Santiniketan, the town in India’s West Bengal’s Birbhum district where Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore spent much of his life, has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
“BREAKING! New inscription on the @UNESCO #WorldHeritage List: Santiniketan, #India. Congratulations!” the UNESCO wrote on X (formally Twitter) on Sunday.
Established in 1901 by poet and philosopher Tagore, Santiniketan was a residential school and centre for art based on ancient Indian traditions and a vision of the unity of humanity transcending religious and cultural boundaries.
A ‘world university’ was established at Santiniketan in 1921, recognising the unity of humanity or “Visva Bharati”. Distinct from the prevailing British colonial architectural orientations of the early 20th century and of European modernism, Santiniketan represents approaches toward a pan-Asian modernity, drawing on ancient, medieval and folk traditions from across the region.
India had been striving for long to get a UNESCO tag for this cultural site located in the Birbhum district.
A few months ago, the landmark site was recommended for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List by international advisory body ICOMOS.
The France-based International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) is an international non-governmental organisation that comprises professionals, experts, representatives from local authorities, companies and heritage organisations and is dedicated to the conservation and enhancement of the architectural and landscape heritage around the world.
“Santiniketan, popularly known today as a university town, a hundred miles to the north of Kolkata, was originally an ashram built by Debendranath Tagore, where anyone, irrespective of caste and creed, could come and spend time meditating on the one Supreme God,” according to a description of the place on the official website of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. It later became the Nobel laureate’s home and base for activity, it said.
“Debendranath, who was father of the poet, Rabindranath, was also known as Maharshi (which means one who is both saint and sage), was a leading figure of the Indian Renaissance,” the website said.
Visva-Bharati in Santiniketan is Bengal’s only central university. The Prime Minister is the chancellor of the varsity.
It was in 2010 that the Centre had first tried to get the World Heritage tag for Santiniketan. It mounted its campaign again in 2021 and a fresh dossier was prepared by the Archaeological Survey of India with the help of Visva Bharati authorities and submitted to Unesco.
While speaking at a programme organised to celebrate Tagore’s birth anniversary in Kolkata, Union home minister Amit Shah had said that the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 was inspired by the model of education the Nobel laureate had introduced at Santiniketan.