Santiniketan (Bengali: শান্তিনিকেতন Śāntiniketan), also spelt Shantiniketan, is a town in the Birbhum district of West Bengal. It was established by Maharishi Debendranath Tagore in the second half of the 19th century. It was later expanded by his son, Rabindranath Tagore, the leading figure of the Bengali Renaissance, whose vision became what is now a university town with the ancient gurukula method of learning.
Santiniketan (SHAHN-tih-nih-keh-tawn), literally the "abode of peace", has produced such diverse personalities as Indira Gandhi (once a Prime Minister of India) and Amartya Sen (a Nobel laureate) and has been home to great artists and musicians. Santiniketan is also famous for the baul culture. Around 1.2 million visitors visit Santiniketan annually.
In 1863, Debendranath Tagore took on permanent lease 20 acres (8.1 hectares) of land, along with two chātim (ছাতিম) trees from zamindar Bhuban Mohan Sinha. The leased area was a small village and the den of a gang of notorious dacoits. After the leader of the gang surrendered to Debendranath, they started helping him in developing the area. Debendranath built a guest house there and named it Santiniketan. Gradually, the whole area came to be known as Santiniketan.
In 1901, Rabindranath Tagore established a school in Santiniketan, called Brahmacaryāśram (ব্রহ্মচর্যাশ্রম), which became the Visva-Bharati University in 1921. A brainchild of Rabindranath, the Visva-Bharati University is a unique learning centre in the sense that the education takes place under a tree, instead of in a classroom.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
The climate of Santiniketan is moderately warm, with summer temperatures at around 35-42 °C (maximum) and winter at 10-15 °C (minimum). Summer is felt for three months, March, April and May. December, January and February are the winter months. June, July, August and September see heavy rainfall. The annual average temperature is 26.2 °C. About 1480 mm of rain falls per year, with 76 days seeing the rain.
- Rabindranath, Santiniketan, Sriniketan by Tapan Kumar Basak. Available locally.
The nearest airport is Kazi Nazrul Islam Airport (RDP IATA) at Durgapur, but only a few flights are present at the airport. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport (CCU IATA) at Kolkata is the nearest airport to get to Santiniketan smoothly.
- See also: Rail travel in India
Santiniketan is two to three hours by train from Kolkata, depending on the departing railway station. Vande Bharat Express and Shatabdi Express are fastest options while MEMU local trains are slowest options. For schedules check with Indian Railways.
If you are travelling with a lot of baggage, you may struggle for space even in reserved cars, and hiring a car may be a better alternative to reach Santiniketan.
Bolpur Shantiniketan railway station
- 1 Bolpur Shantiniketan ER (station code: BHP).
Convenient connections include:
- From Howrah (HWH): Gana Devata Express, HWH NJP Vande Bharat Express (the fastest, non-stop train service between HWH and BHP), HWH NJP Shatabdi Express, Jamalpur Express, Kavi Guru Express, Malda Inter-city Express, Sahid Rampurhat Express, Saraighat Express and Shantiniketan Express (the only train that originates and/or terminates at HWH and BHP, so you a better chance of finding seats on this train if you buy unreserved tickets).
- From Sealdah (SDAH): Darjeeling Mail and Kanchenjunga Express.
Prantik railway station
- 2 Prantik ER . Few express and passenger trains stop here.
Santiniketan is well connected by buses from all around. From Kolkata, if you want to go by bus, then you have to take the Kolkata-Asansol bus or the 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.
- 3 Bolpur Bus Station.
Santiniketan is 212 km (132 mi) from Kolkata by road. Good drivers can cover the distance in about 3 hours.
Santiniketan is connected with Kolkata by an excellent 4-lane freeway. From Kolkata, travel to Dankuni and take the Durgapur Expressway (NH 19, formerly NH 2). It will bypass Saktigarh, Bardhaman and Panagarh. At Panagarh (Darjeeling More), turn right. After the expressway crosses the Ajay river take the road to the right at Ilambazar and proceed towards Bolpur. At the Santiniketan-Sriniketan junction (also called Surul More) take the road to the left. Coming from the direction of Kolkata, one can also take the NH 114 route via Talit-Guskara-Bhedia-Surul More by taking a right turn from the Durgapur Expressway just after crossing Bardhaman on the right (where the Renaissance Township is on the left) and taking this route via Nababhat More. It saves time and the distance is less from the above route by about 50 km.
Electric rickshaws (locally known as totos) are the most convenient and cheap means of transportation these days. The older cycle rickshaws are still available and can be availed, though it would cost more. If you are a tourist, don't get on the cycle rickshaws in front of the museum that are manned by persistent teenagers as they will take you on a farcical circulatory route to make you spend more. Choose the older guys. Or just walk round the town. See the map of the Visva Bharati complex online.
