Santiniketan

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Santiniketan is a city in Birbhum district of West Bengal. It forms one urban agglomeration with Bolpur.

Understand[edit]

The town is home to Visva Bharati founded by Rabindranath Tagore in 1921. Visva Bharati was declared a central university in 1951. It has produced such diverse personalities as Indira Gandhi and Amartya Sen and has been home to great artists and musicians.

Get in[edit]

By train[edit]

Bolpur is the railway station for Santiniketan. It is two to three hours by train from Kolkata. Convenient connections are 13017/13018 Gana Devta Express departing Howrah at 06:05, 3015/3016 Shantiniketan Express departing Howrah at 10:05 (this is the only train which originates/terminates in Howrah and Bolpur, so one has a better chance of finding seats on this train rather than the other trains if one buys unreserved tickets. If you are buying reserved tickets, then it won't make a difference), 2347/2348 Sahid Rampurhat Express departing Howrah at 12 noon (and taking only 2 hours 20 min - the shortest time ), 3011/3012 Malda Inter-city Express departing Howrah at 15:25, 5657/5658 Kanchenjunga Express departing Sealdah at 06:45, 2345/2346 Saraighat Express, 215/216 Visvabharati Fast Passenger, 3071/3072 Jamalpur Express, 209/210 Darbhanga Passenger are other good trains.

For schedules check with Indian Railways.

If you are female and taking the train, look for designated "Ladies Cars" to enjoy a more comfortable and hopefully less crowded ride. If you are travelling with significant amounts of baggage, be aware that even in reserved cars you may struggle for space, and hiring a car may be a better alternative to reach Santiniketan.

By bus[edit]

Santiniketan is well connected by buses from all around. From Kolkata, if you want to go by bus, then you have to take Kolkata-Asansol bus or Kolkata-Suri bus. For Asansol bound bus you have to get down near Panagarh and for Suri bound bus you have to get down near Ilambazar and for both cases you have to catch another bus for Santiniketan.

By car[edit]

Santiniketan is connected with Kolkata by an excellent road (Around 60% road is excellent 4-lane freeway. But then around ~70kms starting from Panagarh is of narrow and bumpy roads with traffic jams round the clock). From Kolkata travel to Dankuni and take the Durgapur Expressway. It is now part of NH2. It will bypass Saktigarh and Bardhaman. At Panagarh (Darjeeling Mor) turn right. After the highway crosses the Ajay river take the road to the right at Ilambazar and proceed towards Bolpur. At the Santiniketan-Sriniketan junction (also called Surul Mor) take the road to the left. Santiniketan is 212 km from Kolkata by road. Good drivers can cover the distance in about 3 hours. Coming from the direction of Kolkata, one can also take the NH-2B route via Talit-Guskara-Bhedia-Surul Mor by taking a right turn from the Durgapur Expressway just after crossing Burdwan Town on the right (where the Renaissance Township is on the left) and taking this route via Nababhat Mor. It saves time and the distance is less from the above route by about 50 km.

Get around[edit]

Buddha by Ramkinkar Baij
An itinerant baul singer entertaining tourists in the Khowai area

Cyclerickshaws are the most convenient means of transportation as hired cars and taxis are not always readily available. If you are a tourist, don't get on the cycle rickshaws in front of the museum that are manned by the persistent teenagers as they will take you on a farcical circuitory route to make you spend more. Use the older guys. Or just walk round the town. Although there are a few to be found, auto-rickshaws are not yet common in this area. See map of Visva Bharati complex online [1].

If you are planning an extended stay, it may be worth your while to purchase a bicycle from one of the many local cycle shops. A brand new bicycle will run you between Rs 3,200-3,600, (about US$60-70).

Landmarks[edit]

  •    Bolpur railway station. Main railway station for Santiketan
  •    Bolpur Bus Station.
  •    Surul Morh. Those coming by road from Darjeeling Morh, Panagarh (on NH 2) have to turn left here for Santiniketan.

