Travelling to Shantiniketan to satisfy the intellectual and the wanderer in you?
This small town in West Bengal is one of the biggest cultural hubs in India. Accommodation is usually available easily, but if you visit during any of the famous cultural festivals like Basanta Utsav or Poush Mela, make sure to do your bookings beforehand.
There are a number of places to visit and things to do here, some of which I have listed below.
- Viswabharati University: Noble Laureate Rabindranath Tagore had founded this university using his prize money. Today it is one of India’s most renowned centers of learning with some big names like economist Amartya Sen as it alumni. It has a sprawling campus that is almost impossible to cover on foot. Surrounded by lush greenery and architectural delights by renowned sculptor Ramkinkor Baij, the campus gives a feel of laid back contentment. You can visit parts of the campus and check out the historically important spots like Chatim Tala, Pathabhavan, Kalabhavan, Clock tower, Prayer Hall, etc.
- Tagore’s Ashrama: Bang opposite to the Viswa Bharati university is Tagore’s Ashrama, a heritage site that houses the 5 residences of Tagore, where the bard composed some of his famous works. The houses are open to the public with most of the furnishings preserved. His car, which is still serviced, is also kept for public viewing.The compound is well maintained with abundant greenery. Statues and sculptures adorn the area at regular intervals. You can just walk around the place, taking in all of the history or just chill under shades on the huge trees.
- Rabindra Bhavan Museum: The museum is located inside the Uttarayan Complex and has an impressive collection of many of Tagore’s personal items like manuscripts, painting, musical instruments, photographs, awards, etc. A dupe of the Nobel Prize is also on display here.
- Khoai Mela: This is a sort of open marketplace which is held only on Saturdays. It a platform where the local artisans display their handiworks. You will get a variety of things like sarees, shawls, ethnic jewellery, bags, pottery, home decorations, food, etc. The collection is vast and amazing, though a little on the expensive side.
Other than the retail attractions, the mela has baul performances (wandering minstrels) and tribal dances, which are a veritable treat to the visual and auditory senses. The riot of colors and talent will surely leave you smitten.
You can also tickle your taste buds with a scrumptious lunch at Shakuntala restaurant. The eating house is essentially a big mud hut. They serve local cuisines both veg and non-veg in lotus leaves.
- Surul Rajbari: This is a 250-year old zamindar house that is famous for its traditional Durga Puja. Even if you are not visiting during Durga Puja, you can check out the architecture and the ancient Vishnu temple in the vicinity. If you are lucky you can also catch a glimpse of the Durga idol under construction.