Santiniketan Ashram is set to become the 41st UNESCO World Heritage Site in India

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Hitanshu Bhatt
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Shantiniketan Ashram


The place, which is now a National University, was once a school with just five students. A look into Santiniketan Ashram in the university town of Bengal.

Santiniketan Ashram, which is in West Bengal, Kolkata, is known as the abode of Rabindranath Tagore. The Ashram has Sangit Bhavana, Tagore Bhavana, Nippon Bhavana, China Ashrama, and many other spots of historical, educational, and recreational importance. The Ashram is adorned by splendid sculptures, frescoes, murals, and paintings, too, and is definitely a must-visit. Since it is ready to get a UNESCO World Heritage Site title, let's take a virtual tour of this place.

Santiniketan Ashram

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From barren land to Shantiniketan

Shantiniketan was built by Debendranath Tagore (father of Rabindranath Tagore) in 1863 with just a barren land of 20 acres on a permanent lease. And to the surprise, the land cost was an annual payment of Rs.5 only. It was taken from Bhuban Mohan Sinha, the talukedar of Raipur, Birbhum, at that point in time. The place was barren, with just two Chattims (blackboard trees) on which Debendra built a guesthouse. It was named Shantiniketan, which means abode of peace in Hindi. The architecture of the place is magnificent, made with glass and marble, and the design was inspired by The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London.

Viswa Bharati - An Institution for Education

Santiniketan Ashram

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Viswa Bharati, which symbolizes the communion between the world and India, originated from the visionary dream of Rabindranath Tagore. This dream, shared by both the father and son, aimed to spread the fundamental principles of ancient education in India. What began as a small school with only five students in 1901 later evolved into a full-fledged university offering a wide range of courses. In 1925, the school was renamed Patha Bhawan. Over time, the place dedicated to imparting Indian values and culture earned the status of a central university and became an institution of national importance. Today, Shantiniketan is renowned as the university town of Bengal, primarily due to the presence of this esteemed institution.

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The Bhavanas of Viswa Bharati

The Bhavanas are particular departments in Viswa Bharti that offer various courses. The Siksha Bhavana is the Institute of Science at Viswa Bharti. It was initially an undergraduate college for teaching Humanities subjects but was later given the title of a science institute. The Bhasa Bhavana is the Institute of Languages, Literature & Culture housing Indian languages departments like Sanskrit, Odia, Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, and Foreign Language Departments, i.e., English, Chinese, Japanese, Indo-Tibetan, Arabic & Persian. The Kala Bhavana is an institution of education and research in visual arts and the Sangit Bhavana, an institute of Dance, Drama, and Music. Apart from this Bhavana, there are various other departments that offer different courses and learnings.

The room that holds 40,000 volumes of books

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The Tagore Bhavan is at the epicenter of Shantiniketan. This Bhavana was built in remembrance of Rabindranath Tagore after his death. It holds a very major part of Tagore's manuscripts, correspondences, paintings, and sketches. The poet's personal library is here, and various objects that he used, his voice recordings and thousands of photographs taken of him at different times and places, and the many gifts, honors, and addresses that he received from other parts of the world. It has 40,000 volumes of books and 12,000 volumes of bound journals, photographs, and numerous items associated with the poet's life.

Centers Fostering Foreign Relations

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Nippon Bhavana is a hub for building an Indo-Japanese relationship. It has a library that has books mostly in the Japanese language. These books are about the lifestyle of Japanese people, their culture, and various religious aspects. Another such center that aims at building Indo-China relations is China Bhavana. The China Bhavana studies Chinese Culture, traditions, and language and tries to understand their lifestyle.

Where: Birbhum District, West Bengal.

One can visit the Vishva Bharati University in Shantiniketan from 9 am to 5 pm on all days of the week. There is no entry fee to visit the campus.

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