Monday, November 10, 2014

Shantiniketan – Tagore and Education – Part 1
Tagore with the teacher and students at the school. Image credit -

What was Shantiniketan all about?

Shantiniketan was a piece of land given to the Tagore Family by the Sinha family of Bengal. The father of the nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, Maharishi Debendranath Tagore found the place very peaceful and renamed it Shantiniketan. The first school opened there was called Patha Bhavan and it started with only five students. 

Today that school has been converted into the Visva Bharati University  and is now a university town that attracts thousands of students every year. The idea of making Shantiniketan a university town came to Tagore on his lecture tour to the US and Japan.

“There, Tagore meditated among orange groves and conceived of a new type of university, desiring to "make Shantiniketan the connecting thread between India and the world ... [and] a world center for the study of humanity ... somewhere beyond the limits of nation and geography." (Dutta and Robinson 1995, pg. 204)

The foundation stone of the school, which he named Visva-Bharati, was ceremonially laid on 22 December 1918 and the school was later inaugurated on 22 December 1921. (Dutta and Robinson 1995, pg. 220) 

Tagore’s duties as steward and mentor at Santiniketan kept him busy; he taught classes in mornings and wrote textbooks for his students in afternoons and evenings. Of this routine, he wrote that “I long to discover some fairyland of holidays ... where all duties look delightfully undutiful, like clouds bearing rain appearing perfectly inconsequential”.[Tagore was also occupied with fundraising between 1919 and 1921, undertaking trips to Europe and the U.S” (Chakravarty 1961, pg 27) 

Founding Vision 
Tagore and the kids at Shantiniketan. Image credit -

The first school founded and funded there by the Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore was an institution of primary and secondary education in Shantiniketan, West Bengal, India. It was called Brahmacharyasrama. It was similar to and modeled on the lines of the Ancient Gurukul System.

The school is characterized by its philosophy of learning with the heart in closeness to nature without any superficial barriers between teachers and students. The institute was focused on the quest for truth and blending the methods of learning of the East and West.

This went against the repetitive and rote learning system that was mainstream during Tagore’s childhood.It was based on the ashrama system of India with the teachers and students living together and learning with nature.

This was different. A new kind of education. People were surprised. 

Let us learn together
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