See[edit]

  • Tagore's ashrama. Closed on Wednesdays.. One has to walk through the area. Guides are generally available outside Uttarayan Complex/Rabindra Bhaban, otherwise one has to follow the crowd. The first building in the area was a guest house built in 1863 by Maharshi Devendranath Tagore, father of Rabindranath Tagore. It was named Santiniketan and thereafter the entire place acquired that name. Hermitage created with a Trust Deed in 1888 by Maharshi Devendranath Tagore. The area has several buildings associated with the Tagores - Santiniketan building, Nutan Bari, Dehali etc. School classes and major functions are held in the Amra Kunja (mango grove). Some of the Visva Bharati institutions are also located here. Tourists are not allowed to stray into areas where outdoor classes are held as they disturb studies. Some distance away on the eastern side is a small hillock with a large banyan tree. It was a favourite of Maharshi Devendranath Tagore.
  • Chhatimtala. Prayer place (under the "Chhatim" tree) of Maharshi Devendranath Tagore
  • Brahma Mandir. Upasana Griha, constructed in 1891
  • Look out for sculptures and frescoes of Nandalal Bose, Ramkinkar Baij and Binode Bihari Mukherjee, particularly around Kala Bhavana. Kalo Bari beside Sangeet Bhavana is interesting.
  •    Uttarayan complex. Closed on Wednesdays. Cameras and hand bags not allowed. The complex has several buildings associated with Tagore's memory - Udayan, Konark, Shyamali (mud hut), Punascha and Udichi. The complex has well-laid out gardens. Combined entry fee for Uttarayan complex and Rabindra Bhaban Museum is Rs 5.
  • Rabindra Bhaban Museum. Open on working days from 10:30-16:30. Open on Sundays. Closed on Wednesadys. During Poush Mela the place is over-crowded and queues for entry are long.. The house is called Bichitra. Constructed in Tagore's birth centenary year 1961. There are original manuscripts, letters, documents, medals (including Nobel Prize medallion), plaques, certificates, paintings, photographs etc. Combined entry fee for Uttarayan complex and Rabindra Bhaban Museum is Rs 5.
  • Khoai Mela. The mela starts from around 15:00 and goes on till about 17:30-18:00 only on Saturdays and is worth visiting.
  •    Amar Kutir. Many handicrafts like cloth, leather, batiks, hand-loomed fabrics and similar available.
  •    Kopai river. Known as Amader chhoto nodi in many of Tagore's poems, particularly those for children.
  • Shilpa Gram. Shilpa Gram is close to the Ballavpur deer sanctuary. It is designed very nicely and showcases tranditional handicrafts of eastern region (including Bihar, Assam, Orissa, Manipur, Andaman, Jharkhand etc). Each state is represented by a traditional house which has collection of paintings, articrafts etc. The place is maintained neatly and has good collection of cultural elements.
  • Prakriti Bhavan. Located in the Ballavpur area of Santiniketan, Birbhum, West Bengal. It is India's one and only Nature Art museum with an impressive indoor display of natural sculptures in driftwood, dry wood and a sprawling open air garden of natural rock sculptures. Set in the most picturesque part of Santiniketan it is an aesthetic manifestation of the legacy of Tagore's Santiniketan in linking man with nature through Art, music and poetry

Visva Bharati[edit]

  • Cheena Bhavana, the China study centre.
  • Hindi Bhavana, Hindi study centre.
  • Nippon Bhavana, for Indo-Japanese studies.
  • Kala Bhavana, College of fine arts and crafts, has a museum exhibiting sculptures, frescoes and murals and a library of art books.
  • Patha Bhavana, Now a secondary school, is of particular interest, being an example of the traditional Brahmacharya Ashram.
  • Sangeet Bhavana, College of music and dance.
  • Vidya Bhavana, College of humanities.
  • Siksha Bhavana, College of science.
  • Vinaya Bhavana, Teacher's training college.
  • Sriniketan Campus, This campus has two Bhabans. When Rabindranath started this University,he had two visions in his mind - one is spread of education and another is rural reconstruction. Sriniketan is campus for Rural Reconstruction. It offers B.Sc., M.Sc in Agriculture, BSW and MSW, masters degree in rural development, anthropology and CIT.
  • Visiting Hours, Winter: 14:00-16:30 hours. Summer: 14:30-17:30. During vacations: 07:30-11:00.

