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    Long Weekend Plans: Head Out For Shantiniketan's Famous Basanta Utsav {aka Doljatra}

    Sayani posted on 23 February

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    Spring is painting nature colourful and Holi is just about knocking on our doors. Have you already got your Holi plans chalked out? Still going for the regular mix of holika, colours and bhang? How about getting high on aesthetics this year and celebrating a Tagore-style Basanta Utsav in Shantiniketan?

    What Is It?

    As the rest of India celebrates Holi, we suggest you head out to Bolpur’s culture-high town of Shantiniketan to celebrate spring in a complete different way. Let us explain how different it can get: Basanta Utsav {or the festival of colours in Shantiniketan} was started years back by this university town’s patron, Rabindranath Tagore. Though founded by Maharshi Devendranath Tagore {Tagore’s father}, this little town of laal maati {red soil} lined with chhatim trees and date palms gets its essence from the aesthetics of Rabindranath Tagore who established the town and the university of Shantiniketan.

    Tagore, the ever-young poet that he was, who enjoyed nature just as much as he rejoiced all its moods, started Basanta Utsav to celebrate the brilliant colours and joyous mood of spring. Shantiniketan’s Basanta Utsav is less about Krishna and Radha’s love or of Holika’s death or of the celebration of the last festival in the Bengali calendar, and more about celebrating the vibrancy, melody and colours of springtime nature.

    What Can I Do There?

    Get lost in a riot of colours as the red and the orange of palash and krishnachura flowers and the lush green foliage of new leaves paint Shantiniketan vibrant. It’s no difficulty to be infected by the joyous cheer that fills the air or to hum along the Rabindra Sangeet that overflows the university town. To keep up with the style drape yourself in yellow {basanti colour, to be precise} cotton sari or don the traditional kurta and pajama. But what can’t be given a miss is the palash to adorn you.

    Gratitude being the key to happiness, begin the celebrations with a prayer alongwith the students at Amrakunja under the cool shade of mango trees. Then gather around Chhatimtala to watch the students file out dancing and singing to usher in spring.

    Follow their trail to reach Mukto Mancha to join in the cultural fest of songs, dance and poetry. And then follow it up with sweets and phag {abir made of flowers} as you exchange happiness and pleasantries to all and sundry of the town. Then in the evening, bathed in the glow of the full moon, soak in the romance of the place some more with the dance dramas of Tagore that the students perform at Chhatimtala.

    How Do I Get There?

    With a short distance of 162 km to cover, Shantiniketan can be reached well within 4 hours by road from Kolkata. A more smoother mode of travelling is the train {several of them plying between Howrah and Bolpur} that can take you to Shantiniketan in two hours time.

    Anything Else?

    What can get tricky is to find a place to stay because people from world over come to this little town to celebrate Basanta Utsav. So book your stay at least a month ahead. The government tourist lodge {Shantiniketan Tourist Lodge} is a basic but decent place to stay in. Alternatively, you could also check out Mitali, a beautiful homestay or the Mark and Meadows resort in Shantiniketan. For more options, look here, here and here.

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      Santiniketan, West Bengal

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