“Nearest to the church is farthest from god’ – this old adage is so true, at least in my case. Shantiniketan is only 164 km from Kolkata, nearly 4 hours’ drive, and it is even closer to every bong’s heart, still it took us so long to visit the place. Established by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore Visva Bharati University in Shantiniketan has played a vital role in Bengal’s modern art and cultural history. And I always wished to see the houses where the great poet lived and where he studied and taught his students. Every time we planned, every time it was postponed and the jinx continued for the past 5 years. However, we finally made it this year in January (23-25). It was a refreshing family trip which was decided overnight. Planning doesn’t always work! 😛 But, it’s better late than never… 🙂
How to go:
We boarded Santiniketan Express that departs from Howrah at 10:05 am everyday. The train reached Bolpur-Shantiniketan around 12:35 pm. There is a train from Sealdah – Sealdah-Rampurhat Passenger, which can also reach you comfortably to Bolpur, but it takes longer than the Howrah-Santiniketan Express dedicated for tourists only. The car from Baul Monn Resort was waiting outside the station.
Where to stay:
Baul Monn Holiday Resort is a nice and quiet stay away from the hustles and bustles of Bolpur Township. They provide pick up and drop service on request. You can read my review of the hotel on TripAdvisor.
When to go:
In late January the nights were cold and days were pleasant in Shantiniketan. So, I think this is the best time to visit the place if you want a quiet holiday or relaxing weekend trip. Poushmela was just over and there were fewer crowds. If the festivals are main attraction for you then you should visit Shantiniketanin December during Poush Mela or in March to get the flavor of Holi in the form of Vasanta Utsab celebrated in the Visva Bharati university ground.
Things to do:
Visva Bharati University and Uttarayan Complex (where the poet and his family lived) are the main attractions. But there are much more to see and enjoy in Shantiniketan. In fact, the exotic rural landscape and the appeal of peaceful countryside has turned Shantiniketan from a cultural pilgrimage to a popular weekend getaway from Kolkata. I wanted to enjoy the natural charm of the place too. So, I planned my tour the following way.
Day 1 – Prakriti Bhavan – Amar Kutir – Srijani Shilpa Gram through Sriniketan Campus – Kopai River – Back to hotel
We reached the hotel by 1:30 and set out to explore the area by 2:30 pm after lunch. Our first stop was Prakriti Bhavan Nature Art Museum, India’s only nature art museum.
The museum houses impressive collections of naturally formed rock and driftwood sculptures. The sculptures, mostly collected from Deccan Plateau are placed in the outdoor garden while the wooden items are on display inside the museum building. These natural sculptures resemble animals, humans, gods and goddesses. A visit to Prakriti Bhavan will let loose your imagination for sure. Do you see Rabindranath Tagore in this natural rock sculpture? 🙂
If you want to buy some local made handicrafts for souvenir Amar Kutir is a place to visit. We bought key rings, handmade diaries, typical Shantiniketan leather-worked purses; Kantha stitched jewellery box and junk jewellery for family and friends.
Srijani Shilpa Gram
After savoring some phuchka in front of Amar Kutir we made our way through Sriniketan Campus towards SRIJANI Shilpagram Complex.
The Shilpagram is a wonderful place to be with beautifully decorated tribal huts all around, depicting the lifestyle of various indigenous tribes from different parts of India. The place gives you quick insight of tribal life and their art and culture. This complex is developed and maintained by EZCC (Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre). They also organize cultural programmes and concerts in the outdoor arena in SRIJANI.
I had seen photos of Kopai River on the web and so I had doubt about it. The dusk was falling when we reached by the river. And as I expected it was sheer disappointment. There was no water, only grass and pebbles scattered along the riverbed. Our driver said that during monsoon the river overflows the bridge.
It was already dark as we returned to our resort. The manager informed us about the evening concert at the resort garden. Our first day ended with soul touching baul songs presented by local singers.
Day 2 – Exploring Visva Bharati University campus – Uttarayan Complex – Ballavpur Wildlife Sanctuary – Sonajhuri forest – Shanibarer Haat and Khoai
Day 3 – Exploring the locality and the villages nearby