taught at Santiniketan for nearly 15 years, beginning 1933. Krishna Kripalani’s biography of Tagore was amongst the best ever written.
Dwijendranath Tagore, Rabindranath’s eldest brother, spent the last twenty years of his life at Santiniketan. He lived in Dwaijaviram in the Ashrama complex.
Dinendranath Tagore, Dwijendranath’s grandson, was principal of Sangit Bhavana in its earliest years.Dinantika, built in 1939, housed the Cha chakra, where staff members of Visva Bharati met over a cup of tea for meetings and relaxation.
Shantiniketan is a university town with varied educational facilities. At the school level are Patha Bhavana and Siksha Satra. Apart from a number of courses in humanities, science and education, Visva-Bharati offers a range of music, dance and art courses and lays emphasis on language courses. Sangit Bhavana offers courses in Rabindra Sangit, Hindustani classical vocal, sitar, esraj, tabla, pakhawaj, Kathakali dance and Manipuri dance. Kala Bhavana offers courses in painting, mural, sculpture, graphic art, design (textiles/ ceramics) and history of art. The university offers specialised 4-year courses in Persian, Tibetan, Chinese and Japanese. Bhasa Bhavana offers undergraduate and post-graduate courses in Arabic & Persian, Bengali, Chinese, Hindi, Indo-Tibetan, Japanese, Odia, Santali and Sanskrit. Vidya Bhavana offers 1-year courses in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Marathi, Odia, Pali, Persian, Russian, Sanskrit, Santali, Tamil, Tibetan and Urdu. It also offers 2-year courses in Arabic, Assamese, Bengali, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Marathi, Odia, Pali, Persian, Russian, Sanskrit, Santali, Tamil, Tibetan and Urdu. There are certificate courses in leather craft, book binding & hand-made packaging, batik work and hand-made paper making. Shantiniketan offers courses in the field of agriculture and rural development. Only a selective list is presented here to give an idea of the range of courses offered.
The town is known for its literary and artistic heritage, with the notable figures being Rabindranath Tagore and Nandalal Bose. In addition, the Visva Bharati also serves as Shantiniketan’s cultural center.
Festivals of shnatiniketan :
In Shantiniketan, seasonal changes bring their own colors and beauties with various festivals. The emphasis in organising these festivals is on traditional Indian forms and rituals. Numerous festivals range from Basanta Utsav and Barsha Mangal to Maghotsav and Rabindra Jayanti. Holi, the festival of colours, is celebrated in its own style at Santiniketan – it is called Basanta Utsav and welcomes the arrival of spring. The programme starts from the morning with singing and dancing to Tagore’s tunes by the students and ends with spreading coloured powders (called ‘abir’) and expression of festive wishes. After the formal Visva Bharati programme, other programmes follow. Barsha Mangal is celebrated with cultural programmes in July–August. Ananda Bazar is a fair for handicrafts by the students, held on Mahalaya day. Prior to leaving for the puja vacations students celebrate Sharad Utsav. Nandan Mela marks Nandalal Bose’s birth anniversary (on 1–2 December) and is a special attraction for art lovers. Briksharopan and Halkarshan emphasise man’s closeness to nature and are held on 22-23 Shraavana (August). Maghotsab, celebrating the founding of the Brahmo Samaj, is held on 11 Magh (towards the end of January). Various anniversaries and cultural programmes are organised throughout the year. 25 Baisakh (7-8 May) is the birthday of Rabindranath Tagore but his birth anniversary is celebrated along with and subsequent to the Bengali New Year (mid April onwards).
Poush mela :
In Birbhum district, the fairs (mela in Bengali) are spread right across the district and are thought of as an extension of the concept of markets, a place of not only trade and business but also a meeting place of people and an arena for cultural exchange. The largest and most notable fair is the Poush Mela held at Santiniketan for three days from 7 Poush. Devendranath Tagore with twenty followers accepted the Brahmo creed from Ram Chandra Vidyabagish on 21 December 1843 (7 Poush 1250 according to the Bengali calendar). This was the basis of Poush Utsav (the Festival of Poush) at Santiniketan
Shantiniketan is located at around 200 kilometres northwest of the city of Kolkata in the rural Bolpur subdivision of Birbhum district in West Bengal.
Bolpur Shantiniketan railway station is well connected with Sealdah Railway Station, Howrah Station, Kolkata Railway Station, Malda Town, New Jalpaiguri etc of West Bengal & Guwahati Railway Station of Assam.
There is direct AC Volvo bus service of WBTC from Kolkata to Bolpur Shantiniketan (Kolkata-Bolpur-Suri & Suri-Bolpur-Kolkata).
Bus and private cars are available from Kolkata (outstation cab service of Ola Cabs, Uber from Kolkata), Durgapur City Centre Bus Stop, Katwa, Berhampore and soon from Santragachi Railway Station in Howrah.