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About Visva-Bharati

Founded by the first non-European Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Thakur(popularly known as Tagore) in 1921, Visva-Bharati was declared to be a central university and an institution of national importance by an Act of Parliament in 1951. The President of India is the Paridarsaka (Visitor) of the University, the Governor of West Bengal is the Pradhana (Rector), and the Prime Minister of India acts as the Acharya (Chancellor). The President of India appoints the Upacharya (Vice-chancellor) of the University.

A CENTRAL UNIVERSITY

In May 1951, Visva-Bharati was declared to be a Central University and "An Institution of National Importance" by an Act of Parliament. It was granted the status of a unitary, teaching and residential university. The status and function of all the major institutions have been redefined in successive Amendments.

Acharya (Chancellor)

Shri Narendra Modi
Prime Minister of India

Pradhana (Rector)

Shri Jagdeep Dhankhar
The Governor of West Bengal

Upacharya (Vice-Chancellor)

Professor Bidyut Chakrabarty

History

A study of the evolution of Visva-Bharati during the lifetime of its founder, 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 the present institution, Debendranath Tagore, the poet's father, had built a small retreat for meditation, and in 1888 he dedicated, the land and buildings, towards establishment of a Brahmavidyalaya and a library. Rabindranath's school Brahmacharyasrama which started functioning formally from December 22, 1901 with no more than five students on the roll, was, in part, a fulfilment of the wishes of his father who was a considerable figure of his time in the field of educational reforms. From 1925 this school came to be known as Patha-Bhavana. The school was a conscious repudiation of the system introduced in India by the British rulers and Rabindranath initially sought to realize the intrinsic values of the ancient education in India. The school and its curriculum, therefore, signified a departure from the way the rest of the country viewed education and teaching. Simplicity was a cardinal principle. Classes were held in open air in the shade of trees where man and nature entered into an immediate harmonious relationship. Teachers and students shared the single integral socio-cultural life. The curriculum had music, painting, dramatic performances and other performative practices. Beyond the accepted limits of intellectual and academic pursuits, opportunities were created for invigorating and sustaining the manifold faculties of the human personality.

Santiniketan

To study the mind of man in its realisation of different aspects of truth from diverse points of view. To bring into more intimate relation with one another, through patient study and research, the different cultures of the East on the basis of their underlying unity. To approach the West from the standpoint of such a unity of the life and thought of Asia. To seek to realize in a common fellowship of study the meeting of the East and the West, and thus ultimately to strengthen the fundamental conditions of world peace through the establishment of free communication of ideas between the two hemispheres. And, with such ideals in view, to provide at Santiniketan, a centre of culture where research into and study of the religion, literature, history, science and art of Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Islamic, Sikh, Christian and other civilisations may be pursued along with the culture of the West, with that simplicity in externals which is necessary for true spiritual realisation, in amity, good fellowship and co-operation between the thinkers and scholars of both Eastern and Western countries.

Sriniketan

To win the friendship and affection of villagers and cultivators by taking a real interest in all that concerns their life and welfare, and by making an effort to assist them in solving their most pressing problems. To initiate a dialogue between academic study and research of rural economy / culture and on-field experience.

Rabindranath Tagore :The Founder

Poet, Writer, Painter, Musician, Educationist, Nobel Laureate.

Whatever fate may be in store in the judgment of the future for my poems, my stories and my plays, I know for certain that the Bengali race must needs accept my songs, they must all sing my songs in every Bengali home, in the fields and by the rivers... I feel as if music wells up from within some unconscious depth of my mind, that is why it has certain completeness. _ Rabindranath

