Shantiniketan, West Bengal 731204

Info: Santiniketan (Bengali: Shantiniketôn) is a small town near Bolpur in the Birbhum district of West Bengal, India, approximately 160 kilometres north of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). It was established by Rabindranath Tagore, whose vision became what is now a university town, Visva-Bharati University.

Shantiniketan was earlier called Bhubandanga (named after Bhuban Dakat, a local dacoit), and was owned by the Tagore family. In 1862, Maharshi Devendranath Tagore, while on a boat journey to Raipur, came across a landscape with red soil and meadows of lush green paddy fields. Rows of chhatim trees and date palms charmed him. He stopped to look, decided to plant more saplings and built a small house. He called his home Santiniketan (abode of peace). Santiniketan became a spiritual centre where people from all religions were invited to join for meditation and prayers. He founded an ‘Ashram’ here in 1863 and became the initiator of the Brahmo Samaj.

Here Rabindranath Tagore started Patha Bhavana, the school of his ideals, whose central premise was that learning in a natural environment would be more enjoyable and fruitful. After he received the Nobel Prize (1913), the school was expanded into a university in 1921. By 1951, it had become one of India’s central universities.