Shantiniketan is a small town near Bolpur in the Birbhum district of West Bengal and about 212 kms north of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). It was made famous by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, whose vision became what is now a university town – Visva-Bharati University. The place now attracts thousands of visitors each year.
Shantiniketan was earlier called Bhnbandanga (named after Bhuban Dakat, a local dacoit), and was owned by the Tagore family. In 1862, Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, the poet’s father, while on a boat journey to Raipur, came across a landscape with red soil and lush green paddy fields. He decided to plant more saplings and built a small house. He called his home Shantiniketan, the abode of peace. He founded an Ashram here in 1863 and became the initiator of the Brahmo Samaj.
In 1901, Rabindranath started a school at Shatiniketan named Brahmachary Ashram that was modeled on the lines of the ancient gurukul system. After he received the Nobel Prize that enhanced not only the Pride of India but also the prestige of Shantiniketan, the school was expanded into a university. It was renamed Visva Bharati, which Tagore defined as “where the world makes a home in a nest.”
The Shantiniketan campus is adorned by splendid sculptures, frescoes, murals, and paintings of Rabindranath, Nandalal Bose, Ramkinkar, Binodbehari Mukhopadhyay, and others. Birbhum District, where the Shantiniketan is located, is also famous for its fairs and festivals like Poush Mela (December), Joydev Mela (January), Basanta Utsav (Holi) in March and the famous mystic Baul Singers.