The picturesque setting where Rabindranath Tagore built his world university Visva Bharati was discovered by his father, Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, when he broke his jouney there on his way to the prosperous village of Raipur. He liked it so much, he set up an Ashrama there and named it Shantiniketan, the Abode of Peace ( from shanti = peace and niketan = abode ).
Starting with an experimental experimental open – air school with just five students in 1901, Rabindranath built up an international university, Visva Bharati, in twenty years. Visva Bharati sought to develop a base on which the cultures of the East and West could meet in common fellow-ship and strengthen the conditions for world peace .
Visva Bharati become a centre for cultural studies for students and scholars from all over the world . The university is probably most renowned for its facultires of Art and Indian Music and Dance. But its facilities cover a wide range of courses and disciplines in Humanities and Science.
The University’s Department of Rural Reconstruction at Sriniketan has also gained wide acclaim for its work on social and economic issues.
A Garden of Art
Visva Bharati provided fertile soil where countless artists blossomed and thrived. From the architecture of the various buildings to the sculptures, frescos and murals by Nandalal Bose, Ramkinkar Baij, Binodbehari Mukherjee and others that adorn the campus, Shantiniketan is a veritable garden of art.
The Uttarayana Complex
The Uttarayana complex, where the Poet lived, comprises buildings like Udayana, Konarka, Shyamali, Punascha and Udichi – examples of the architectural genius of the Poet’s son, Rathindranath. Rabindra Bhavan ( also known as Vichitra ) is a Research Centre and Museum .
The Collages of the University and the School :
Each Collage of Visva Bharati is unque in its architecture :
- Kala Bhavana ( collage of Fine Arts )
- Sangeet Bhavana ( college of Music & Dance )
- Vidya Bhavana ( College of Humanities )
- Shiksha Bhavana ( Collage of Science )
- Cheena Bhavana
- Hindi Bhavan
- Vinaya Bhavana ( Teachers’ Training Collage )
Visva Bharati also has its own school, Patha Bhavana .
Shantiniketan has its own unique festivals that attract participation from far and wide. These festival were instituted by the Poet himself so that the students might grow in communion with Nature :
- Varsha Mangal (Festival of Rain )
- Pousha Utsav ( Winter festival, including the foundation day and Annual fair )
- Magh Mela ( also in winter, celebrating the Anniversary of Sriniketan )
- Vasantutsava ( Spring Festival of Colour ) .
Ballavpur Wildlife Sanctuary : Situated near Sriniketan, about 3 km from Shantiniketan, the Sanctuary is a fairly large wooded area originally set up as a Deer Park. It is also orintholigist’s delight in that during winter a water body inside the sanctuary attracts several thousand migratory waterfowl. The Tilpara Barrage near Siuri is also a good for winter waterfowl.
Bakreswear : 58 Km from Shatiniketan, Bakreswar is famous for its hot springs and temples dedicated to Lord Shiva .
Massanjore : 78 km by road, Massanjore is the site of a massive dam on the Mayurakshi River, which has created a picturesque reservoir framed by forested hills. Also a place for excellent birding.
Kendubilwas or Jaidev Kenduli : Birthplace of the medieval poet Jaydev, author of Geetagovinda, Kendubilwa is the site for the Joydev Mela, held during Makar Sankranti ( mid-January ). The fair attracts thousands of pilgrims and the Baul singers. The temples at the site have exquisite terracotta work.
Nanoor : Birthplace of the 14th Century Vaishnava poet Chandidas, Nanoor is 23 km from Shantiniketan by road. You can still see the ruins of Chandidas’s house and the Basuli temple.
Fullara : 40km from Shantinikatan, with a temple in the midst of idyllic surroundings. A fair is held here during Maghi Purnima ( January- February).
Nalhati : 104 km from Shantiniketan, the picturesque town is famous for its Lalateshwari Temple, situated on a hillock. There is a spring at the foot of the hillock.
Tarapith : 80 km from Shantiniketan, Tarapith is an important pilgrimage centre, with a temple of Tara Devi .
Kankalitala : 8 km from Shantiniketan, a place of pilgrimage for Hindus. A fair is held here on the last day of the month of Chaitra ( April ).
Visiting Hours :
Winter : 14.00 to 16.30 hours
Summer : 14.30 to 17.30 hours
During vacations : 7.30 to 11.00 hours
Weekly Holidays : Tuesday-half, Wednesday-full.
How to Go There :
The nearest airport is Kolkata 213km away.
Rail : The nearest railhead is Bolpur, 2 km away. Trains connecting Bolpur with Howrah / Sealdah are Kanchanjunjunga Express, Visva Bharati Fast passenger and Shantiniketan Express.
Road : Motorable roads connect Shantiniketan with Kolkata, Burdwan 48 kms, Durgapur 56 kms.
Local Transport : Tourist cars and buses available from the Manager, Tourist Lodge .
Accommodation – Government Tourist Lodge and several Private Hotels – luxury and budget.
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