SANTINIKETAN

At Santiniketan the environment is always present in one"s consciousness. It becomes a part of one"s being here, more than anywhere else, which is why it grows on you and having lived here once it is difficult to forget. The Santiniketan environment has changed, grown and evolved with its community. Santiniketan is situated at an elevation of 200 feet above sea-level giving it a slight bulge in an otherwise flat landscape. The ground slopes gradually to 100 feet above sea-level near the Ajay river about 3 miles to the south and the Kopai stream some 2 miles to the north. The southern boundary of Santiniketan merges into a vast plain of rice fields. On its northern fringes were the khoai lands with deeply indented gullies caused by erosion over denuded land. The District Gazetteer of Birbhum records that in pre-British days, Birbhum had an extensive forest cover. Progressive denundation of forests played havoc with the porous laterite soil. During the hot months, fierce dust storms scattered the loose soil far and wide. During the rains heavy erosion took place as after every downpour water rushed through undulating land creating gullies and gorges in its relentless march. In the middle of the 19th century, Maharshi Devendranath Tagore found solace and serenity in this barren land. He purchased the land and started the construction of a house rightaway. This house, named, Santiniketan, was built in the early 1860s; the name later came to denote the entire area. A beautiful garden was laid out on all sides of the house. The top-layer of gritty dry soil was removed and filled with rich soil brought from outside. Trees were planted for fruit and shade. Change in the environment had begun. As a child, Rabindranath accompanied his father to Santiniketan and recalled, much later, in Reminiscences, Though I was yet a mere child my father did not place any restriction on my wanderings. In the hollows of the sandy soil the rain water had ploughed deep furrows, carving out miniature mountain ranges full of red gravel and pebbles of various shapes through which ran tiny streams, revealing the geography of Lilliput… I was never tired of roaming about among those miniature hills and dales in hopes of lighting on something never known before. I was the Livingstone of this undiscovered land which looked as if seen through the wrong end of a telescope. Everything there, the dwarfed date palms, the scrubby wild plums and the stunted jambolans, was in keeping with the miniature mountain ranges, the little rivulet and the tiny fish I had discovered. When, in 1901, Rabindranath started his Brahmacharyasrama, he found the asrama "flanked on the south by a sal avenue and an entrance gate covered by a canopy of Madhavi creepers. To the east was an orchard of mango trees. Towards the west were a few palmyra palm, jamun, casuarina and, here and there, some coconut palms. Standing on the north-western outskirt of the old asrama were the two ancient Chhatim trees." Rabindranath"s choice of Santiniketan for his school was definitely because of its environment. In "My School", he has written: "I selected a beautiful place, far away from the contamination of town life, for I myself, in my young days, was brought up in that town in the heart of India, Calcutta, and all the time I had a sort of homesickness for some distant lane somewhere, where my heart, my soul, could have its true emancipation... I knew that the mind had its hunger for the ministrations of nature, mother-nature, and so I selected this spot where the sky is unobstructed to the verge of the horizon. There the mind could have its fearless freedom to create its own dreams and the seasons could come with all their colours and movements and beauty into the very heart of the human dwelling." The celebration of seasons was always a feature in the asrama. These festivals came to be associated with the special culture of this institution and the introduction of traditional Indian forms and rituals in organising these festivals, including the decoration of the site, use of flowers, alpana, chanting of Vedic hymns and blowing of conch-shells gave them a new dimension, aesthetically attractive, intrinsically Indian yet totally secular. Rabindranath felt, it was necessary that an affinity be built between the students" minds and the flora and fauna of the asrama. It was always the objective in Santiniketan that learning would be a part of life"s natural growth. The first step towards this objective was to establish in the child a sense of oneness with nature. A child has to be aware of his surroundings - the trees, birds and animals around him. The mind is deprived if one is indifferent to the world outside. Rabindranath said we concentrate on learning from books and neglect the knowledge that is freely available on all sides. From the beginning, he wanted his students to be aware of their environment, be in communication with it, probe it, make experiments and collect data and specimens. And to guide them he wanted teachers who could go beyond book-learning, who were seekers themselves and who would find joy in the process of learning. In this context one might mention Tejeschandra Sen, who along with Jagadananda Roy, was one of the pioneering teachers of Nature Study in India. They were able to instill in children a love for and curiosity about the natural world. Lord Haldane, visiting Santiniketan in 1954 was much impressed with Tejeschandra" s method of teaching. In the mid-fifties, to prevent further erosion by the khoai, soil embankments were raised which thereby created little lakes of moderate size. The bunding of the Mayurakshi river some distance on the north-west brought Santiniketan a branch of an irrigation canal which forms its northern boundary. Thus started, the greening of khoai brought about significant changes in the environment. An extensive forest has been created where deer graze. However, Santiniketan today is a veritable botanists" paradise. Plants, trees, creepers and orchids from various parts of India and abroad have been made to flourish in this once semi-desert. Rabindranath himself took a deep interest in planting trees. He introduced the Vriksharopana, or tree-planting ceremony in 1928, popularising the concept. His son, Rathindranath, was a horticulturist by training and introduced a number of new trees and plants into Santiniketan. Fortunately, the Santiniketan community in general shares this interest in trees and gardening. The seasons are clearly marked in Santiniketan; one knows the end of one season and the beginning of the other with the sights and smell of blossoms in bloom. One cannot write of the Santiniketan environment without mentioning Ramkinkar Baiz. His outdoor sculpture is a part of our environment, not meant to be exhibited in museums. Children grow up with them, treating them as much a part of the environment as the trees and sky. Made of locally available material, these sculptural pieces depict life in and around Santiniketan. The Santhal Family or the Call of the Mill are so integral to Santiniketan that they do not evoke the same emotions when seen in its bronze cast in the capital of India! When Sujata was placed in Sangit Bhavana by Ramkinkar, walking towards the Buddha, Nandalal Bose planted eucalyptus trees around it to accentuate its height and blend it in a natural scene. In the paintings of Nandalal Bose and Binodebihari Mukhopadhyay, the Santiniketan landscape has been captured for posterity. Surendranath Kar, Nandalal Bose and Rathindranath Tagore were acutely aware of the environment and took great pains to design buildings and houses that would merge with its surroundings. However, although the outskirts have developed and altered, the main campus or core area of the asrama has undergone comparatively lesser change and retains the quiet, picturesque, sylvan atmosphere that gave Santiniketan its distinctive charm. The same joyous atmosphere is evident and the children look as happy and free as ever. Classes even to this day are held under the trees. The first day of rains is still celebrated with an outing, barefoot and sans umbrellas. The spirit of Rabindranath lives on in Santiniketan; one needs to be conscious of it and tread gently, lest one should disturb it.

SRINIKETAN

The Institute of Rural Reconstruction was founded in 1922 at Surul at a distance of about three kilometres from Santiniketan. It was formally inaugurated on February 6, 1922 with Leonard Elmhirst as its first Director. Thus the second but contiguous campus of Visva-Bharati came to be located in 1923 at a site which assumed the name of Sriniketan. The chief object was to help villagers and people to solve their own problems instead of a solution 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 of neighbouring villages who would eventually bring the offering of their acquired knowledge for the welfare of the village community was also conceived. This school, Siksha-Satra, was started in Santiniketan in 1924 but was shifted to Sriniketan in 1927. The Lok-Siksha Samsad, an organization for the propagation of non-formal education amongst those who had no access to usual educational opportunities, was started in 1936. Siksha-Charcha for training village school teachers followed next year.