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India has always been known as the ‘world guru’. The first university in the world was established in India. Since then, many institutes have been developed which have become centres of education. One such institute is Shantiniketan, located in West Bengal.
An artistic mud house at Shantiniketan
Location of Shantiniketan:
Shantiniketan is located in the vicinity of Bolpur city of Birbhum district of West Bengal, India. The institute is located about 152 km north of Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal. Shantiniketan is easily accessible by train. It is located at a distance of just 2-3 km from the Bolpur railway station. The station is well connected with Howrah and Sealdah stations in Kolkata. There are regular train services between Howrah, Sealdah and Bolpur.
Establishment of Shantiniketan:
Contrary to the popular belief that Shantiniketan was established by Rabindranath Tagore, the fact is that it was his father Maharishi Debendranath Tagore who established Shantiniketan, and later it was expanded by his son Rabindranath Tagore whose vision became what is now a university town with the creation of Visva-Bharati.
Unknown facts about Shantiniketan:
The legend has it that once Maharishi Debendranath Tagore was taking a boat ride through Birbhum. The year was 1862. While riding the boat a piece of land caught his eye. He thought it to be a perfect place for meditation. He was so captivated by the beauty of the land that he bought that beautiful piece of landscape, built a small house and planted some saplings around it. He named this Shantivan, which in the Hindi language means ‘the abode of peace’.
In 1863, he turned it into a spiritual centre where people from all religions, castes and creeds came and participated in meditation.
Shantivan and Rabindra Nath Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore first visited Shantiniketan, as a 12-year child in the year 1873. In 1888 his father Debendranath dedicated the entire property for the establishment of a Brahmavidyalaya. In 1901, Rabindranath started a Brahmacharya ashrama, which became popular by the Patha Bhavana.
Rabindranath always had a vision of setting up a school, which had a mix of modern teaching in the traditional system of gurukul, where the where students lived with their guru. To convert this vision, he converted the ashram into an open-air school. And when he received the Nobel Prize in 1913, the whole world came to know about Shantiniketan. The money he received along with the Nobel Prize was invested to expand the school.
In the year 1921, Rabindranath Tagore founded Visva Bharati - meaning communion of the world with India. The institute was in 1951 declared a central university and an institute of national importance.
Importance of Shantiniketan:
Shantiniketan is usually referred to as the art institution from Rabindra Viswa Bharati, the University established by Rabindranath Tagore. Shantiniketan is the area wherein Rabindra Viswa Bharati is located. The art college is called Kala Bhavan, which has produced several artists to boast for. It has also served as the cultural hub for a long time in the history of Indian art. The modernist movement called the Bengal School of Art began from this very space with artists like Abhanindranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose, Gaganendranath Tagore among many others. The school greatly contributed to spearheading the Nationalist movement in the independence struggle via its work in art, poetry and literature to mobilize the masses. Some of its other illustrious alumni include, Benodebehari Mukherjee, Ramkinkar Baij, Sunayani Devi, KG Subramanyan, etc.
Today Shantiniketan is known across the globe as an institute dedicated to promoting education, arts, and literature. The curriculum at Shantiniketan is a unique blend of art, human values and cultural interchange. The institution has a vision of an education that is deeply rooted in local surroundings but connected to the cultures of the wider world.