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#ExperienceBengal: Five Things You Must Do When In Shantiniketan

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From traditional gurukuls to colourful melas, tribal murals to baul musicians, eye-catching sculptures to iconic paintings - Shantiniketan is an art and cultural hotspot waiting to be ticked off your bucket list.

Wander About The Visva Bharati University

Visva Bharati (meaning communion of the world with India) is Rabindranath Tagore’s vision of setting up a school along the lines of the previously existing system of gurukul. Take a walk inside the University complex and you will come across open air classrooms, with benches under the shade of old trees and a big bell hanging on an arched red frame in the corner. Do not miss visiting the Kala Bhavan (art wing of the university), done up in captivating black and white murals.  

Rediscover Tagore In The Uttarayan Complex

The five architecturally very varied houses (Udayan, Konarka, Shyamali, Punashcha, and Udichi) where Rabindranath Tagore lived at different times make up the Uttarayan Complex. Go here for the museum of Tagore’s exhibits and memorabilia (including his ancient Humber car). Apart from personal belongings of Tagore and his family, there are letters and documentation on display talking about his meetings with Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Bernard Shaw, Hellen Keller, Subash Chandra Bose, Jawaharlal Nehru & many other stalwarts of the era.

Get A Taste Of Village Life At Srijani Shilpagram

When in Shantiniketan you must go to Srijani Shilpagram to get a taste of East and North-East India’s richness and diversity. The most striking feature of Srijani Shilpagram are the traditional huts of all the different states of East India. Hop from one hut to another and in doing so from one state to another. It is an absolute delight to see the mud, bamboo, straw huts with beautiful murals on the walls and exhibits of daily life in the grounds outside. A tour of the whole place takes about two hours. You do not need a guide for this one because it’s self-explanatory.

Shop Till You Drop At The Poush Mela

The high point of Shantiniketan's festive calendar, Poush Mela brings together artists, musicians, artisans and poets from nearby villages and far-flung continents. While the tribal dancers and folk singers enthral you with their live performances, your inner shopaholic will rejoice at the sight of beautiful Batik kurtas, Taant sarees and other colourful handcrafted bric-a-bracs. Oh, and did we mention the numerous sweet, salty and spicy delights laid out for you to try? Try paati saptha (a kind of pancake) and thank us later.

Lose Yourself In The Music Of The Bauls

You will find them everywhere in Shantiniketan - at the Poush Mela, Joydev Mela (the biggest gathering of the bauls) or sitting under the shade of a big old tree singing Ekla Cholo Re. Bengal's mystical and mysterious wandering minstrels earn their living by singing their simple yet philosophical songs to the accompaniment of the ektara, dotara, dugi (small clay drum), mandira and kartaal (cymbals) and the bamboo flute. Their music transcends language, so It’s easy to lose yourself in their unbridled and rustic songs about life and love.