Posts Tagged ‘Tagore


Dol in the outskirts of Santiniketan


Santiniketan is well know for it’s peculiar way of celebrating the festival of Dol, elsewhere know as Holi.


This year, we’ve decided to avoid the madly crowd which invades the lanes of the University created by Rabindranath Tagore and welcome the spring in the outskirts of the once know as the “Abode of Peace”.


Here no rush no harm.


Just the sound of the drum and colorful clouds of abir powder!


Each pigment has a special significance. Green for harmony, orange for optimism, blue for vitality, red for joy and love.








Shame on Santi (II)


And life goes on.


During this festive and busy time, shopkeepers, craftmen and other small businesses couldn’t stay idle. Their request to be spared until the end of the Poush Mela being denied, they had to find a way to make a living despite the unfair circumstances.


So they came back to that same spot they’ve been occupying for days, months or even years.


They came back taking a huge risk: the one to see all their belongings being seized, as the local police threatened them.


Will the road be widened? Will new shops be built? What is the plan?


Nothing has been officially announced yet but the it seems that those demolitions are just the tip of the iceberg that will definitely bury The Poet’s Abode of Peace deep into the past.



Shame on Santi

L1160285Who ever has visited Santiniketan over the last few days, could witness a very sad face of Tagore’s abode of peace.

L1160315A few days back, the public artillery showed up with one objective: chase out the street vendors and put down any unauthorized shop whatsoever.

L1160290What was the excuse given? Mo-der-ni-za-tion. Bolpur-Santiniketan-Prantik will get a widen main road to welcome the hundreds of SUV which cross town at full speed regardless of traffic rules, other vehicles or pedestrians, especially on week-ends – when the famous sonibarer haat is held – and during holidays. And they still call it a “perfect rural getaway”, ironic!

L1160288The fact that this happened just a week away from Santiniketan’s most expected event – the Poush Mela which attracts, every year, thousand of visitors – makes it even more tragic. The shop keepers, used to the sudden crowd, prepared themselves by stocking more goods. They’ve been given no more than a 3 day notice to pack everything up and flee. Where they’ll keep their equipment and merchandise, that is up to them. What they will become in the upcoming days and weeks also.


L1160320Those pictures were taken in Prantik, my own house’s closest market place. Prantik has really nothing to offer except a handy local train station. But so many kolkatans have established their secondary home there. Where will we go for our daily groceries, that isn’t really my main concern.

L1160321While I was there, memorizing what was left of once vivid Prantik Market, a man took me aside and requested me to show those pictures in my country. “Tell them the kind of problems we’re facing here”. Actually it’s here that I want to show those images so that whoever is responsible for this realizes that, whereas most countries, including India, are fighting against poverty and unemployment, they just put hundreds of honest people out of business.

L1160308But this is India, Incredible India as the official propaganda says. People won’t stay distraught for long! They’ll clean up the mess and accommodate themselves with the new décors. Adda – a local tradition – must go on!


L1160318A question remain… Why so suddenly? Why transforming lovely Santiniketan in a battlefield so soon before the Mela? That’s my wonder… Rumor has that India’s most beloved movie star – “Big B” as in nothing less than Amitabh Bachchan – who very recently spent a few hours in “The abode of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore” did not really enjoy what he saw: poverty, dirtiness, shambles,… even his hotel room wasn’t up to his standards. For that last one, we won’t blame him… Have you seen the Camelia incongruity?!



শিল্প সদন – শ্রীনিকেতন (Silpa Sadana – Sriniketan)

Beginning of the 20’s, Patha Bhawan – the school founded by Rabindranath Tagore – had flourished, the Poet had been honoured with a Nobel Prize and then – and only then – the Indian Government had started to show some interest in him and his work in Santiniketan.


As Tagore The Zamidar – the “landlord” – visited the surrounding villages to collect the annual rent, the socially-concerned-Thinker couldn’t help to notice that “for some reason, (they) appeared to be in a state of steady decline”. There was “no joy, no food, no health, no idea of the importance of their own initiative and no cooperation among them” as he confided to the English agricultural scientist Leonard Elmhirst, soon to become the first principal of the Institute of Rural Reconstruction.


In 1922, délaissant the intellectual space he had created, he founded Palli Samgathana Vibhaga in Sriniketan – the “abode of welfare” – second campus of Visva Bharati.



“Modern education (…) has not reached the farmer, the oil grinder nor the potter. If ever a truly Indian university is established it must from the very beginning implement India’s own knowledge of economics, agriculture, health, medicine and of all other everyday science from the surrounding villages. This school must practise agriculture, dairying and weaving using the best modern methods… I have proposed to call this school Visva Bharati

Adresses by Tagore, Visva Bharati, Santiniketan, 1963



Silpa Bhavana had already started training in Art & Craft. Sriniketan took over the work and made compulsory for its students to learn a trade: pottery, woodcarving, paper making, weaving. The objective was to bring back life to the villages and help them to solve their own problems. “…whenever the middle class babus intend to do something for the rural people, they show their contempt for them”. It aimed at combining work with joy organizing picnics, excursions, games, music, theatrical performances and socio-religious festivals.