Hired cars and taxis are not always readily available.
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 costs ₹3,200-3,600.
Santiniketan has several buildings associated with the Tagore family—Santiniketan Griha, Nutan Bari, Dehali etc. School classes and major functions are held in the Amra Kunja (mango grove). Some distance away on the eastern side is a small hillock with a large banyan tree. It was a favourite of Maharishi Debendranath Tagore. Visitors are not allowed to loiter around educational centres during working hours as these disturb the classes being held.
- 1 Ballavpur Wildlife Sanctuary (Deer Park). 10AM–4PM (closed W). At the northwestern fringes of Santiniketan, Ballavpur Wildlife Sanctuary is just the perfect getaway for your next weekend. The lush sanctuary contains three large waterbodies (ঝিল jhil) which host migratory as well as resident birds in plenty. It is home to numerous spotted deer, blackbucks and other resident animals like jackals and foxes. The whole sanctuary is a protected area with watchtowers and jungle paths to walk around and catch glimpses of deer and other wildlife.
- 2 Bangladesh Bhavana. Well-designed new addition with auditorium.
- 3 Cheena Bhavana (চীনাভবন Cīnābhaban). A centre of Sino-Indian cultural studies promoting historical study and modern relations between the two countries. The library is known for a major collection of Chinese books and journals, especially Buddhist scriptures and texts.
- 4 Chhatimtala. Prayer place (under the chātim tree) of Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, father of Rabindranath Tagore.
- 5 Gitanjali Rail Museum (গীতাঞ্জলি রেল সংগ্রহালয় Gītāñjali Rel Saṅgrahālaẏ), Station Rd (opposite Bolpur Shantiniketan ER ). 9AM–1PM and 2:30PM–5PM (closed W). The museum showcases some aspects of the life of Rabindranath Tagore, other than railways.
- 6 Gour Prangan (Sinha Sadan). The old buildings of the Visva-Bharati University, named after the Sinha zamindar family.
- 7 Hindi Bhavana (হিন্দিভবন Hindibhaban). Hindi study centre. There's a mural in the building painted by Benode Behari Mukherjee.
- 8 Kala Bhavana (কলাভবন Kalābhaban). College of fine arts and crafts, has a museum exhibiting sculptures, frescoes and murals and a library of art books.
- 9 Kopai River (কোপাই Kopāi). A picturesque river north and west of Santiniketan, which meets the Bakreshwar River in Labhpur. Several tourists gather at the riverside to take pictures and/or videos of the river. There are several resorts at the Kopai River as well.
- 10 Patha Bhavana. Secondary school, is of particular interest, being an example of the traditional gurukula method of learning, although things have changed slightly.
- 11 Prakriti Bhavan (প্রকৃতি ভবন Prakr̥ti Bhaban), Amar Kutir Rd, Kabi Mohanpur. 9AM–5PM daily. India's only nature art museum with an impressive indoor display of natural sculptures in driftwood, and 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 people with nature through art, music and poetry.
- 12 Rabindra Bhavana Museum. Open on working days from 10:30AM-4:30PM. Open on Sundays. Closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays. During Poush Mela the place is over-crowded and queues for entry are long. The museum hall 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. The five houses used by Tagore during his life named Udayan, Konark, Shyamali, Punascha and Udichi. No photography in Rabindra Bhavana and Uttarayan complex. Combined entry fee for Uttarayan complex and Rabindra Bhavana Museum is ₹10 for students, ₹50 for Indians and ₹300 for foreigners.
- 13 Santiniketan Griha. closed W.
- 14 Shilpagram (near Ballavpur Wildlife Sanctuary). It is designed very nicely and showcases traditional handicrafts of eastern and north-eastern India (including Bihar, Assam, Odisha, Manipur, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Jharkhand). Each state is represented by a traditional house which has a collection of paintings and articraft. The place is maintained neatly and has a good collection of cultural elements.
- 15 Sriniketan. The dream village of Rabindranath Tagore.
- 16 Surul Rajbari (সুরুল রাজবাড়ি Surul Rājbāṛi). 8AM–6PM. The palace of the Sinha zamindars. The small temples with terracotta carvings are to the left of the Rajbari as one faces the Rajbari. Durga Puja still takes place here in a complete home fashion as it used more than 250 years back when it was started.
In Santiniketan, seasonal changes bring their own colours and beauties with various festivals. The festivals are organised on traditional Indian forms and rituals.
- Barṣāmangal (বর্ষামঙ্গল). Festival of rains during August/September. Tagore was a poet of nature and some of his finest creations were about the rain.