Do[edit]

Guides[edit]

Those who are knowledgeable about Rabindranath Tagore, his contribution to Bengali culture and his activities can enjoy a visit to Santiniketan thoroughly. Semi-official guides charge Rs 150 for showing around Santiniketan and Rs 300 for the entire area including Sriniketan and Amar Kutir. They are knowledgeable and explain things well. They are particulalrly helpful in identifying sculptures and frescoes.

Fairs and festivals[edit]

  •    Poush Mela. The fair is held at Santiniketan from 7th-9th Poush (December 22/23-25). Tribal sports, folk songs and dances including songs by bauls, the itinerant singers, are a part of the fair and festivities. Some sort of "bhanga mela" or broken fair, with some shops, continue till the end of December. (Accommodation is heavily booked during this period. Anybody wanting to visit during his period will need to plan ahead for hotel bookings.)
  • Maghotsav. Anniversary of Brahmo Samaj celebrated on the 11th of Magha (25th January), with prayers and songs at Chhatimtala.
  • Vasanta Utsav. Held to celebrate Holi (March). The students dance and sing their ways through Amrakunja, followed by open-air variety programmes. (Accommodation is heavily booked during this period. Anybody wanting to visit during his period will have to plan ahead.)
  • Rabindra Jayanti. Although the birth anniversary of Rabindranath falls on 25th Baisakh (May 8/9), the anniversary as well as the Bengali New Year (Nabo Barsho) is celebrated on the first day of the Bengali New Year (Poila Baisakh) in mid-April with songs, dances, and recitations by the students.
  • Briksharopana. Planting of saplings and Halakarshana ploughing of the fields on 22nd and 23rd Sravana (August).
  • Varshamangal. Festival of rains during August/September. Tagore was a poet of nature and some of his finest creations were about the rains.

Learn[edit]

Buy[edit]

  • Handicrafts, Batik prints, leather craft. A favourable time for shopping is during the "Pous Mela". The unique style of embroidery associated with Santiniketan is known as'kantha stitch'. 'Sudha Karu Shilpa' in Andrews Palii, Santinikeatn, 'Amar Kutir' in Sriniketan, and 'Basundhara' in Sonajhuripalli offer quality kantha stitchwork in the form of Sarees, Dupattas etc. throughout the year. Other handicrafts like dokra (artistic brassware from nearby Dariapur), leather bags, bamboo toys and locally handwoven cotton are also worth a look.
  • Rabindranath, Santiniketan, Sriniketan, by Tapan Kumar Basak, price, Rs 30 available locally.

Eat[edit]

Budget[edit]

  • SK RestaurantBolpur-Santiniketan Rd +91 9434132416. 10AM-10PM daily. This restaurant, near Jambuni Bus stand opposite to Gitanjali Prekhagriha, is very good, both in terms of food quality and quantity. Look for "morabba", a Siuri speciality (type of sweet meat).

Drink[edit]

Santiniketan and the surrounding areas offer a few bottle shops for wine and liquor purchases. A few restaurants have permits to serve beer (Kharimati restaurant, Park Hotel restaurant) and one local bar with a liquor license is the Moon Bar at the new Kharimati Hotel. During tribal festivals, the Santals enjoy rice beer which is served warm and is quite tasty. Although rice beer is a weak drink by Western standards, give it a try if you get the opportunity.

Hotel Facilities[edit]

Caution NOTE: To avoid the unsavory, corrupt, and thoroughly untrustworthy booking services based in Kolkata, it is best to get a place to stay on arrival without advance reservation.

