Brief HistoryA study of the evolution of Visva-Bharati during the lifetime of itsfounder, Rabindranath Tagore, offers an insight into what this institution was intended to achieve. Rabindranath founded a school for children at Santiniketan and it was around this nucleus that the structure of an unconventional university developed through careful planning. In 1863, on a seven-acre plot at the site of thepresent institution, Debendranath Tagore, the poets father, hadbuilt a small retreat for meditation, and in 1888 he dedicated, theland and buildings, towards establishment of a Brahmavidyalayaand a library. Rabindranaths school Brahmacharyasrama whichstarted functioning formally from December 22, 1901 with nomore than five students on the roll, was, in part, a fulfilment ofthe wishes of his father who was a considerable figure of his timein the field of educational reforms. From 1925 this school cameto be known as Patha-Bhavana.The school was a conscious repudiation of the system introducedin India by the British rulers and Rabindranath initially sought torealize the intrinsic values of the ancient education in India. Theschool and its curriculum, therefore, signified a departure fromthe way the rest of the country viewed education and teaching.Simplicity was a cardinal principle. Classes were held in open airin the shade of trees where man and nature entered into animmediate harmonious relationship. Teachers and studentsshared the single integral socio-cultural life. The curriculum hadmusic, painting, dramatic performances and other performativepractices. Beyond the accepted limits of intellectual andacademic pursuits, opportunities were created for invigoratingand sustaining the manifold faculties of the human personality.SRINIKETANThe Institute of Rural Reconstruction was founded in 1922 atSurul at a distance of about three kilometres from Santiniketan.It was formally inaugurated on February 6, 1922 with LeonardElmhirst as its first Director. Thus the second but contiguouscampus of Visva-Bharati came to be located in 1923 at a site
which assumed the name of Sriniketan. The chief object was tohelp villagers and people to solve their own problems instead of asolution being imposed on them from outside.In consonance with the ideas about reconstruction of village life,a new type of school meant mainly for the children ofneighbouring villages who would eventually bring the offering oftheir acquired knowledge for the welfare of the village communitywas also conceived. This school, Siksha-Satra, was started inSantiniketan in 1924 but was shifted to Sriniketan in 1927. TheLok-Siksha Samsad, an organization for the propagation of non-formal education amongst those who had no access to usualeducational opportunities, was started in 1936. Siksha-Charchafor training village school teachers followed next year. GROWTH OF VISVA-BHARATIAfter Rabindranath was awarded the Noble Prize in 1913, he was invited tonumerous visits all over the world and he came closely to know a large partof the world and its people. By 1917 the range of his experience and therestlessness of his exploration led to his own self-clarification regarding theidea of a centre of Indian culture at Santiniketan.The centre as conceived byhim was to provide "for the coordinated study of the different cultures". As"music and the fine arts are among the highest means of national selfexpression… in the proposed centre of our culture, music and art must haveprominent seats of honour". This centre should not only be a centre of the
intellectual life of India but the centre of the economic life as well.Participating thus in all the major spheres of Indian life, the institutionwould attain a representative character and enter into an encounter withthe rest of the world.The institution chose for its motto the Vedic text "Yatra visvambhavtyekanidam" (where the world makes a home in a single nest). On 23December 1921 Visva-Bharati became a registered public body whichadopted a constitution of its own. The aims and object as set forth on theoccasion have since then remained the objectives of Visva-Bharati.Vidya-Bhavana or the Institution of Higher Studies and Research was themanifestation of the ideal of the proposed centre of comprehensive studies inthe cultures of the East and the West. The centre was viewed principally asa community of scholars, Indian as well as foreign, who would be engaged increation & dissemination of systematised and philanthropic reasoning. Theconcern was epistemological.Those who followed included Mortiz Winternitz,V.Lesny of Prague, Carlo Formici and Giuseppe Tucci of Rome, Sten Know ofOslo. They added a new dimension to the work that was being carried on bya remarkable group of Indian scholars and creative artists of rarededication, the services of some of whom Rabindranath had secured evenfrom the days of the Brahmacharyasrama.In 1937 Cheena-Bhavana, the department of Sino-Indian studies wasestablished, and even today it remains, by any standard, a remarkablesymbol of cultural collaboration. In 1939, the Hindi-Bhavana with certaindistinct projects of studies was founded. Kala-Bhavana which was originallythe institute for both Fine Arts and Music came into existence in 1921 butin 1934 it branched off into two independent institutions, Kala-Bhavana andSangit-Bhavana each with its own distinct discipline. In generating moreinformed and cultured interest and more ample educational components,these two institutions played pioneering role in our country.AIMS AND OBJECTIVESShantiniketanTo study the mind of man in its realization of different aspects of truth fromdiverse points of view. To bring into more intimate relation with one another,through patient study and research, the different cultures of the East on thebasis of their underlying unity. To approach the West from the standpoint ofsuch a unity of the life and thought of Asia.To seek to realize in a common fellowship of study the meeting of the Eastand the West, and thus ultimately to strengthen the fundamental conditionsof world peace through the establishment of free communication of ideasbetween the two hemispheres.
