‘The highest education is that which does not merely give us information but makes our life in harmony with all existence’ – Rabindranath Tagore
Before you think you have landed up at the wrong place because isn’t this supposed to be a travel post? Well then it still is, because today I intend to take you to a small yet famous town in West Bengal which is the seat of art and culture!
So let’s travel from freezing Manali to the warm Shantiniketan, the land of red soil, the land of art and Baul; the place where Tagore himself lived and the place of the renowned Vishwa Bharati University
Did you know that Shantiniketan was known as Bhuban Danga, named after a famously notorious dacoit from Bengal. It was Rabindranath’s father who bought this small piece of land and named in Shanti Niketan or the abode of peace!
And true to its name not only is it a must visit because of the Vishwa Bharati University but also for the beauty that it is.
How to reach
Shantiniketan can be reached by rail or road from Kolkata. It is about 4 hours from the Indira Gandhi International airport, you can either take a bus or hire a car. I however prefer the train ride, while there are quite a few trains that ply, taking the Howrah-Jalpaiguri Shatabdi is the best bet, which reaches Bolpur (nearest railway station to Shantiniketan) in under 2 hours. From Bolpur you can take taxis or buses to reach Shantiniketan which is just 2-3 kms away.
Where to stay
There are many hotels in Shantiniketan, and can mostly accommodate any last minute travel plans. We stayed at Chhayabrita, an airbnb property. It was spacious, comfortable and surrounded by a lot of greenery.
What to do
The Uttarayan Complex – This is where Tagore lived. It consists of 6 houses, 5 built and used by Tagore – Udyan, Konark, Shyamali, Punashche and Udichi. Uttarayan is a library come museum which houses all of Tagore’s works, pictures, paintings, things he used. It’s a fascinating place.
Vishwa Bharati University – Started as a small school, this was converted to a University post Tagore won the Nobel Prize. This was built basis Tagore’s belief that learning is best done in a natural environment. Hence you will see a lot of classes being held out in the open under the shade of trees. The University is divided into various smaller schools such as Kala Bhavan (one of the best art colleges in the world), Vidya Bhavan (Insitutute of humanities), Shiksha Bhavan (for Science) Sangit Bhavan (For Dence, Drama, Music) etc. The Upsana Griha , a prayer hall made of Belgian glass and white marble is a sight to behold. Just walk around the campus and get to witness some great pieces of art being created by the students.
Sonajhurir Haat – This is the Saturday market on the banks of the Kopai river. Visit this place to buy a variety of handicrafts – Pottery, terracotta jewellery, batik prints etc. but like all places you will need to bargain. There are also Baul Singers (local folk) and folk dancers who will keep you entertained.
Where to eat
There are a lot of local Cafes around to sit and idle your time away. The food you get here is however typically Bengali. I have heard a lot about Bonolakshmi, however we couldn’t eat there because you apparently need to book a day in advance!
Shantiniketan is about a leisurely trip on a weekend, go there with a time on your hand, walk the red soil, soak in the sun and art and sway to some soulful folk music and come back with the lesson of living in harmony with nature before travelling to the next destination with Preeti
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