Shantiniketan: The abode of peace

Distance from Kolkata: 189 km
Driving Time: 4 hours approximatly
Road Trip: 2-3 days

If you have not gone for a drive to Santiniketan, which is just 189 km away from Kolkata, you are really missing the fun of driving. The route through the beautiful Durgapur Expressway and National Highway 2 is a real pleasure for the drive. In fact, Santiniketan should be the first choice for a Kolkatan to go for a long drive. You just won’t feel that your car is gliding at 80-100 kmph on the smooth highways until you watch the car’s speedometer.

 

Route from Kolkata: From the Vidya Sagar Setu proceed towards the Kona Expressway lane. The Kona Expressway, at its fag end, bifurcates into a flyover on the right connecting NH6-NH2 Connector. After a short stretch you will enter the Durgapur Expressway through which proceed straight towards Bardhaman. Just keep on driving through Durgapur Expressway which is one of the finest highways. Cross Dankuni, Singur, Palsit, Shaktigarh and Mankar on the Durgapur Expressway and NH2, until you finally reach Panagarh, the busiest town enroute. On reaching Panagarh, drive slowly to turn right from the ‘Darjeeling More’ and enter the Moregram Road through forests going towards Suri. This is where the road condition deteriorates. Thereafter cross the bridge over River Ajay to reach Illam Bazar. On reaching Illam Bajar, enter right from the island- the way towards Bolpur. Take the left lane towards Bolpur with the BITM institute from the Y fork ahead and proceed straight to Santiniketan.

They say that when Rabindranath Thakur visited Santiniketan with his father Debendranath Thakur as a child, he immediately fell in love with the place. For people world over who visit this abode of peace and learning, the emotions are very much the same. Debendranath Thakur’s ashram and Rabindranath’s open-air school Santiniketan is not just a learning centre any more. It is also one of the most popular driving getaways from Kolkata.

Every year visitors to the place, be it curious travellers or stressed city dwellers looking for a quiet and quick retreat, are visiting Santiniketan to get a feel of the place grown and nurtured by the Noble laureate. The romance of the poet’s immortal songs will stir within you as you walk through the paths that the poet must have tread unmindful of the history he was making or the culture he was shaping. And if it happens to rain as you walk amid the lush greenery then you will know what the term soul stirring really means.

Santiniketan can be visited any time of the year. The natural charm of Santiniketan is a major draw in itself. You can visit and check out the Visva-Bharati campus that has a number of buildings known for their unique architecture. The beautiful gardens around present a pretty picture of the place blessed with natural beauty.

Attracted by this very beauty of the place, Maharshi Debendranath Thakur had established Santiniketan (abode of peace) in 1863. In 1901, Rabindranath Thakur set up a Bramhacharya School here, which later came to be known as the Patha Bhavan. With the financial backing of the Maharajah of Tripura, the Visva-Bharati Society was established in 1921. Rabindranath Thakur envisioned a centre of learning which would have the best of both the east and the west. The open-air school soon graduated into one of the prestigious institutions of learning in the country.

An International University, Visva-Bharati was founded by Rabindranath Thakur as a meeting point of the cultures of the east and the west to promote world peace. An interesting feature about Santiniketan is that splendid sculpture, frescoes, murals and paintings of Rabindranath Thakur, Nandlal Bose, Ramkinkar Beij, Bindobehari Mukhopadhyay and others adorn the campus.

The main attractions of Santiniketan include the various buildings of the Visva-Bharati campus. In the year 1922, Rabindranath started a rural reconstruction centre at Sriniketan, 3 km. from Santiniketan. Later some other institutions have come up here like the Siksha Satra, Silpa Sadana, Palli Siksha Bhavana, Santosh Pathshala etc.

On your visit to Santiniketan you must also see the Uttarayan complex where the poet laureate lived. It consists of several buildings such as Udayana, Konark, Shyamali, Punascha and Udichi which reflect the architectural genius of the poet’s illustrious son the late Rathindranath Thakur.

In addition to this there are Kala Bhavan (College of Fine Arts and Crafts), Sangit Bhavan (College of Music and Dance), Vidya Bhavan (College of Humanities), Siksha-Bhavan (College of Science) and Vinaya Bhavan (Teacher’s Training College), Cheena Bhavan (Chinese faculty) and Hindi Bhavan.

The Santiniketan campus of Viswa-Bharati has gone on to become a centre for learning with a bias towards art, music and humanities. In Sriniketan there is an agricultural college (Palli Siksha Sadan) and the Centre for Rural Service and Studies (Palli Samgathan Bibhaga), which are major attractions.

Shopping is a favourite leisure activity you will enjoy here. The leather products are a must buy. You can get these products in variety like leather bags, ladies bags, designer bags, decorative bags, and fancy bags. Batik and weaving items are also famous. Grameen and Sarvodaya of Bolpur, Vishwa Bhartin Shilpa Sadan and Santiniketan Co-operative Stores  are the main shopping complexes here.

Besides the campus there are a good number of places located around Santiniketan that you must not miss. The Ballavpur Wildlife Sanctuary (Deer Park) is 3 kms from Santiniketan. It is now a large wooded area with herds of deer and makes a natural bird sanctuary. Black Buck, spotted deer, jackals, foxes and a variety of water birds are found here.

The fast eroding ‘Khowai’ and the eucalyptus forest, 3km away from Santiniketan is also a major attraction. The local handicraft fair on every Saturday afternoon is a major crowd puller.

Kankalitala, 9 km away on the bank of the Kopai is a sacred Hindu shrine. Fullora, Nalhati, Bakreshwar, Kankalitala, Massanjore, Nanoor, Kendubilwa and Tarapith are main excursion places near Santiniketan.

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Places to visit:

  • Chhatimtala: Here Maharshi Devendranath, the father of Rabindranath Thakur, used to meditate.
  • Kala Bhavan: The College of Fine Arts & Crafts has an museum exhibiting sculptures, frescoes and murals and a library of art books.
  • Patha Bhavan: Now a secondary school, it is of particular interest as an example of the traditional Brahmacharya Ashram.
  • Prayer Hall (Upasana): Founded by the poet’s father in 1863, the hall is made of glass. Prayers are held on Wednesday.
  • Bichitra: Also called Rabindra Bhavan, a Research Centre and Museum where the poet’s personal belongings, paintings and various editions of his works are exhibited.
  • Sangeet Bhavan: College of Dance and Music. The University is replete with works on Art, Music and the Humanities.
  • Uttarayan Complex: The poet lived and worked in the Northern Complex consisting of several buildings like the Udayana, Konarka, Shyamali, Punascha and Udichi.
  • Note:
  • The University remains closed in May-June and for one month during the Puja Holidays i.e. September-October.
  • Weekly holidays on Wednesdays and half-holidays on Tuesday.
  • Permission is required from the Public Relations Officer, Vishwa Bharati for taking photographs.

Did you know?
Some of the most famous students of Visva-Bharati include India’s former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, world famous film director Satyajit Ray and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen.

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