Founded by Rabindranath Tagore, Visva Bharati represents Tagore’s educational vision which is still relevant for the world and can be taken into account in designing any educational model in future. Located in Bolpur, Santiniketan – this educational institute manifests Tagore’s vision of a place of learning that is unfettered by religious and regional barriers. Visva Bharati has become a cultural heritage of Bengal that in many ways quite different compared to other universities in the country.
Tagore always rejected the idea of modern mechanical learning that focuses merely on “success” or “progress”. Visva Bharati was established with the aim of helping education go beyond the confines of the classroom where the learning will encourage “illumination of heart” along with creativity, imagination and moral awareness of students. Tagore believed that walls represent conditioning of the mind and always advocated for open-air education. The name ‘Visva Bharati’ suggests the communion of the world with India as he wanted his students’ perspective of society to be informed by internationalism, humanism and universal brotherhood. People across the world visiting Santiniketan always give a visit to Visva Bharati to delve deeper into his philosophy of life and education. Panthashala offers the homestay experience in its super deluxe rooms near Visva Bharati from where it is easy to explore any part of Santiniketan.
History of Visva Bharati:
Back in 1863, Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, father of Rabindranath Tagore and also the Zamindar of Silaidaha in East Bengal was given land by Babu Sitikanta Sinha, the Zamindar of Raipur where he had set up an ashram. Initially it was called ‘Brahmacharya Ashram’ and later renamed as ‘Brahmacharya Vidyalaya’ to encourage people from all walks of life to come to the spot and meditate. In 1901, Rabindranath Tagore established a co-educational school inside the premises of the ashram. At that time, Mrinalini Devi gave her ornaments and Rabindranath sold his Bungalow and gave all the prize money of the Nobel Prize he received in 1913 to develop Visva Bharati. It was 1921 when Visva Bharati was officially named so and attracted some of the most creative minds in the country. It was granted full university status in May 1951, soon after independence and grew to become one of India’s most renowned places of higher learning with Rabindranath Tagore’s eldest son being the first Upacharya (vice chancellor).
Things to explore in Visva Bharati:
Visva Bharati still retains the rural and simple old-world charm where classes are held under the sky – under the shade of huge mango trees. Tagore believed in imparting education within natural surroundings. Chhatimtala is one such place where Tagore’s father Maharshi Debendranath Tagore used to pray and meditate and later, Tagoreused to take classes under the shade of Chhatim trees. The tranquillity of this place will enthral anyone. One can find old buildings made up of mud walls and thatched roofs within the main campus. Here Tagore introduced a curriculum that was a unique blend of art, human values and cultural interchange where nature walks and excursions were also included. Started off with five students (including his eldest son) and an equal number of teachers, Tagore wanted to combine education with a sense of obligation towards the larger civic community. He expanded the school’s relationship with Santhal tribal community living nearby villages. It was his effort that Santiniketan has today become the largest centre for educated Santhals in West Bengal.
There are different independent schools and centres of learning within the premises of Visva Bharati that lure many tourists to visit here. Kala Bhavan is dedicated to visual arts and fine arts while Sangeet Bhavan is dedicated to folk music, vocal music, dance and drama and specialization in Hindustani classical music and Rabindra Sangit. Cheena Bhavan focuses on the language, culture and tradition of China whereas Nippon Bhavan is the wing dedicated to the learning and promotion of Japanese culture. There are several other Bhavanas inside Visva Bharati that include – Shiksha Bhavana (Institute of Science), Bhasha Bhavan, Vidya Bhavan (Institute of Humanities), Vinaya Bhavana (Institute of Education), Palli Shiksha Bhavan (Institute of Agricultural Sciences), Palli Samgathana Vibhaga (Institute of Rural Reconstruction) etc. Festivals like ‘Basanta Utsab’ or ‘Poush Mela’ are celebrated here that is considered to be an extension of Tagore’s concept of fusion of education with life. Visva Bharati has taken path-breaking steps in the field of education and the academic arena has grown in all directions to make it a most-sought-after university in the country that should be celebrated eternally.
Visva Bharati in Santiniketan founded by Rabindranath Tagore is a treasure and pride of Bengal as well as India which is still regarded as the unique abode of learning unlike any in the world. The open-air classrooms and curriculum are carrying the rich legacy of Tagore and inspiring creativity, imagination and moral awareness of students.