Shantiniketan is a treasure trove of art and culture, and it attracts tourists and art enthusiasts from across the globe. I have heard a lot about Shantiniketan and Visva Bharati University. Shantiniketan is about 160 km from Kolkata. It is easily accessible by train and the journey is approximately 163 km from Kolkata to Bolpur. Bolpur is just 2 km from Shantiniketan. For accommodation, I opted for the West Bengal Tourism Development tourist lodge. However, there are many private hotels in Shantiniketan also.
I started my day with a visit to the Tagore House which was built by Tagore Senior and was the main hideout of the great man himself. The main house is built in typical Bengali style architecture and surrounded by a magnificently manicured garden.
My next stop was the world-renowned Viswa Bharati University. This university was founded by Rabindranath Tagore and some classes here are still held under a tree, just like the old days.
Kala Bhavan is the art wing of the Viswa Bharati University and it was established by the Nobel Laureate in 1919. I was caught up at the entrance for quite a while admiring the Aztec patterns and scenery in black and white, which has been done on the front of the building itself. The unique patterns kept me engrossed for a long time. This is the place where the skills of the artists are honed and polished. Inside, you will find an amazing kaleidoscope of murals and artworks that are simply marvellous.
The artwork here is not something that you see; rather, it is something that you feel. The places just ooze creativity and artistic vibes. Viswa Bharati gives its students complete freedom to express their creativity, and for this reason, the studios are open 24/7 so that the students can work anytime they feel like.
The Bichitra Building houses the Rabindranath Bhavan Museum which displays the chronological journey of Tagore’s life depicted in photographs, original manuscripts of his works and other artefacts used by the poet.
Sangeet Bhavan is the centre for folk dance, music, arts and drama. This centre provides training in the classic Rabindrasangeet, Hindustani classical instrumental music, vocals and musical dramas as well. These musical dramas also incorporate Manipuri and Kathakali dance which were composed by Tagore himself.
I visited Amar Kutir with the intention of just browsing around but it is not possible to come out of this place without a couple of purchases. They have a magnificent collection of handcrafted items, artefacts, bamboo and batik crafts, Kantha stitched saris, leather goods, dokra jewellery, etc.
Luckily for me, I travelled there on a Saturday and got the opportunity to visit the Haat or the weekly flea market where artisans and other vendors from nearby hamlets come to sell their creations. Post lunch, these vendors started displaying their fares and it was a spectacular display of kalamkari apparels, jute bags, patchwork bed linen, Baul musical instruments, handwoven sarees, Dhokra jewellery, and slate, wooden and Dhokra artworks, earthen glazed artworks, memorabilia, souvenirs and more. This place is the perfect place to witness the local arts and crafts and makes Shantiniketan a major haunt for art lovers.
The best time to visit Shantiniketan is during the winters when the weather is pleasant and you can enjoy long walks as you visit the various places of interests here. Book your Shantiniketan hotels early on during this time, as the influx of tourists here increases during winters.