Written by Anwesha Karmakar.
Shantiniketan is a famous town near Bolpur in the Birbhum district of West Bengal. It is mainly known for the famous university Vishva Bharati, set up by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, one of Bengal’s greatest figures. It is well-known for its contribution to education, art, and literature.
In 1862, Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, father of Rabindranath Tagore found this place very peaceful. He renamed it Shantiniketan, which means abode (Niketan) of peace (Shanti). In 1863, he founded an institution here. In 1901, Rabindranath Tagore started a school. Later he established Visva Bharati University here.
How To Get To SHANTINIKETAN
Shantiniketan is well-connected by rail and road from Kolkata. The train journey is short (about two hours) and scenic, to enjoy local food and music. It is good to reserve your seats in advance.
Road trip to Shantiniketan is amazing and refreshing as well. It will take approximately three hours.
What To See
Vishva Bharati university campus, the most important place in town which opens for visitors after 1 pm. This university offers a variety of courses. The most renowned ones are Sangeet Bhavan, the music department, and Kala Bhavan, the art department.
Amritakunj is the open-air classroom which is absolutely unique. Kala Bhavan is a worth visiting place where you can witness the works of some of India’s most renowned artists and watch students engrossed in creating their own masterpieces.
Uttarayan complex is the place where Tagore used to live. The complex is divided into many buildings named Udichi, Udayana, Shamali, Konarka, and Punascha. The complex is closed on Wednesday.
Amar Kutir is a place where you can find handicrafts, leather printed bags, printed clothes to buy. Khoai Mela is a small fair held on Saturday. The fair starts at 4 am in the morning where handicrafts, household items, clothes etc are sold.
Prayer hall named as Upasana Ghar is one of the most stunning buildings of Shantiniketan. The specialty of this place is that the hall is made of Belgian glass, the hall is also called Kanch Mandir in Bengali.
Chattimtala is the place used by Maharshi Debendranath Tagore for meditation. Kankalitala is a small rural town located about 7 km from Shantiniketan. There is a small temple which is considered to be highly sacred by its devotees. Ballavpur forest is about 3 km from the main campus. This forest shelters a large number of naturally bred deers.
Poush Mela is one of the most celebrated events of the year held in late December. Folk dance, music, food, and culture are the main attractions of this event.
What To Buy
Shantiniketan is like shoppers paradise. Leather bags, jewellery, books, pottery, clothes, terracotta etc. are some amazing inexpensive products. Subarnarekha, a bookstore is highly recommended for soulful browsing of books. Aalcha, a boutique store is full of handmade products like bags, clothes, home decor, stationery, apparel and other things.
When To Visit
Shantiniketan is popular all around the year, but the best time to visit is between August and March. Poush Mela, a celebration of culture and music is set in the month of December. Basant Festival is celebrated in March during Holi.
Where To Stay
There is a plenty of government-run tourist houses, hotels, and guesthouses. Most of them are reasonably priced and are available for online booking. It is good to book hotels in advance during festivals. Shantiniketan Tourist Lodge, run by WBTDC is a newly built cottage right opposite the Bisva Bharati. Panthashala, Green Chilli, Rater Tara Diner Rabi Guest House, Raktokorobi Karu Gram, Park Guest House, Deer Park Eco Home are some of them.