Shantiniketan, a city in West Bengal’s Birbhum district, is home to world-renowned Indian artists and other cultural icons. While the great poet, writer and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore is the most famous name to be associated with Shantiniketan, it is also where people like Amartya Sen and Indira Gandhi studied along with a host of well-known musicians, artists and more. Read on for the top 5 places to visit in Shantiniketan.
Home to the Visva Bharati University founded by Tagore himself, Shantiniketan is highly sought-after by people interested in arts, music, and culture, and is indeed a must-visit place in the country. If you are short of time, here are our recommendations of the top five places to visit while you are in Shantiniketan.
1. Tagore’s Ashram
You must visit Tagore’s ashram if you are in Shantiniketan. Founded by Maharishi Debendranath Tagore (his father) in 1863, this heritage site gives an insight into Rabindranath Tagore’s life. It is currently a well-preserved institution that houses the works, awards, and other aspects of Tagore’s life.
The ashram is not just one building; it includes several buildings associated with the Tagore family, a museum, open areas, and even some classes that are held in the complex for students of Visva Bharati. The mango grove, well-maintained roads, classic architecture, and gardens, make for a wonderful stroll.
It is recommended that you take a guide along to learn and understand more about the place and the names associated with it. The whole place is enveloped in a calming aura, and a must-visit for not only people who love the Gurudev and his works, but for every traveller. The ashram remains closed on Wednesdays.
2. Kala Bhavan
The Kala Bhavan is instantly recognisable from the murals on the buildings, the frescoes, and the artistic vibe all around. The visual arts research and study centre of the Visva Bharati University and located close to the campus, Kala Bhavan is what its name indicates – a place where the learning of art and literature is promoted.
Established in 1919 by Rabindranath Tagore, the centre has given birth to some of the leading names of India’s visual arts movement, and there is art wherever one looks. Courses are offered in sculpture, painting, art history, and more at the Kala Bhavan for students, while visitors can soak in the ambience with a leisurely stroll while admiring the vibrant artwork. Do not be surprised if you find instant inspiration for your own creations while at this marvellous Shantiniketan attraction.
Named because of its location under a Chhatim tree (‘tala’ means ‘under’ in Bengali), this place refers to a spot that Maharshi Debendranath Tagore not only constructed but used to meditate at. Later, his son Rabindranath would often conduct outdoor study sessions at the spot.
Chhatimtala is often listed as must-visit place in Shantiniketan as it propagates the art of meditation, something that lives on from its founding days till today. But what attracts visitors from all over is a search for spiritual solace and a calming aura, which is inherent in the air here.
Simplistic at first look Chhatimtala is well respected by people from different walks of life. Blessed with abundant greenery all around, it is perfect for when you wish to catch a tranquil moment under the green canopy. Chhatimtala is also considered to be significant to the University since students who graduate from here are presented with a branch from a Saptaparni tree, brought from Chhatimtala.
4. Rabindra Bhavan Museum
1961, the year of Rabindranath Tagore’s birth centenary, was the year this impressive museum was constructed. For anyone who wishes to learn about the life, works, and more of the Nobel laureate, the Rabindra Bhavan Museum is like a one-stop shop. Letters, paintings, documents, photographs, certificates, personal artifacts, and even a few original manuscripts are housed beautifully in this museum.
With a striking location by the side of the Kopai River, this museum is famed worldwide and people flock from all over to get an insight into the life of the literary legend. The sprawling grounds are in keeping with the theme of the entire place, and the structure itself is impressive with its old Bengali Zamindari-style architecture and décor. You do not have to be a fan of Tagore’s work to realise the significance of this place. The good news is that the museum is open even on Sundays, closing only every Wednesday.
5. Amar Kutir
Such is the appeal of Shantiniketan that few visitors want to go back without investing in some tangible memory from here. And this is what Amar Kutir offers. At this complex, you can find plenty of souvenirs to take back home. Handicraft products made from leather, traditional prints of the region on different fabrics, cane products, home décor items made from jute, and all kinds of batik printed handbags are just some of the things sold here.
The centre encourages rural development, so most of the things you can buy here are locally made by artisans. There are also several original artifacts on display inside, offering a glimpse into the history and culture of the earlier times of this region. If you are lucky, you can catch a live Baul performance taking place outside the showroom.
Shantiniketan Fact File:
Location: In West Bengal, 160 km to the north of Kolkata city
How to Reach: Taking a train to Bolpur Station (2-3 km away) is the most convenient way to reach; Shantiniketan is also well-connected by road from Kolkata, Asansol, and other cities. The Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata is the closest.
Official Language: Bengali, English
Time Zone: UTC+05:30
Food & Drink: Bengali cuisine. Try fish curry with rice, sondesh, and rosogulla. Locally-made rice beer is the drink to try.
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