Exploring the Ashram Complex
The Ashram Complex in Santiniketan is home to several remarkable structures that bear testament to the founding of this cultural haven. Let us embark on a journey through these architectural marvels:
Santiniketan Griha and Mandir: Epitomes of Spiritual Significance
Erected by Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, the Santiniketan Griha (house) and Mandir (temple) are of great historical and religious significance. The Mandir, a resplendent stained glass temple, serves as a non-denominational place of worship, embodying the universal spirit that underpins Santiniketan’s revival and reinterpretation of religious ideals in Bengal and India. Adjacent to the temple, the Santiniketan Griha features a meticulously designed garden on all sides, created by replacing the top layer of soil with rich soil from outside. Rows of fruit trees and lush foliage further enhance the serenity of this sacred space. Walking along the avenue of Sal trees, Rabindranath’s favorite path, one can’t help but be captivated by the tranquil beauty of the surroundings.
Patha-Bhavana: A Tapestry of Frescoes
Patha-Bhavana, an integral part of the Ashram Complex, is a testament to the artistic brilliance of Nandalal Bose and his students. Step into this remarkable institution, adorned with beautiful frescoes that bring to life scenes of profound cultural significance. Nandalal Bose’s artistic vision has created an immersive experience, where art and education converge in perfect harmony.
Natun-Bari: A Testament to Generosity
Natun-Bari, a simple thatched cottage built by Rabindranath for his family, holds a special place in Santiniketan’s history. In 1915, Rabindranath offered this humble abode to the students of Mahatma Gandhi’s Phoenix school. The house was named in honor of Mrinalini Devi, Rabindranath’s late wife, and today, it stands as a symbol of compassion and the pursuit of knowledge. The adjoining Mrinalini Ananda Pathsala, a nursery school, further immortalizes her name.
Dehali, Santoshalaya, and Singha-Sadan: Testimonials to History
Dehali, once the abode of Rabindranath, holds within its walls the echoes of the poet’s presence. This historic building serves as a reminder of the profound connection between Rabindranath and Santiniketan. Santoshalaya, a single-story house with a tiled roof, named after Santoshchandra Majumdar, one of the first students of Santiniketan Vidyalaya, functions as a hostel for young students. Its walls, adorned with frescoes from the twenties, add an artistic flair to the environment. Singha-Sadan, boasting a clock tower and bell that regulate the daily routines of the ashram, stands as a testament to the accolades bestowed upon Rabindranath, including an honorary doctorate from Oxford University. Purvatoran and Paschimtoran, the two buildings flanking Singha-Sadan, serve as venues for classes, nurturing the intellectual growth of Santiniketan’s students. Dwijaviram, the former residence of Rabindranath’s eldest brother, Dwijendranath, carries within its walls the echoes of the illustrious visitors who graced this abode, including Mahatma Gandhi himself.
Dinantika, Cha Chakra, and Ghantatala: Celebrating Art and Culture
Dinantika, an octagonal two-story structure, serves as a testament to the artistic prowess of its creator, Kamaladevi. Originally a tea-house known as Cha Chakra, it was dedicated to Dinendranath Tagore, Kamaladevi’s late husband. Adorned with vibrant frescoes by Nandalal Bose, this house stands as a vibrant representation of Santiniketan’s cultural vibrancy. Ghantatala, reminiscent of a gateway to a Buddhist stupa, welcomes visitors at the crossroads of Salvithika and the road leading to Cheena Bhavana. Its bronze bell once regulated the activities of the ashram, instilling discipline and harmony. Gour-prangan, the open ground in front of the school building, serves as a venue for significant ceremonies such as the flag-hoisting on Independence Day and Republic Day. On January 23, the birth anniversary of Netaji, rows of lighted lamps illuminate the ground, commemorating the occasion.
Kalo Bari and Panthasala: Odes to Creativity and Community
Kalo Bari, a unique structure crafted from mud and coal-tar, stands as a testament to the creative spirit fostered within Santiniketan. Adorned with relief work, created over the years by art students, it epitomizes the artistic endeavors that have become an integral part of the town’s identity. Panthasala, constructed in 1925 through the generous donation of Hirabai, serves multiple purposes, including housing a book-store and Railway Reservation Counter. This historically significant building was established to provide a resting place, a well, and a water trough for travelers, extending Santiniketan’s warm hospitality to those passing through.
Ratan Kuthi and Malancha: Homage to Scholars and Solace
Ratan Kuthi, erected in 1924 as a residence for scholars working at Santiniketan, symbolizes the deep reverence the Tatas held for Rabindranath. This building stands as a testament to the esteemed poet’s influence and the impact he had on the world. Malancha, built by Rabindranath in 1926, was intended to provide solace to his youngest daughter, Mira, following her failed marriage. Father and daughter collaborated in planning the picturesque garden surrounding the house, infusing it with love and tranquility.