It was more than 100 years ago that Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore started an experimental school, Brahmacharyashram, with five students, at Santiniketan. He never believed in the joyless, mechanical system of education that prevailed in the country. For him, sympathy was more important than geography and symphony more than history. By sympathy, he meant understanding among human beings, evolving into community living and world peace. By symphony, he meant living in harmony with nature so that nature's bounty could be used without being destroyed.

In Patha Bhavan, the primary section, students are encouraged to participate in a wide range of activities, some of which are considered co curricular in other institutions. But here they are undertaken with the same intent as the other more formal aspects. Tagore did not want to bordeun the students but to widen their horizon in several directions. The institution has a Kala Bhavan for performing arts, Sriniketan for traditional craftsmanship and Rabindra Bhavan for knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe.

Visva Bharati also organises Vasantotsav, Vriksharopana, Halakarshana, Varsha Mangal and Poush Mela which are rituals and festive events. Instead of celebrating religious festivals, the students of Santiniketan celebrate nature through its seasons. Thus Poush Mela (winter), Vasantotsav (spring), Varsha Mangal (rains) and Maghotsav, reinforce the close connect between man and nature established in the founding principles of Santiniketan. With the outbreak of unprecedented communal violence in the wake of Bengal's partition, Tagore revived the folk festival of Raksha Bandhan, reinterpreting it in 1909 as a tie between Hindus and Muslims.

The library has over 40000 volumes of books and over 12000 bound journals.

Rabindra Bhavana is the focal point of the University and among its treasures are a major part of Tagore's manuscripts, correspondences, paintings and sketches. Different editions of the poet's works, books on and translated works of Tagore form the core of this library. A detailed and descriptive list of the paintings and other items in the museum unit has been serially published in its Catalogue-in-progress.

Source: Interview of Mr Ashok Bhowmik, Dean, Kala Bhavan by Arka Sinha Roy, CEE Kolkata

Contributed by: Arka Sinha Roy, CEE Kolkata

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