Shantiniketan, famous for Rabindranath Tagore’s Abode of Peace, should be a must visit place if you visit Kolkata. So if you have a weekend in this peaceful town, it is enough if toured correctly.
1. Tagore’s Ashram
One of the most valued places in all of Santiniketan, Tagore’s Ashram is located in the Uttarayan Complex. It is the place that Tagore’s father first built when he arrived many years ago.
He called his home Santiniketan, Abode of Peace. Later the entire region adopted this name. One has to walk through the area. Guides are generally available outside Uttarayan Complex/Rabindra Bhaban. You can also explore the region on your own as the area is pretty easy to navigate through.
2. Kala Bhavan – Viswa Bharati University
This place is a home to art. It is a must visit for artists, designers, craftpersons and anybody who does anything remotely creative. The place isn’t open till 2PM to outsiders, so plan accordingly.
3. Sonajhuri Forest – Shanibarer Haat & Khoai
The Khoai Mela or Shanibarer Haat or ‘Saturday Market’ which is a temporary, open-air market where locales sell various items starting from musical instruments to dokra handicrafts to ethnic jewellery and hand-loom sari and dress materials, is a chief attraction for tourists. Set beside Khoai, the deep dry riverbed, with Sonajhuri Forest in the backdrop, this Saturday Market is the place to feel the vibe of Shantiniketan. The market dissolves at sunset. One can roam around in Sonajhuri forest for some time and sit by the Khoai and take pictures.
4. Shop! Shop! Shop!
How can you travel and not shop? The Ratan Pally market is an uber cool place to hangout. Do not miss their cold coffee – yummmm! Restaurants decorated with fairy lights give the perfect student ambiance! 500 meters away from Ratan Pally is Alcha, which has a quaint collection of artsy things from bags, purses, and hand-stitched items, to some unique clothes that are one-offs, including printed and embroidered garments, blouse pieces and saris. The leather-work, kesh and embroidery are high quality and everything is produced locally, so it brings employment to this area. Look out for the household items, too. I bought some lovely wooden items for my home here – well, I intended to give them to friends, but I’m not sure I’ll part with them!
5. Explore the locality
Walk around and capture that silence and peace, both in your mind and in your camera!
How to get to Shantiniketan: The most convenient way to reach Shantiniketan is by train. There are many daily trains from Kolkata Howrah Junction and Sealdah to Prantik or Bolpur which is 2 km away from Shantiniketan. The duration of the journey is approximately 3 hours. Kolkata to Shantiniketan trains are from six in the morning till eleven in the night.
Best time to visit: Unlike many other places, the only time when visiting Santiniketan should be avoided is the peak summer time, when the temperatures get soaring. Other than these 2-4 months, the rest of the year experiences nice, palatable weather. Thus, you can visit the town between late August and March. The only choice you have to make is whether you wish to attend the Poush Mela, a major event in Santiniketan around late December or experience the charming spring season, which is perhaps the best in the year, around March, and attend the Basanta Utsav (Holi).