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Shantiniketan and around

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Despite rapid growth and encroachment into the tribal Santhal habitat, the peaceful haven of SHANTINIKETAN, 136km northwest of Kolkata, remains a world away from the clamour and grime of the city. Founded by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore in 1921 on the site of his father’s ashram, both the settlement and its liberal arts university Vishwa Bharati were designed to promote the best of Bengali culture. Towards the end of the Bengali Renaissance, Tagore’s vision and immense talent inspired a whole way of life and art; the university and school still operate under this momentum.

Centred around the Uttarayan complex of buildings, designed by Tagore, the university is very much in harmony with its surroundings, despite its recent growth as Kolkatans have settled or built holiday homes nearby. Well-known graduates include Indira Gandhi and Satyajit Ray, and departments such as Kala Bhavan (art) and Sangeet Bhavan (music) still attract students from all over the world. The Kala Bhavan Archive  houses twentieth-century Bengali sculpture and painting, including works by eminent artists such as Abanendranath and Gaganendranath Tagore, Nandalal Bose and Rabindranath Tagore himself, as well as a collection of Chinese and Japanese art. The Vichitra Museum, also known as the Rabindra Bhavan Museum, captures the spirit of Tagore’s life and work with a collection of his paintings, manuscripts and personal effects.

The renowned Bauls, Bengal’s wandering minstrels who play a unique style of folk music, gather at the informal shanibarer haat (Sat market) held under the trees by Shriniketan’s canal. The large fair of Poush Mela, between December 22 and 25, attracts numerous Bauls each year.

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