Shantiniketan: The Land of Red Earth and the Legacy of Tagore

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The lal matir desh (red earth countryside), Shantiniketan, is closely related with Tagore. The mud houses are so nicely decorated. In the digital age, they still make these houses with mud and decorate these, creatively. These represent real Shantiniketan – ranga matir manush (people of the red soil). Visva Bharthi was Tagore’s dreamland. It was the place where Maharshi Debendranath Tagore used to mediate under Chhatim trees. Chhatimtala symbolises the starting point of Shantiniketan. Rabindranath Tagore too, like his father, would sit and meditate under the Chhatim trees. A beautiful garden sets all sides of Shantiniketan house. Sarika takes us into the enchanting land, replete with rustic mysticism, cultureculture, and literature, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.

Born and raised with Gurudev’s (as Rabindranath Tagore is endearing called) poem, songs, and dramas, Shantiniketan has been on my mind, always, since days. I wanted to visit it for a long time. So finally I made it, on October 2016.

My kaku () says, “Shantiniketan k sobai prem kore” (Everyone is in love in Shantiniketan). How true! Every corner reminds me about Binodini, Charulata, the postmaster, Gora, Malancha, et al.

We entered the town with Baul song “Moner manush”, we by train from Kolkata to Bolpur, and through our mesmerising Baul song was with us. I realised how Tagore was so much influenced with a bowl. Tagore mentioned about Baul very specifically in Bengali literature, it is the identity of the Bengalis around the globe. We attended a Baul show, which was hosted by our hotel. The show was in the evening time and the ambience was absolutely bliss with dhup-dhuno (incense) and the songs they played, sadher lau, tomai herid majare rakhebo, etc. We also jived with the lilting and catchy earthy tunes.

The lal matir desh (red earth countryside), Shantiniketan, is closely related with Tagore. The mud houses are so nicely decorated. In the digital age, they still make these houses with mud and decorate these, creatively. These represent real Shantiniketan – ranga matir manush (people of the red soil). There I witnessed a young woman bathing in the open, covering her body with a small gamcha (rustic towel) without caring about the , which signifies the purity and innocence of a child, like a virgin forest. Our civilisation has taught us shame, and to cover the natural beauty, and showcase only the artificial beauty to the . Somewhere it transformed me. While returning, I was humming the Bhumi song, Lal pahari deshi ja, ranga matir des e ja (Go to the red hill countryside, the red earth countryside)…

I saw the river from where the famous poem, ‘Aamader choto nodi chole’ came from – Kopai River. And the little graceful loops of the river reminded me of the famous Bengali poem, ‘Amader choto nodi’! So many memories attached with this poem, which I learnt when I was barely seven-year- old.

A Bengali’s life would have been much different without Tagore. He is in our life in different renditions. The red soil surrounded river may not be rich like Cambridge, probably because of low maintenance, but I became very emotional and kept on reciting the poem in my mind and visualised chik chik kore bali kotha nei kada.

Visva Bharthi was Tagore’s dreamland, irrespective of caste, creed, and religion. It was the place where Maharshi Debendranath Tagore used to mediate under Chhatim trees. Chhatimtala symbolises the starting point of Shantiniketan. Rabindranath Tagore too like his father would sit and meditate under the Chhatim trees. A beautiful garden sets all sides of Shantiniketan house.

In 1922, Visva Bharati was inaugurated as a centre for culture into, language, humanities, music. The University consists of Hindi studies, Hindi Bhavan; Sino- studies, Cheena Bhavan; Centre for Humanities, Vidya Bhavan; the institute of fine arts, Kala Bhavan, and music, Sangeet Bhavan.

Shantiniketan is the core area for rural reconstruction also, which was founded, in 1922. The Silpa Sadan, a centre for village crafts, Palli Samgathan Vibhaga, Palli Suksha Bhavan centre for rural children and adults farming and animal husbandry. These institutes are very significant part of Shantiniketan.

The people who live close in a 10km radius of Shantiniketan believe that Visva Bharati is their own and everyone shares the rich legacy of Tagore.

©Sarika Sarkar Das

Photos by the author.

Sarika Sarkar Das

A teacher, day dreamer, random experimental cook and some hit and miss photography, and at last love to call myself a full time mother.

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