Santiniketan is a small town in the Birbhum district of West Bengal, India. It is located about 160 kilometers north of Kolkata. Santiniketan is known for being the home of Visva-Bharati University, a Central University and an Institution of National Importance. The university was founded by Rabindranath Tagore, a Bengali poet, philosopher, and polymath, who was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Tagore established Visva-Bharati as an international center for higher learning, with a focus on the study of Indian culture and traditions. The town of Santiniketan is also home to several other cultural institutions, including the Kala Bhavan, a school of fine arts, and the Sangit Bhavan, a music school. In addition to its cultural and educational significance, Santiniketan is also known for its natural beauty, with its lush green forests and fields, and its peaceful, serene atmosphere.
Santiniketan is located in the Indian state of West Bengal, and is easily accessible by road, rail, and air. The town is located about 200 kilometers from Kolkata, and is well-connected to the rest of the country by a network of roads and railways. Visitors can also fly into Kolkata and take a bus or taxi to Santiniketan. The best time to visit Santiniketan will depend on the type of experience you are looking for. The winter months, from November to February, are the best time to visit if you want to enjoy cooler temperatures and clear skies, while the monsoon season, from June to September, is a good time to visit if you want to experience the lush greenery of the countryside.
Bolpur, which is located next to Shantiniketan, serves as a transportation hub for the area. There are many trains that run between Kolkata and the Bolpur-Shantiniketan station, which is located 3km south of the university, on a daily basis. The best option is the 12337 Santiniketan Express, which departs from Howrah station at 10.10am and offers 2nd class/chair options for 95/305 INR, and takes 2 and a half hours to reach its destination. For those traveling to Siliguri, the 9.19am Kanchenjunga Express (train 13175 on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday, and 13173 on other days) is a good choice, with sleeper/3AC/2AC options for 250/675/965 INR and a journey time of nine hours.
Bolpur’s Jambuni bus stand, which is located on Tourist Lodge Road (Pravat Sarani) and is just 100m west of the Geetanjali Cinema, has frequent buses until around 2pm to Suri and Durgapur, from where you can catch a connection to Berhampore or Bishnupur, respectively. The total trip to either destination takes about four hours and costs 100 INR.
The climate in Shantiniketan is generally warm, with summer temperatures reaching a high of around 35-42 °C and winter temperatures dropping to a low of 10-15 °C. Summer in Shantiniketan lasts from March to May, and winter from December to February. The monsoon season, characterized by heavy rainfall, occurs from June to September. Shantiniketan has experienced temperatures as high as 47.0 °C and as low as 4.9 °C. On average, the temperature in Shantiniketan is 26.2 °C and the area receives about 1480mm of rain per year, with 76 days of rainfall. The climate in Shantiniketan is classified as a tropical savanna climate.
Santiniketan is a town that is rich in cultural traditions, with a strong emphasis on art, music, literature, and dance. The town is home to a number of cultural institutions, including the Kala Bhavan art school, which attracts students and artists from around the world. Santiniketan is also home to a number of annual festivals, including the Poush Mela, which celebrates the Bengali harvest season with music, dance, and other cultural events.
Visva-Bharati University is the centerpiece of the educational system in Santiniketan, and is known for its unique approach to education. Founded by Rabindranath Tagore, the university is based on the idea of “world friendship” and seeks to foster a spirit of cultural exchange and understanding. Visva-Bharati offers a range of academic programs, including undergraduate and graduate degrees in a variety of disciplines.
Santiniketan is home to a number of landmarks that are worth a visit, including the Rabindra Bhavan Museum and the Uttarayan Complex. The Rabindra Bhavan Museum is a tribute to the life and work of Rabindranath Tagore, and features a collection of manuscripts, photographs, and other artifacts that provide insight into the poet’s life and career. The Uttarayan Complex is a beautiful and serene retreat that was designed by Tagore as a place for contemplation and reflection.
Santiniketan offers a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets and preferences, including guest houses, hotels, and homestays. Visitors can choose from a variety of options, including luxury hotels, budget guest houses, and cozy homestays. Many of the accommodation options in Santiniketan are located close to the university and other landmarks, making them an ideal choice for travelers who want to be within easy reach of the town’s main attractions.
The local cuisine of Santiniketan is a delicious blend of Bengali and international flavors, with a focus on fresh, locally grown ingredients. Traditional dishes include fish curry, lentil dal, and sweet desserts like sandesh and roshogolla. There are also a number of restaurants and cafes in Santiniketan that serve a range of cuisines, including Indian, Italian, and Chinese.
Santiniketan is a town that is always buzzing with activity, and there is always something exciting happening. Throughout the year, the town hosts a variety of festivals, concerts, and other events that attract visitors from all over the world. Some of the most popular events in Santiniketan include the Poush Mela festival, which celebrates the Bengali harvest season, and the Rabindra Jayanti, which marks the birthday of Rabindranath Tagore.
