Once upon a time today’s Shantiniketan was known as BhubanDanga, which was the den of a local dacoit named Bhuban. “Danga” means a vast unfertile plane land. The land was owned by the Tagore family. Rabindranath Tagore’s father, Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, renamed it as Shantiniketan, which means abode (niketan) of peace (shanti).
Rabindranath Tagore started an open air school there for children named as “Path Bhavan”. Tagore’s idea was that of learning in a natural environment, in the open, under the trees, would be more closer to nature. Classes in the open still in vogue there.
After Tagore received the Nobel Prize in 1913 for literature (for the book Gitanjali), the school was expanded into an university named as Visva Bharati. Today Visva Bharati is one of the renowned universities, which attracts thousands of students each year. Shantiniketan is also a tourist attraction because Rabindranath wrote many of his literary classics here.
First woman Prime minister of India, Indira Gandhi, renowned film director Satyajit Ray and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen are among its most illustrious students.
The most prestigious possession of Shantiniketan, the pride of the nation, the “Nobel Prize” medallion of Kabiguru Rabindranath Tagore which was in display in the ‘Rabindra Bhavan’ (Museum) till it was stolen in the beginning of 2006 and it was done so precisely that country’s top investigating agency too failed to trace it.
Though BhubanDanga has undergone lot many changes in the past but Bhuban dacoit, it seems, has left his legacy and still alive through his modern day decoits who unlike Bhuban decoit, are with us in the society, in disguise. These decoits are more dangerous than the Bhuban decoit because they are in disguise and CBI too failed to find them.
UNESCO will soon declare Shantiniketan as a world Heritage site.
(Visited Shantiniketan in March 2008)(Some picture taken from Times of India)