- 1 Basanta Utsab (বসন্ত উৎসব). Santiniketan's own style of Holi and it welcomes the arrival of spring. The students dance and sing their way 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.
- Māghotsab (মাঘোৎসব). Anniversary of Brahmo Samaj celebrated on the 11 Magh (25 January), with prayers and songs at Chhatimtala.
- 2 Poush Mela (পৌষমেলা Pauṣmelā). The fair is held from 7-9 Poush (22/23-25 December). Tribal sports, folk songs and dances including songs by bauls, and 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 this period will need to plan for hotel bookings.
- Rabindra Jayanti (রবীন্দ্র জয়ন্তী Rabīndra Jaẏantī). Although the birth anniversary of Rabindranath falls on 25 Boishakh (8/9 May), the anniversary as well as the Bengali New Year (নববর্ষ Nababarṣa) is celebrated in Boishakh (পয়লা বৈশাখ Paẏla Baiśākh; 14/15 April) with songs, dances, and recitations by the students.
A favourable time for shopping is during the Poush Mela. The unique style of embroidery associated with Santiniketan is known as the 'Kantha stitch'. 'Sudha Karu Shilpa' in Andrews Palli, 'Amar Kutir' at the Kopai River, and 'Basundhara' in Sonajhuri offer quality Kantha stitchwork in the form of sarees, and dupattas throughout the year. Other handicrafts like dhokra (artistic brassware from nearby Ausgram), leather bags, bamboo toys and locally handwoven cotton are also worth a look.
- 1 Amar Kutir (আমার কুটির Āmār Kuṭir). Many handicrafts like cloth, leather, batiks, hand-loomed fabrics and similar are available.
- 2 Sonajhuri Hat (সোনাঝুড়ি হাট Sonājhuṛi Hāṭ), Sonajhuri. Sa–Su 3PM–5:30PM. This is a village market and one can buy local handicrafts and listen to baul songs. Sonajhuri Hat is a great place to see and collect wooden crafts, terracotta crafts, raw metal ornaments, dhokra (ডোকরা ḍokrā) art and local made clothes. It is an excellent place to experience the local culture of Santiniketan.
- 1 Madhurima, Santiniketan Rd. A sweet shop on the way to Santiniketan.
- 2 SK Restaurant, Bolpur-Santiniketan Rd, ☏ +91 9434132416. 10AM-10PM daily. This restaurant, near Jambuni Bus stands opposite Gitanjali Prekhagriha, and is very good, both in terms of food quality and quantity. Look for "morabba", a Suri speciality (type of sweet meat).
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 licence is the Moon Bar at the new Kharimati Hotel. During tribal festivals, the Santals enjoy rice beer which is served warm, is quite tasty and has a low alcohol content.
|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 reservation.|
|This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:|
|Mid-range||₹1000 to ₹3000|
- 1 Rangabitan Tourism Property, ☏ +91 86979 84960. Run by West Bengal Tourism.
- 2 Bolpur Lodge, Bhubandanga, ☏ +91 3463 252662, +91 3463 252737. ₹150-300.
- Country Roads Home Stay (adjacent to Mela Math), ☏ +91 9903398059. American breakfast included. Well maintained. 24 hr cold water available and fridge. ₹750.
- 3 Krishna Chura Homestay, Purbapally, ☏ +91 9748445544. Hospitable family home with modern facilities.
- 4 Maharshi Niwas, ☏ +91 3463-202821. 10 AC double-bedded cottages ₹1050 per day per cottage.
- Manashi Lodge, ☏ +91 3463 254200. ₹250-500.
- 5 Park Guest House, ☏ +91 3463 226286. ₹472 for non-A/C, ₹850 for A/C rooms.
- Rangamati Tourist Lodge, Bolpur Rd, ☏ +91 3463-252305. ₹310-₹750.
- 6 Hotel Sathi, Bhubandanga. From ₹750.
- 7 Hotel Basundhara, Baganpara, Simantapally, ☏ +91-9434132549, firstname.lastname@example.org. Hotel Basundhara is a highly reputed name as the Best Hotel in Bolpur, Santiniketan. A fully equipped AC conference hall is available with all modern facilities and amenities. ₹450 Non-AC - ₹750 AC.
- 8 Camellia Hotel, Prantik, ☏ +91 3463 262043, +91 33 2334 4069, +91 3463 2321 9688, +91 9007030199. Check-in: 8AM. ₹950-2000.
