Bolpur Shantiniketan – A Dive in the True Culture of Bengal

A much-awaited trip for me that had me drooling only by the feeble information I could gather about it. People say that the true beauty of West Bengal is not explored until you visit the Poush Mela at Bolpur Shantiniketan. It is in the district of Birbhum which is a 4 to 5-hour long road trip from Kolkata. Only because I had thought a drive like this for 145 kilometers on suburban roads of West Bengal would be hectic, I chose to travel with the railways. I was not quite happy with my decision only under 2 hours of my journey. The scenic beauty throughout the journey kept my view stuck to the windows. I wonder how many times I would stop to get a set of pictures if I had booked a cab or drove myself to Birbhum. I was always proud of my knowledge base over what I know about Bengal. I do not know if it was a sense of patriotism towards my land or I was just proud, but I had denied the claims by my friends and family that Poush Mela cannot come close to the other celebrations that we have in Kolkata itself. Little did I know, that I was about to be proven wrong in a large margin.
 
“AMAR KUTIR” A far view of the Historical site which is a place of refuge for independence movement activists
 
 
Poush Mela is celebrated in the month of December like its name suggests. It is a customary ritual started by the Tagore family back in the 1800s. The history of Poush Mela in Birbhum was my point of interest throughout the way. The mark of the Bramho Creed is celebrated which was instigated by Late Devendranath Tagore, father of one of the most promising Nobel Laurette of the world Rabindranath Tagore. The best thing I liked about the Poush Mela is the pooling of so many different arts and customs at one place.
 
A near view of “AMAR KUTTIR” which holds a cooperative unit that produces leather goods, kantha stitched saris, bamboo crafts and batik
 
 
The first day kicked off with the tribal dance performances by the local people and the whole show kept me mesmerised with all the Dhols and flutes. This took place around the famous Kaanchghor (Glass House) that I was well versed in the books as a kid. The second and third day were followed by the Baul Gaan performances where men and women with saffron attire sang poems and songs for the Gods. Needless to say, it was one of the major attractions of the Poush Mela which is enjoyed by a diverse herd of visitors. They sang amazing songs like Cycle er duto chaka and Hridoy er maajhe with Ektaars and other folk classics. Apart from the traditional performances, the food kept me busy as well. I loved all the local food stalls which had Rajbhog, Gorom Ghuguni, Patishapta and a lot more to enchant my taste buds. I got myself a couple of souvenirs from the Dokhra Art and Jewellery exhibition which were truly incredible.
 
 
                                 The Amar Kutir complex
 
 
 
This society’s building was an ashram once where political prisoners of the British period were kept. The society is now known to produce handicrafts and goods like bamboo and batik crafts, Kantha stitched saris, leather goods, dokra jewellery and many more items.
 
Gurudeva Rabindranath Tagore always acknowledged the rightful place of music and dance in his scheme of education, At present Sangit-Bhavana imparts training in Rabindra Sangit, Hindusthani Classical Vocal and Instrumental Music (Esraj, Sitar, Tabla, Pakhwaj), Manipuri and Kathakali Dance styles, Dramas and Tagore”s own musical Dance-dramas.
 
A 4-day long stay and I was proven wrong about the depth and elegance of Bengal’s tradition. I got to know why Poush Mela is so popular throughout the world. I cherish this trip with a proud feeling to have been a part of something incredible. 

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