The Visvabharti University is at Shantiniketan, three km
from Bolpur. The brilliant and prolific poet, writer and nationalist Rabindranath
Tagore (1861-1941) founded a school here in 1901. It later developed
into a university with emphasis on humanity's relationship with
nature-many classes are conducted in the open air. Tagore went on
to win the Nobel Prize in 1913 and is credited with introducing
India's historical and cultural greatness to the modern world. In
1915 Tagore was awarded a knighthood by the British but he surrendered
it in 1919 as a protest against the Amritsar massacre.
There are colleges of science, teacher training, Hindi, Sino-Indian
studies, arts and crafts, and music and dance. Tagore called the
place 'the cargo of my life's best treasure', but in the late 1990s
he'd probably be saddened by the way the university has become much
like any other in India. Lectures are accused of nepotism, exam
papers are leaked and graduates go for a job with multinationals
rather than with rural regeneration programmes as Tagore intended.
Rich Bengalis are now building holiday homes in the area. Although
it's still a very peaceful place, there's little in visiting unless
you have a specific interest in Tagore.
There's a museum and art gallery within the Uttarayan complex where
Tagore lived. The university is open to visitors in the afternoons
but closed on Wednesday, the day the university was founded.
Four km away is Sriniketan, started as a project to revitalise traditional
crafts, such as kantha embroidery, weaving, batik and pottery.
Places to See:
Knkalitala: 9 km from Shantiniketan, has one of the
sacred Satipithas and temple.
Park: Located at Ballavpur forest is 4 km from Shantiniketan.
Shantiniketan is 211 km from Kolkata
and there are regular bus services available.
Trains are available from Howrah, Bolpur, Darjeeling.