- 9 Hotel Royal Bengal, Bhubandanga, ☏ +91 90 0798 2002, +91 97 4810 2002, email@example.com. Check-in: noon, check-out: 11AM. 40 A/C rooms with attached western toilets with Hot & Cold water, cable TV in rooms, WI-FI, Telephone, Room service & House-keeping facilities. The multi-cuisine restaurant has continental, Indian & Chinese options, car parking, IDD telephones and, Landscaped garden along with a children’s play area, banquet/conference facilities, and Live cultural shows can be arranged (fee). 24-hr security and off-street parking. ₹1550-2,650.
- Jiraan-The retreat, ☏ +91 9333510012, +91 9332083644. ₹700-1,500.
- 10 Rater Tara Diner Rabi Guest House (Star at Night, Sun During Day), Tinni House, Phul Danga, Taltor Rd, Behind PHE Bungalow (1 km from university campus near to the canal and Bird Sanctuary), ☏ +91 98 3004 8007, +91 94 3301 4277. Check-in: 1PM. A double-storied garden guesthouse having AC rooms, CTV, Refrigerator, attached western toilets with hot water, fan etc. All rooms & toilets are well maintained & linens are cleaned. Separate driver accommodation is available on nominal charges, car parking is free. From ₹1250.
- 11 Shantobitan Tourism Property (Santiniketan Tourist Lodge), ☏ +91 3463-252398, +91 9732100920, firstname.lastname@example.org. Run by West Bengal Tourism. ₹700-900 Non-AC, ₹1900-2400 AC.
- 12 Chutti Holiday Resort, 241 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 ₹1,650- 3,540 Special packages available.
- 13 Mark & Meadows Resort, Sriniketan Rd (Gurmukh Jethwani), ☏ +91 94 3400 7777. Check-in: 9AM, check-out: 9AM. 3 star property spread over 5 acres with swimming pool, fishing pond, games room, children's park, multi-cuisine restaurant, banquet halls, conference halls, 32 cottage style A/C rooms with running hot/cold water. ₹1,450-3,500.
- 14 Raktokorobi Karugram (রক্তকরবী কারুগ্রাম Raktakarabī Kārugrām), Ruppur (7 km from Surul More (Sriniketan)), ☏ +91 9903392484. Check-in: 11AM, check-out: 10AM. There are 9 AC duplex huts, all designed traditionally 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 murals have been painted by various tribal artists. Each cottage has a living room, a bedroom, a changing room, a bathroom, and an open terrace. The multicuisine restaurant serves quality Indian and Chinese dishes. Parking and driver's accommodation free. ₹3500.
- Sonajhuri Homestay, Sonajuhri, ☏ +91 9830011715, email@example.com. ₹3200.
- 1 Amkhoi Wood Fossil Park. 10AM–4PM (closed W). The only fossil park in West Bengal. The fossils are laid out in a manicured lawn surrounded by pathways separated by hedge walls. Bilingual boards narrate the details of not only the fossils, but also about the process of fossilisation. The fossils displayed are trunk portions of angiosperm (flowering plants). ₹10 for students, ₹5 for children.
- 2 Biswa Bangla Biswabidyalay (Bolpur University). Although the university is newer and less visited compared to the Visva-Bharati University, it also celebrates the festivals that are celebrated in Visva-Bharati.
- 3 Kankalitala (কংকালীতলা Kaṅkālītalā) (9 km (5.6 mi) from Santiniketan). It is the last of the 51 Shakti Pithas. According to mythology, when the dead body of Goddess Shakti was cut by Lord Vishnu, her waist (কংকাল kaṅkāl) fell at Kankalitala. Baul dances are also organised in the temple premises.
- Bakreshwar — 58 km, Shaktipitha, also famous for the Bakranath Shiva temple and hot springs.
- Durgapur — 60 km, the steel city. You can travel on to Bishnupur another 70 km in the same direction or on to Asansol, another 30 km, along NH 19.
- Kendubillo — 30 km, on the bank of the river Ajay, believed by many to be the birthplace of 12th century Sanskrit poet Jayadeva, author of the masterpiece Geeta Govinda. A fair is held here on Makar Sankranti (mid-January). Baul songs are the principal attraction of this meal. There is a temple with terracotta decorations.
- Labhpur — 30 km, the birthplace of Tarashankar Bandyopadhyay and home to the Fullara Temple, a Shakti Pitha.
- Massanjore — 75 km (in Jharkhand), a dam across the river Mayurakshi with a picturesque reservoir. You can travel on to Deoghar another 98 km in the same direction.
- Nalhati — 100 km, another Shakti Pitha
- Nanoor — 20 km, birthplace of Chandidas, 14th century Sanskrit poet, famous for his Vaishnava Padavalis. There is a temple dedicated to Devi Basuli.
- Sainthia — 44 km, another Shakti Pitha
- Tarapith — 88 km, another Shakti Pitha, famous temple of Tara Devi