Shanti Niketan: Journey from an unknown town to becoming a world heritage site
Shanti Niketan has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. For this, Shanti Niketan covered a long distance.
Shanti Niketan was included in the World Heritage List in the 45th session of the World Heritage Committee in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.
The name of Shanti Niketan, situated in Birbhum district, famous as ‘Land of Red Soil’ in West Bengal, is not unknown in the country and the world. It was made famous by Visva-Bharati University established by poet Guru Rabindranath Tagore.
Shanti Niketan literally means the abode of peace i.e. the place where there is peace. However, in recent years, due to the controversy over Visva Bharati University, the city has been in the news for wrong reasons contrary to its name. This city was also the center of conflict between the central and state governments.
Festive atmosphere in Shanti Niketan
After UNESCO’s announcement, there is a festive atmosphere in this city. On Sunday night itself, a procession was taken out in the Santiniketan University campus. There are plans to organize many more programs in future also.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee have expressed happiness over this news. An unannounced competition has started between the supporters of these two leaders to take credit for this.
Mamta is currently on a tour of Spain. Mamta Banerjee has said in one of her tweets that the state government has been working towards developing the infrastructure of Shanti Niketan for the last 12 years.
Shanti Niketan’s connection with Rabindranath Tagore
This city, which is called the center of art and culture of Bengal, has been witness to many glorious chapters of history.
Shanti Niketan may have been established here long before the establishment of the university, but it was the Visva-Bharati University established by Rabindranath Tagore that gave global recognition to this city. These two have become synonymous with each other for a long time.
This city is called Bolpur in the language of government work. Efforts to include it in the heritage list had started in 2010 itself. Success has now been achieved in this.
Last May, on the occasion of Rabindra Jayanti, there were indications that the wait for Shanti Niketan to get the World Heritage status was soon going to end.
The name of Shanti Niketan is deeply associated with the history and culture of Bengal. Any debate on the history and culture of Bengal will remain incomplete without the mention of Shantiniketan.
In the year 1901, a school was established for the first time in Shanti Niketan. The world famous Shanti Niketan University was established in 1921.
Visva Bharati Society was formed in 1922 to run the university. Poet Guru Rabindranath Tagore had donated his entire property to this society. It got the status of Central University in the year 1951.
This city was founded by Maharishi Devendra Nath Tagore, father of Kaviguru Rabindranath in 1863. Then that place was known as Bhuvandanga. That year he took about 20 acres of land on lease for five rupees annually.
How did the name Shantiniketan come about?
After that an ashram was established there. Devendranath had named that ashram Shanti Niketan. On the basis of that, gradually this area became famous by the name of Shanti Niketan.
Bolpur was a small place in the middle of the nineteenth century. A part of this town was part of the zamindari of the Sinha family of Raipur. Bhuvan Mohan Sinha of the same family had established Bhuvandanga village.
Kaviguru Rabindranath came here for the first time in 1878. In the beginning of the twentieth century, this city gradually started emerging as the center of art and culture of the state. The Paush Mela and Holi festival organized here is also famous all over the world like Visva Bharati University. During this period, tourists from all over the world reach here.
Role of Shantiniketan in freedom movement
Shantiniketan may not have produced any major revolutionary during the independence movement, but the role of this city was very important in the partition and independence movement.
Kaviguru Rabindranath continued to work on awakening people through his works. His first meeting with Mahatma Gandhi also took place here.
Despite differences with Gandhiji on many issues, Kaviguru had actively participated in the Swadeshi movement.
He had given up the title of ‘Knight’ after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. Gurudev had written here that ‘Jodi tor daak sune keu na aase, tobe ekla chalo re’. These lines of his are relevant.
Rabindranath Tagore wrote the song ‘Banglar Mati, Banglar Jal’ (Soil of Bengal, Water of Bengal) to unite the Bengali population during the Bengali movement in 1905. He also wrote the famous song ‘Amar Sonar Bangla’. This song helped in strengthening the feeling of nationalism among the people. Rabindranath started the Rakhi festival during the same period to promote communal harmony. In this, people of Hindu and Muslim communities tied colorful threads on each other’s wrists.
Honoring Rabindranath Tagore’s dreams
History professor Pavitra Kumar Ghosh says, “Santi Niketan should have got a place in the UNESCO list long ago.” But better late than never. The city has a very rich history of contribution in the field of communal harmony, culture and art. It also played an important role in the partition and independence movements.
Professor Hitendra Patel, Head of the Department of History at Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata, says, “This is a tribute to the dreams of the great poet and thinker Rabindranath Tagore.” The poet, who carried the ideal of education dedicated to the entire humanity, had linked the awakening of society and self-power, given the ideal of seeing that it is possible to create a better human being and society only by coordinating education with the ideals of public life. It is a matter of pride for us to include Shantiniketan in the World Heritage List.
This post originally appeared on www.bbc.com