Mid-range[edit]

  • Santiniketan Tourist Lodge (West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation), Bolpur +91 3463-252398 Mobile : 09732100920, e-mail: . Rs.700-900 Non-AC, Rs. 1900-2400 AC.
  •    Camellia HotelPrantik Santiniketan: (03463) 262043 / 44 / 45 Booking Office: AJ 14, Salt Lake City, Kolkata-700091, +91 33 2334 4069, 2321 9688 Mobile: +91 9007030199 / 127 / 9804053758. Check-in: 8AM. Rs.950-2000.
  •    Chutti Holiday Resort241 Charupalli, Jamboni (off Sriniketan Rd),  +91 34 6325 2692, +91 34 6325 5015. Reservation from Kolkata: +91 33 99 0357 0921 Ilaco House, 3/1 Brabourne Road, Kolkata
  •    Mark & Meadows ResortSriniketan Rd (Gurmukh Jethwani),  +91 94 3400 7777. Check-in: 09:00, check-out: 09:00. 3 star property spread over 5 acres with swimming pool, fishing pond, games room, children's park, multicusine restaurant, banquet halls, conference halls, 32 cottage style A/C rooms with running hot/cold water. Rs 1,450-3,500.
  •    Rater Tara Diner Rabi Guest House (Star at Night, Sun During Day), Tinni House, Phul Danga, Taltor Rd, Behind PHE Bunglow. (1km from university campus near to canal and Bird Sanctuary),  +91 98 3004 8007, +91 94 3301 4277. Check-in: 1PM, check-out: 12 noon. A double storied garden guesthouse having AC rooms, CTV, Refrigerator, attached western toilets with Geyser, fan etc. All rooms & toilets are well maintained & linens are cleaned. Separate driver accommodation is available on nominal charges, Car parking is free. Locality is totally sound & air pollution free. Rs.1250.00 onwards.
  • Hotel Royal BengalBhubandanga +91 98 3079 2002, +91 95 6344 6188. 27 A/C and non A/C rooms with attached bathroom and 24 hr hot/cold water, conference hall & art gallery. Multi-cuisine restaurant has continental, Indian & Chinese options, car parking, IDD telephones and cableTV in rooms. Rs 599-1,299.
  • Raktokorobi Karugram (রক্তকরবী কারুগ্রাম), Ruppur, Bolpur (7 km from Surul More (Sriniketan)),  +91 9903392484. Check-in: 11AM, check-out: 10AM. Raktokorobi Karugram is located in the ethnic surroundings of the picturesque village of Ruppur and is just 10 kms from Bolpur Railway Station. There are a total of 9 AC duplex huts, all designed in a traditional way, so that visitors can feel at one with the natural space around them and to promote local artistry. The duplex huts have been created using mud, and wall murals have been painted by various tribal artists. Each cottage has a living room, a bedroom, a change room, a bathroom, an open terrace. The multicuisine restaurant serves quality continental, Indian, and Chinese dishes. Parking and driver's accommodation free. Rs. 3500.

Budget[edit]

Go next[edit]

  • Surul. near Sriniketan, temples with exquisite terracotta carvings.
  • Kankalitala - 9 km, on the bank of the river Kopai, one of the satipeethas.
  • Labhpur-Fullara - 30 km, a Satipitha, birthplace of Tarashankar Bandopadhyay.
  • Nanoor - 20 km, birthplace of Chandidas, 14th century Sanskrit poet, famous for his Vaishnav Padavalis. There is a temple dedicated to Devi Basuli.
  • Kendubillo - 30 km, on the bank of the river Ajay, birthplace of 12th century Sanskrit poet Joydeb, author of the masterpiece Geeta Govinda. A fair is held here on Makar Sankranti (mid January). Baul songs are the principal attraction of this mela. There is a temple with terracota decorations.
  • Bakreshwar - 58 km, Satipitha, also famous for the Bakranath Shiva temple and hot springs.
  • Tarapith - 88 km, Saktipeetha, famous temple of Tara Devi.
  • Massanjore - 75 km, in Dumka district of Jharkhand, a dam across the river Mayurakshi with a picturesque reservoir. One can travel on to Deoghar another 98 km in the same direction.
  • Durgapur - 60 km, the steel city. One can travel on to Vishnupur another 70 km in the same direction or on to Asansol, another 30 km, along NH2.
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