A visit to Silpa Sadan will probably bring you front of the Emporium. Do not let the desuète and rather gloomy atmosphere drive you away! Beyond the rusty furniture, the dusty floor and non-so-welcoming faces, behind those opaque window glasses, inside those old-fashion wooden armoires, you will find the finest cotton cloth. The design are classic, the colours scarce but the weaving – work of students and some trained craftsmen for the final touch – is fine and authentic.





Your curious instinct might lead you to the corridor at the back of the emporium and, reaching the weaving workshop, you’ll feel you’ve been time-travelling. Unlike Kala Bhavan – the Institute of Fine Arts -, here it seems that everything remained unchanged since Tagore’s years. Superbes wooden looms for hand made cloth, pure off-white cotton yarns, marigold-orange bobbins, deep-blue threads… An antique scenery sublimated by a few rays of the outside spring light.





In 2007, Vishal Bhand joined the department and started the Renaissance of Silpa Sadan. This year was created the first Bachelor course of Design – a première in Santiniketan – aiming not only at developing innovating designers but also at giving them the will and skill to share their designs and savoir-faire with local artisans. Vishal also obtained a fund in order to build a new campus, adapted to the present needs of students and production. We can only hope that this suranné but exquisite Tagorean mood will remain floating in Sriniketan’s air.





“Rabindranath Tagore (1861 – 1941)”, Unesco: International Bureau of Education, 1999


সহিজযা বাউল উত্সব (Sahajiya Baul Utsav)

Bauls are the wandering minstrels, the mystics of Bengal enlighten by a divine madness.


Sahajiya Baul Utsav


From outcasted they became fashionable, à la mode. From tribal villagers to Bengali intellectuals or even Kolkata’s middle class, we’re all seeking the Bauls of Bengal *.


Sahajiya Baul Utsav


Sahajiya Baul Utsav


“Promiscuously borrowing cultural elements from the religious traditions around them—particularly Vaisnava Hinduism and Sufi Islam—while rejecting their prescriptive requirements, the Bauls’ personally oriented pursuit of spiritual perfection also made them reject caste. While such attitudes have caused them to be attacked by religious authorities and scholars, during the nineteenth century there arose an increasing interest in their musical traditions”**.


Sahajiya Baul Utsav


Sahajiya Baul Utsav


“For poet Rabindranath Tagore, the Bauls’ songs represented a quintessential element of Bengali culture and he, along with his colleague Kshitimohan Sen (grandfather of Amartya, another Nobel from Santiniketan!), emphasized the humanistic, anti-sectarian, and heterodox attitudes expressed in some of their songs, and Tagore particularly valued their poetic diction and musical qualities as a stimulus to his own artistic inspiration, even incorporating Baul characters into his plays and famously portraying them, himself, on stage in private performances.”**

















Ami ke bhaiami janlem na /Ami ami kari kintu ami amar thik haila na / Kotha haite alam ami, tare kai guni!”

“I haven’t discovered who I am, brother, / I keep saying “I”, but the “I” hasn’t really become mine. / Do I ever enquire where “I” have come from?”


Sahajiya Baul Utsav


Conversation with a Baul, on a river’s bank in Vikrrampur, East Bengal: “We follow the sahaj way (…) and so leave no trace behind us.” “Do the boats” the Baul continued, “that sail over the flooded river leave any mark? It is only the boatmen of the muddy track, urged on by their petty needs that leave a long furrow behind. This is not the sahaj way.”*


Sahajiya Baul Utsav


In 2005, the Baul tradition was included in the list of « Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity » by UNESCO.


Sahajiya Baul Utsav


Born in Murshidabad District, West Bengal, Paban Das is one of the few international Bauls, wandering between Paris and Bengal with his partner Mimlu Sen, author of Baulsphere – The Honey Gatherers, Random House, 2009. This year they’ve organised a two-days-&-nights festival – Sahajiya Baul Utsav in Lohagar – leaving their guests one short day rest after the tormented Joydeb Mela.


Sahajiya Baul Utsav Sahajiya Baul Utsav















Sahajiya Baul Utsav




Sahajiya Baul Utsav




Sahajiya Baul Utsav












* Seeking Bauls of Bengal, Jeanne OPENSHAW, Cambridge University Press, 2004

** from (Website based on the work of ethnomusicologists Charles Capwell, Shubha Chaudhuri, Daniel Neuman. Bauls performances and interviews, movies, texts and solid bibliography)


Sahajiya Baul Utsav

Other sources:

“Baulsphere” and “The Honey gatherers” by Mimlu Sen, Random House, 2009-2010

Moner Manush is a Bengali film directed by Goutam Ghose and based on the life and philosophy of Fakir Lalan Shah, noted spiritual leader, poet and folk singer of Bengal in the 19th century

En français:

“Bengale, l’Inde mystique”, Grands Reportages, n°345, août 2010—August-2010_18992.html