Shantiniketan :An Amalgamation of Education & culture.

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Shantiniketan is a small town near Bolpur. Also known as Tagore’s Adobe of Peace, this red soil land meanders Kopai River, Baul songs & lush greeneries that speak the impeccable beauty of nature. It is also the birthplace of the literary classics of the great Rabindranath Tagore. Hence, I decided on a day trip to this beautiful Birbhum District, West Bengal town.

Shantiniketan :An Amalgamation of Education & culture.
Apart of Campus

About 160 Km from Kolkata, Shantiniketan can be reached by car, bus and train. Shantiniketan is often synonymous with Vishva Bharati University. But Shantiniketan was founded by Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, father of Rabindranath Tagore, in 1862. Shantiniketan was known as Bhubandanga in olden days. Moreover, the Poush Mela and Holi (Vasanta Utsav) two festivals attract tourists from different parts of the country and abroad.

Shantiniketan :An Amalgamation of Education & culture.

In 1863, Debendranath Tagore founded an ‘Ashram ‘here. In 1901, Rabindranath Tagore established his dream of an open-air school. It was named ‘Patha Bhavana ‘and started with only five students. Later, In 1921, this school was expanded, and the famous Vishva Bharati University was formed. In 1913, after Tagore received the first non-European Nobel Prize in Literature, the transformation of Vishva Bharati University gradually started.

Shantiniketan :An Amalgamation of Education & culture.
Tagore’s Adobe

Talking about Poush Mela or Utsa is the annual fair of Shantiniketan. This six-day celebration commences on the 7th Poush of the Bengali calendar (the 3rd week of December). The main attraction of this fair is the live performances of Baul, folk songs, dances and tribal sports. Each festival day is filled with different activities, and more than 1,000 stalls selling handicrafts, fabrics, etc., participate in this fair.

Poush Mela

On the other hand, Holi is celebrated with colour accompanied by beautiful performances by the students of Vishva Bharati on the songs of Kabiguru. “Ore Griha Bashi…” is the song that marks this celebration’s commencement. Next time, I plan to be part of this grand event. 

Basant Mela

By afternoon, I reached Shantiniketan; I checked in and drove directly to Srijani Shilpagram Complex- which showcases the art & handicrafts of different states of Eastern India. Though the best mode of transport for sightseeing is a Toto (a type of auto rickshaw), however, cabs are available. This place has traditional houses of each state represented here, along with paintings and household items which speak about the culture & heritage of the local people. 

Srijani ShilpaGram

Next was Khoai Haat- a makeshift Saturday market of Shantiniketan’s unique handicrafts. Khoai Haat, known for the red-soil path, even inspired Tagore to write a famous song- “Gram chara oi ranga Matir poth“. 

Shantiniketan :An Amalgamation of Education & culture.
Khoai Ghat

Beyond this, Khoai Haat is a marketplace for local hand-crafted showpieces, jewellery, bags, Batik fabrics, Nakshikatha and many more. You might get some good pieces if you are fond of Dokra (a non–ferrous metal casting using the lost-wax technique).

ShaniBar asb

The market was lively, enthralling with Baul performances. 

Baul Performance

I wandered across the market, looking at the handicrafts, tasting local food & shop souvenirs. And saw the mystic rays of the setting sun on the red-soil canyon of Khoai. It made me so rejuvenated that I forgot that it was already dark. Since it was winter, the weather was pleasant and apt for exploring the town.

Shantiniketan :An Amalgamation of Education & culture.
Sunset at Khaoi River

The following morning, I started early, as my first stop was Kankali Tala, where I had to cross the Kopai River. While crossing the river, I remembered the famous poem “Amader Choto Nadi…” The narrow, meandering river was an intricate part of Tagore’s writings.

Khopia River

Situated on the banks of river Kopai is Kankali Tala- famous for Sati Peth temple. As per mythology, when Shiva, in his Runda form, carried his wife Sati Devi’s half-burned corpse, Devi Sati fell here. The Shakti of the temple is addressed as “Devgarbha” and the Bhairava as “Ruru”. Unlike other temples, a picture of Devi Kali is worshipped in place of an idol.

