Considered as one of the most peaceful tourist destinations of West Bengal, Rabindranath Tagore’s Shantiniketan is any traveller’s paradise. From the roads that lead to eternity to the trees that teach people wisdom, there isn’t a single thing in Shantiniketan that doesn’t offer complete sanctity. This is the beauty of Tagore’s place. Located at the heart of the city of Bolpur, Shantiniketan is not only the cultural hub of West Bengal but also the artistic heart of the state. Colorful flowers adorn the peaceful land of Shantiniketan and the mystical voice of the Bauls fill up the enchanting atmosphere.
One cannot feel the true essence of the place without staying there for a few nights. But if you have enormous workload and can only spare a day from your hectic schedule, here’s how we suggest to plan the trip in order to help you make the most out of your travel.
1. Travel to Bolpur by train
In order to minimize your travel period and extend your exploration hours, we highly recommend you to travel Shantiniketan by train. It is also advisable to start early as there are endless things to explore and much more to feel than the eyes can apprehend. So, wisely plan your ticket to Bolpur and reach the land of Tagore in good time to taste everything the place has to offer. It is, however, advised to hit Shantiniketan on a weekend, especially on Saturday, because you get an additional treat of getting a chance to visit the Market that gets organized on the banks of the river Khowai. We have shortlisted the details of the 89 trains that stop at Bolpur here, to ease your tour planning. You can get a more detailed train-listing by visiting indianrailinfo.com.
2. Hire a ride at Bolpur station to reach Shantiniketan
Shantiniketan is not in the vicinity of the station and hence, you must hire a taxi or any commercial vehicle to save time. Selecting the suitable ride might become confusing for you, in terms of varied fares, but be stern and offer a maximum of Rs. 40 per head for any type of commercial vehicle you hire. With the introduction of electric rickshaws nowadays, you can also hop into one and breathe-in the purity of the place as you ride to the House of Peace.
3. The Museum of Tagore
Before you enter the Shantiniketan campus, visit the Museum of Tagore located at the other side of the road. Entry fee for students is Rs. 10 while for others, the entry fee is Rs. 40. For foreigners, the tickets are priced at Rs. 200. Photography is prohibited inside the museum but there are ample of frames to capture outside the building. The best thing about visiting this Museum is that you get to know Rabindranath, his family, life and creations from a more detailed perspective. The slow humming of Rabindrasangeet adds up to the glamour of the place. Located around the building are the different residing places of the Poetic Legend. Colorful flowers adorn the garden which is well-decorated with sculptures by Ramkinkar Baij.
4. A Guide to Enlightment
Once you are done with the museum, it’s time to immerse into the beauty of Shantiniketan or the House of Peace. However, you won’t get to know much about the legend of the place and the significance of the in-house spots until and unless you have a guide to narrate them to you. So, in order to know more clearly about Shantiniketan and its history, we advise you to hire a Guide. It is true that you can’t visit everything inside during your visit because the campus of Shantiniketan is too large to be explored in a single day. And this is where a Guide comes handy in exploring maximum number of spots in a small amount of time, along with learning their respective histories in a nutshell. The standard charges of a Guide is around Rs. 200-300 for a group of 8 to 10 heads. As soon as you get hold of one, treat yourself with the sanctity of the campus and learn why Shantiniketan is considered as any art-lover’s paradise. Make sure you rest your eyes on the following places of importance while visiting the area with your Guide:
5. Treat your appetite
An empty stomach has enough potentiality to spoil your trip and thus, never challenge it. After a lot of walking, hopping and photoshooting, your appetite would surely need your care and attention. Bid your Guide adieu but before parting ways, ask for the direction of Kasahara Café. It is an in-house canteen, located near Sangeet Bhawan inside Shantiniketan campus, serving delicious platters to students and tourists. For a perfect Bengali lunch, order a thali of your taste and indulge into the delicacy of the dishes. A Veg Thali costs Rs. 70, an Egg Thali costs Rs. 100, Fish Thali comes for Rs. 120 and the extraordinary Chicken Thali comes for Rs. 150. There’s a Mutton Thali, too, that charges you Rs. 200. The hot-served food is perhaps the best part of your journey owing to the variety of the dishes that comes under the Thali. Don’t even think twice about the price because you get to gulp twice worth the money. After you finish your meal, leave the campus and look for men selling mouth-watering Bengali desserts like Mishti Doi and Rabri in small earthen pots. There won’t be any better ending to your lunch than this.
6. All about Baul and Haat
Shantiniketan and Baul are like two sides of the same coin as one cannot be complete without the other. The beauty of the place is enhanced by the sharp, impactful music that comes out from a Baul’s Ektara. Hop into an electric Rickshaw and ask the driver to take you to the banks of Khowai river. Fares should be around Rs. 20-30 per head for a rickshaw of four. A travelling tip is to hire the electric rickshaw for a round trip i.e., from Shantiniketan to Khowai and then back to Bolpur station. That would cost a maximum of Rs. 50 per head but, in turn, is a great way to plan your way back home.
As told earlier, if you visit the banks of Khowai at the juncture of a Saturday eve, you would be able to spend a few bucks on the beautiful Shantiniketani items that are available at the Haat. The market or the Haat is the main attraction around Khowai because the glamour of the river is no more left to be cherished. But before you satisfy your lust for shopping, sit before any Baul, who is uplifting the atmosphere with his voice, and feel the beauty of his songs and the respective lyrics. You can even match your feet to the rhythm of the tribal dances that take place all around the Haat. It is truly a mesmerizing experience which you would be able to cherish for the rest of your life.
The epilogue to your memorable journey would finally arrive as you board your train back home. If you wisely plan your trip and book the correct trains for maximum tour hours, you can complete the above summarized journey in as less 7-8 hours, excluding the time spent in trains. Shantiniketan is, thus, the ultimate destination for a college trip or excursion. Don’t forget to take your friends with you when you visit the House of Peace. Go challenge the sun and dive into the grandeur of Shantiniketan. Share your experiences with us and share this post with your friends and family to inspire them to hit the place, this weekend.
Featured photo by Tanmay Chandra Nath