My fascination for Shantiniketan is longstanding. Being born in a Bengali family, it was impossible for me to escape having at least one art form as passion. Whether it’s performing arts or visual arts as a Bengali, you are bound to get drawn to one of these. So, I chose painting, rather it chose me. Even though my artistic skills were limited, I was forever eager to learn new things, draw inspiration from different cultures. And one place I always wanted to visit was Shantiniketan. It was founded by Rabindranath Tagore, the genius who transformed the Indian literature, music and art. I had always known Shantiniketan, as a place where artists from different streams unleash their imagination to create marvellous works of art.
Sadly, I had never got a chance to visit this place, until recently. So, on a lovely crisp and cool morning, I along with my husband and mother-in- law headed to Shantiniketan, whose literal translation is ‘Abode of Peace”. As we were travelling from Durgapur City, we decided to hire private cab instead of taking public transport. This place is fairly well connected by railways and bus system as well. As we were not planning to stay overnight, we had not checked out the accommodation options, but there are quite a few of those available for those who want to stay a bit longer to soak up all the beauty this place has to offer. During peak season, there is a lot of rush, this being a popular tourist destination (mostly for Bengalis), so prior booking is recommended.
Our first stop was at Srijani Shilpagram, this is a place spread across a large area which has many hut like structures exhibiting the traditional houses, art, handicraft and life, in general of Eastern and North-Eastern parts of India. These huts have creative murals both, on the inside and outside walls. This was a perfect place for me to gaze through various murals, paintings and sculptures, so I did just that. Huts are an encapsulated representation of the couture, culture and art of the state it embodies. Farming implements, rural life and art forms are brought out with superb skill and accuracy. Time taken to cover this place depends on your interest level, we took over an hour and a half, mainly because of me (I finally had to be dragged out).
As we had to return back in a few hours we decided to skip the guided tour of the main Visva Bharati University, Tagore ashram and few other places of historic importance. These will definitively be motivation enough for me to come back to this place soon.
Next, we hired this cute little vehicle called “Toto”, which is a local name for e-Rickshaw. The driver cum guide was a friendly chap who was to take us to our main destination “The Haat”.
The Haat is a local Bazaar/ Market which occurs every Saturday where the local artists come to sell their handmade goods that they have made throughout the past week. This takes place at Khoai, which patch of land teeming with gorgeous Sonajhuri Trees. The Kopai River is just a stone’s throw away. En route to the Haat, our guide gave us a mini guided tour of the place, showing off his extensive knowledge about life and history of both Rabindranath Tagore and Shantiniketan. Although my main attraction was to have a look at the Haat, on arriving, I couldn’t help but be moved by the beauty and serenity of the place, despite the hustle-bustle of the crowd. There was a variety of products ranging from jewelleries made of dokra, seeds, and terracotta. There were various kantha stitch creations such as quilts, scarves, sarees. There was a wide range of artefacts made of locally found seeds, wood and other natural products. There was a wide presence of “Patachitra”, the famous native art of Bengal. The market was lively, with both sellers and shoppers negotiating passionately. I was lucky to witness many artists making their goods right there itself. What an intriguing sight! What made this place so attractive was the Baul Singers and the Folk Dance that add to the mesmerising tranquillity.
After shopping to my heart’s content, it was time for me to call it a day with a promise to myself to come back and experience all that I had missed this time.