Kankali Temple

After offering my prayers, I had breakfast at a local restaurant before the Vishva Bharati University. The university was founded in 1921, where the Prime Minister of India is the Chancellor. Quite Interesting! They hired a Toto (auto rickshaw) for my execution. I started with Chhatim Tala (the meditation place of Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, father of Rabindranath Tagore). Interestingly, the students who graduated here are honoured with a branch of the Saptaparni tree. Unfortunately, I can only see it from a faraway distance.

Chaatim Tala

 Further ahead was Cheena Bhavan Rabindranath Tagore, established in 1937 to strengthen the age-old cultural ties between India and China. Near it is the Upasana Griha, or the Glass House, constructed by Maharshi in 1863. It is a multi-coloured Belgian glass-walled prayer hall, and prayer is held here every Wednesday evening. 

Shantiniketan :An Amalgamation of Education & culture.
Upasana Grigh

It was afternoon, and hunger pangs were ringing bells in my stomach. I took a lunch break before resuming my rest tour of the university. My Toto driver was too kind to take us to the Kharimati resort. I opted for the Bengali Thali, served with traditional Kansha (Bell metal) utensils. 


After lunch, I went to Rabindra Bhavan in the Uttrayan Complex. This complex consists of 5 buildings, all turned into a museum, displaying the utensils, dresses, furniture, and books used by Kabiguru. It also shows the replicas of famous artworks like

The Sujata and The Santal Family of the renowned artist Ramkinkar Baij.

Shantiniketan :An Amalgamation of Education & culture.

Beside the complex was the Geetanjali Museum, which displays many unseen pictures of eminent personalities with Tagore, his family, his work & his inspirations of writings. The main attraction of this museum is the Train Coach, in which Rabindranath travelled from Bolpur to Kolkata just before his death. The coach is a beautiful suit with all the basic amenities.

Geetanjali Museum

I ended the day with Amar Kuthir, a cooperative society promoting arts & crafts. The showroom displayed leather goods, Kantha stitched sarees, Dokra showpieces, batik, etc, though Khoai Haat is cost-effective. 

Amar Kuthir

The next day, we drove to Atahas temple, another Sati Peth in a small village called Dakshindihi in Birbhum. A shrine dedicated to Adi Shakti- Maa Phullora, is situated on the Ishani bank. It is believed the lower lip of Maa Sati fell in Attahas during the Tandav dance of Lord Shiva, with Mata Sati’s burnt corpse.

Shantiniketan :An Amalgamation of Education & culture.
Attahas Temple

Finding this temple was a task as it lies on the Labhpur to Ahmedpur Road, which is a distance of about 15 km. The exact location of the temple is around 5 km before Ahmedpur. But the place has the solace where one can find his soul.

Shantiniketan :An Amalgamation of Education & culture.
Village Houses

Moreover, ‘Attahas’ is a Sanskrit word which means profound laughter. The lower lip of Maa Sati is in the form of stone, surrounded by a around it. Lord Shiva had been appointed Vishvesh as the Bhairav guarding the temple.

Shantiniketan :An Amalgamation of Education & culture.
Ma Sati

A natural pond adjacent to the temple complex has an interesting fact. Hanuman was believed to have collected a hundred and eight lotuses from this pond for Shree Rama to worship Goddess Durga. 

Shantiniketan :An Amalgamation of Education & culture.
Temples in complex

A beautiful Mahadev idol in marble sitting on a stone lotus also graces the same temple complex. The temple is an architectural marvel, not very large and extravagant. The temple has been done artistically. 

Lord Shiva

Attahas is famous for being the abode of several beautiful wild birds. This place is visited annually by over two thousand Asian open-bill storks, fruit-eating bats and exquisite butterflies. For these reasons, Attahas attracts many environmentalists and birdwatchers yearly, particularly during December-January. I offered my prayers before heading to another Sati Peth close by.

How to Reach

By Air

The city has the nearest Kolkata Airport, 200km from the city centre. Hire a cab or bus from the airport to reach the desired destination. 

By Rail 

The city railhead is well connected with all major cities of India. The Bolpur railway station is 2-3km away from Shantiniketan. A cab or auto can be hired to reach the destination. 

By Road

The road connectivity to Shantiniketan is excellent. State and private buses are available from Kolkata, Guwahati, Durgapur and other nearby cities. These buses ply at regular intervals. One can also book a cab or self-drive to Shantiniketan.


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