Shantiniketan ‘Abode of Peace’

Shantiniketan meaning ‘Abode of Peace’ was originally the name of Nobel Laureate Guru Rabindranath Tagore’s house at Bolpur, Birbhum district of West Bengal. In 1901, Kaviguru  shifted here with his family and was so much impressed by the natural beauty of the place that he decided to establish an international Center of learning here with his own unique concept of teacher- student relationship and the natural open air classrooms. Vishwa Bharti University was later conceptualized on his ideas.

Presently being in Kolkata, I was very curious to visit the place and feel its tranquility.

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Open air classroom at Shantiniketan

On the Saturday morning I boarded the train to Shantiniketan from Howrah Station, Kolkata, one of largest and busiest railway stations in India.

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Howrah Railway Station, with Howrah bridge in the background, Kolkata

It was 10:10 in the morning when the train left the station for a two hour 15 minutes journey to Bolpur. The journey was quite comfortable as it was Air conditioned chair car bogie and all kinds of snacks were being sold by the local outside vendors. Quite cheap and tastes good too. The best part of the journey was yet to come. As I finished my coffee, a man in his fifties entered the coach and he was wearing saffron color long dress which usually Sanyasis and Mystics wear in India and he was carrying one traditional musical instrument Ektara (one stringed).  He started with his folk song in Bengali which was hardly understandable to me but the music was so mesmerizing that I just got lost until he stopped after few pf his own compositions. After collecting tips from the passengers he moved to the next coach for his next performance.

After few minutes of break there was another performance by a Baul Singer. Bauls are the singing mystics. A Baul sings and dances at the same time with the music as if they are together one entity. Their instrument is also unique and they are common in Bengal.

The train reached Bolpur around 12:30 noon and I took a shared Tutu (electric rickshaw) to Shantiniketan Campus for mere Thirty rupees for three kilometers.

There are many different schools within the campus, Kala Bhawan, Pathabhawan etc. which can be visited by hiring a Tutu. The students move around in the campus by bicycles from one school to another and back to their hostels. That is the reason that the whole campus is pollution free.

There is Museum (entry fee Rs. 40/), formerly the residence of Guru Rabidranath Tagore.  

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In fact,there are several buildings which Guru Rabindranath Tagore used at different point of time, all have been converted into museum and displays Guru’s creativity and other old photographs of Guru’s life in India and abroad.

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The car used by Guru is also  on display in one of the enclosures.

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Car used by Guru Rabindranath Tagore
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The house where Guru Rabindranath Tagore first came with his father and stayed in 1901.

After watching all the buildings and the surrounding lawns I headed towards much talked about Saturday flea market which starts around 3:00pm and ends with the sunset as there are no arrangements for lights there. About 2 kilometers from the museum, a tutu will  drop you to the local market at the outskirts.

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Saturday Flea market at Shantiniketan

Local artisans and artists gather here to sell their homemade handicrafts and clothes. Local musicians play folk songs without any fee. Tourists pay them in kind. They actually play very melodious music and together with the scene of the market place, the whole ambiance of the place is quite interesting and people come here and shop for the handicrafts and all such products at very cheap prices.

Finally after sunset, the Tutu dropped me at the railway station, few kilometers away and I boarded the evening train back to Kolkata. I enjoyed the weekend and was very happy to visit such an important place with memories of such an important person, Kaviguru Rabindranath Tagore.

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