Shantiniketan, along with being Tagore’s poetic haven is also the place where the Nobel Laureate had started working towards creating a global village. Not only did Tagore nurture and encourage the study of different cultures, but he also adopted many practices and art forms that had origins in different countries. From his many foreign travels, not only did he bring knowledge of new art forms, but he also encouraged his students and followers to develop them and use them in their own creations.
Art enthusiasts from all over the world come to Shantiniketan in order to study the various art forms that were developed and propagated here. In fact, reputed hotels near Visva Bharati like Panthashala receive students of fine arts from various countries all around the year as they come to Shantiniketan to study different art forms in depth. Owing to their world-class hospitality, great food, and hygienic surroundings, foreign nationals, and Indians alike prefer staying at Panthashala whenever they have to visit Visva Bharati for some research work, workshop, or seminar.
Although there are many art forms that were developed and propagated in Shantiniketan, here’s an overview of a few popular ones that are highly sought after even today.
This is a 2000-year-old art form that has its origins in Indonesia. Rabindranath Tagore brought with him the knowledge of this art from his visit to Java. He was so captivated by this art form that he brought with him a few pieces of cloth with the batik print and knowledge of the process hoping to develop and propagate it in India too. Many of his followers and students instantly got hooked on this new art form and started working on developing it.
This art form eventually spread all over India and even artists in places like Gujrat and M.P started practicing it. In Shantiniketan today, people can find various dresses as well as dress materials in Batik print in the local bazaars as well as the Khoai haat.
Embossed Leather Craft
The leather craft of West Bengal is popular all over the world and the Shantiniketan leather goods find a special mention here. The embossed leather goods in Shantiniketan are made using vegetable-tanned goatskin leather. Every bag, wallet, file cover, etc. is handcrafted and made by local artisans who are an intrinsic part of Shantiniketan. These goods are highly sought after in the global market and are exported to different parts of the world.
This is an ancient art of making non-ferrous metalware with the metal-casting process and is extensively practiced in a village called Dariyapur. The Dariyapur Dokra village is at a distance of about two kilometers from Shantiniketan and art enthusiasts can see the whole process of making these beautiful pieces of art right from scratch here.
People who want to explore these places must stay in Shantiniketan for at least a week in a homestay in Bolpur or a budget-friendly hotel like Panthashala and take a day’s tour to Dariyapur. Although beautiful dokra jewelry and home décor pieces can be found in the markets of Shantiniketan, watching the artisans at work gives it a whole new dimension.
Another beautiful art form that was revived and nurtured in Shantiniketan by Rabindranath Tagore’s daughter-in-law is Protima Devi is the Kantha stitch. Today this art form is being extolled by the country’s biggest designers due to which it has gained huge prominence in the world of fashion. However, if people want to see and understand the humble beginnings of this art form, they must visit Nanoor which is at a distance of about twenty-two kilometers from Shantiniketan, and see the artisans at work.
Apart from the above-mentioned art forms, there are others like the ajrakh, bamboo weaving, terracotta as well as wood carving that are quite popular in Shantiniketan. For someone looking to thoroughly study the various art forms that were nurtured in Shantiniketan by Tagore and his disciples, an extended stay in Tagore’s abode of peace is certainly recommended.