SriniketanTo win the friendship and affection of villagers and cultivators by taking areal interest in all that concerns their life and welfare, and by making aneffort to assist them in solving their most pressing problems.A WAY OF LIFEFrom the very beginning Rabindranath tried to foster a self-sufficient social life along with new values of creative as well asparticipatory culture. The most joyful expressions of thecommunity are the festivals which at different times of the yearcelebrate the cycle of the seasons and the diverse manifestationsof nature. Dances and songs presented on such occasions drawas much upon Rabindranath as other cultural resources of allparts of India. The community comes together in these festivalsand for the young students in particular, it is an unobtrusiveprocess of cultural enrichment.Certain cultural events and festivals had come down as a legacyfrom the inception of the institution. The open-air devotionalservice that is held on 7 Poush (on or about 22 December) everyyear under the Chatim tree where Debendranath once meditatedis an occasion of particular significance for the institution since itis the foundation day of the asrama. In accordance with the trustdeed, a mela (festive fair) popularly known as the Poushmela isheld to mark the occasion. Another three day village fair, calledMaghmela is held early in February every year at Sriniketan.There is prayer-hall, referred to as Mandir, where everyWednesday a non-denominational community prayer service isheld. This prayer-hall is the place of congregation for allimportant occasions of commemoration for the community. Itwas the founders belief that the moral influence radiating fromhere would afford a silent but constant guidance to the membersof the community. All in all Santiniketan is the name for anattitude, a value, a way of life which suffuses an educationalprocess, contains it, sustains it, yet transcends it.
RABINDRANATH TAGORE THE FOUNDERRabindranath Tagores role in the innovation of educational ideashas been eclipsed by his fame as a poet. He was a pioneer in thefield of education. For the last forty years of his life he wascontent to be a schoolmaster in humble rural surroundings, evenwhen he had achieved fame such as no Indian had known before.He was one of the first, in India, to think out for himself and put thinkin practice principles of education which have now becomecommonplace of educational theory, if not yet of practice.Today we all know that what the child imbibes at home and inschool is far more important than what he studies at college, that atthe teaching is more easily and naturally communicated throughthe childs mother-tongue than through an alien medium, that tonguelearning through activity is more real than through the writtenword, that wholesome education consists in training of all thesenses along with the mind instead of cramming the brain withmemorized knowledge, that culture is something much morethan academic knowledge. But few of Rabindranathscountrymen took notice of him when he made his firstexperiments in education in 1901 with less than half a dozen on
pupils. A poets whim, thought most of them. Even today few ofhis countrymen understand the significance of these principles intheir national life. The schoolmaster is still the most neglectedmember of our community, despite the fact that Rabindranathattached more merit to what he taught to children in his schoolthan to the Hibbert lectures he delivered before the distinguishedaudience at Oxford.Mahatma Gandhi adopted the scheme of teaching through craftsmany years after Rabindranath had worked it out atShantiniketan. In fact the Mahatma imported his first teachersfor his basic School from Shantiniketan.If Rabindranath had done nothing else, what he did atShantiniketan and Sriniketan would be sufficient to rank him asone of the Indias greatest nation-builders.With the years, Rabindranath had won the world and the worldin turn had won him. He sought his home everywhere in theworld and would bring the world to his home. And so the littleschool for children at Shantiniketan became a world university,Visva-Bharati, a centre for Indian Culture, a seminary forEastern Studies and a meeting-place of the East and West. Thepoet selected for its motto an ancient Sanskrit verse, Yatravisvam bhavatieka nidam, which means, "Where the whole worldmeets in a single nest.""Visva-Bharati", he declared, “represents India where she has herwealth of mind which is for all. Visva-Bharati acknowledgesIndias obligation to offer to others the hospitality of her bestculture and Indias right to accept from others their best."In 1940 a year before he died, he put a letter in Gandhis hand,"Visva-Bharati is like a vessel which is carrying the cargo of mylifes best treasure, and I hope it may claim special care from mycountrymen for its preservation."
A CENTRAL UNIVERSITYIn May 1951, Visva-Bharati was declared to be a CentralUniversity and "An Institution of National Importance" by an Actof Parliament. It was granted the status of a unitary, teachingand residential university. The status and function of all themajor institutions have been redefined in successive AmendmentActs and the University has continued to grow by givingaccreditation to new institutions in response to needs newly felt.The school has reshaped itself into a fully fledged modernUniversity with diverse concern and interests. The definingmaxim of excellence remains intact. ===== 00 ====== Created By Arabinda Ghosh Geographer Malda