Santiniketan is a great place to enjoy a range of activities, whether you are interested in sightseeing, shopping, or outdoor adventures. Some ideas for activities to enjoy in Santiniketan include:
- Sightseeing: There are a number of landmarks and cultural attractions in Santiniketan that are worth a visit, including the Rabindra Bhavan Museum, the Uttarayan Complex, and the Kala Bhavan art school. Visitors can also explore the local markets and temples, or take a nature walk in the surrounding countryside.
- Shopping: Santiniketan is home to a number of artisanal shops and markets that sell handmade crafts and other locally produced goods. Visitors can browse for souvenirs, such as handmade pottery, textiles, and jewelry, or pick up some locally grown produce at the weekly haat bazaar.The Shantiniketan region is known for its strong tradition of tribal handicrafts, and you can find a wide range of attractive items for sale at various outlets in town.
- Shonibarer Haat – HANDICRAFTS (Khoyai Haat; Sonajhuri Forest; 2.30-6pm Sat)
- This open-air market is a great place to find local artisans and other sellers offering a variety of items, including brightly colored textiles, vibrant tribal jewelry, and attractive dhokra (lost-wax casting) metalwork. The market is held in the picturesque setting of the Sonajhuri eucalyptus woods on the north edge of town. Some sellers are present every day, but the market is busiest on Saturday afternoons when there are also food stands and possibly even baul musicians.
- Tanzil – (Shyambati; 10.30am-9pm)Tanzil stocks a very good range of diverse, mainly tribal, crafts and art from all over India. It’s on the main road towards the northern end of town, about 800m past the main turning into the university campus.
- Outdoor adventures: The surrounding countryside of Santiniketan is a great place to enjoy outdoor activities, such as hiking, birdwatching, and picnicking. Visitors can also visit nearby national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, or enjoy a day trip to the nearby beaches.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF SANTINIKETAN
Santiniketan was originally called Bhubandanga, after the name of the village where it was located.
The town of Santiniketan was founded by Maharshi Devendranath Tagore, the father of Rabindranath Tagore, who was a Bengali philosopher, polymath, and the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Maharshi Devendranath Tagore was a follower of the Brahmo Samaj, a Hindu reform movement that emphasized the worship of one supreme God and the importance of education and social reform.
In 1863, Maharshi Devendranath Tagore purchased a large piece of land in Bhubandanga, which he renamed Santiniketan, meaning “abode of peace.” He established an ashram, or spiritual retreat, on the land and started to teach his students about the principles of the Brahmo Samaj, as well as the importance of nature and simplicity.
Bolpur was a small place in the mid-19th century, but it grew as Shantiniketan did. A portion of Bolpur was a part of the zamindari of the Sinha family of Raipur. Bhuban Mohan Sinha had developed a village in the Bolpur area called Bhubandanga, which was opposite Shantiniketan.
Bhubandanga was known for a group of dacoits who were notorious for killing people. However, the leader of the group eventually surrendered to Debendranath and helped him develop the area. Debendranath built a 60-foot by 30-foot glass structure for Brahmo prayers, inspired by The Crystal Palace in London, under a chhatim tree where he used to meditate.
The structure was a popular attraction. Rabindranath Tagore first visited Shantiniketan in 1878 when he was 17 years old. In 1888, Debendranath dedicated the property to establish a Brahmavidyalaya through a trust deed.
In 1901, Rabindranath started a Brahmacharyaashrama, which became known as Patha Bhavana in 1925. In 1913, Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel Prize in Literature. In 1921, Rabindranath Tagore founded Visva Bharati, which was declared a central university and institute of national importance in 1951.
Rabindranath Tagore, who was born in Calcutta in 1861, was deeply influenced by his father’s teachings and spent much of his childhood at the ashram in Santiniketan. He later went on to study at the University of London and became a renowned poet, writer, and philosopher. In 1901, Rabindranath Tagore returned to Santiniketan and established Visva-Bharati University, which was initially a small school for the study of Indian culture and traditions.
Visva-Bharati University was later expanded to include a wide range of disciplines, including arts, sciences, and humanities. It became a Central University and an Institution of National Importance in 1951, and is now one of the most prestigious universities in India. Rabindranath Tagore also established several other cultural institutions in Santiniketan, including the Kala Bhavan, a school of fine arts, and the Sangit Bhavan, a music school.
Santiniketan became a hub of cultural and intellectual activity, attracting scholars and artists from around the world. It became known for its natural beauty, with its lush green forests and fields, and its peaceful, serene atmosphere. It was also a center of resistance during India’s struggle for independence, with many of its students and faculty participating in the freedom movement.
Today, Santiniketan is a popular tourist destination, with its many cultural institutions, beautiful natural surroundings, and rich history. It continues to be a center of learning and cultural exchange, and is an important part of India’s cultural and intellectual heritage.