Shantiniketan, a town where Viswabharathy University is situated

Shantiniketan is situated in the district of Birbhum in the Indian state of West Bengal. This small university town , situated about 180 km from Kolkata, is a world famous tourist destination as it is associated with the Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, the author of Gitanjali and the revered poet of India. Shantiniketan was originally called Bhubandanga after a local dacoit. It was Maharshi Devendranath Tagore who founded an ashram here called Shantiniketan or abode of peace where people from all religions were invited to join for meditation. In time his son Rabindranath Tagore started a school in Shantiniketan modeled on the lines of the ancient gurukul system of education which   was later developed into the Viswa Bharati University. Today the Viswa Bharati University is one of the most prestigious universities in India with degree courses in humanities, science, fine arts, music, performing arts etc; and attracts students from different parts of the country. Inside the campus stands Uttarayan, a complex where Rabindranath Tagore lived and worked and it now houses Vichitra, a museum dedicated to Tagore and filled with Tagore memorabilia and an art gallery. The university is open to visitors. Santiniketan becomes a beehive of activity in December when the Poush Mela is celebrated here annually. This three-day long festival marks the harvest season and is celebrated with gusto with the teachers and students playing an active part.  This important cultural event attracts a large number of visitors from India and abroad and serves as a meeting ground for rural and urban people and artisans and buyers. Live performances by folk singers and dancers attract huge crowds.

 Just 30 km from Shantiniketan is the village of Kenduli, the birthplace of the famous Bengali poet Jaydev, well known for the annual folk festival Kenduli Mela where Bauls, a sect of wandering minstrels perform. The Ballavpur Wildlife Sanctuary which houses deer, foxes, jackals and water birds, is an interesting place to visit as is Bakreswar which is 58 km from Shantiniketan and well known for its hot springs. A travel plan to India should include a visit to Shantiniketan.