In addition to epitomising its Bengali name – meaning 'abode of peace' – Shantiniketan is a veritable nerve centre of Bengal's art and culture. Nobel laureate, poet and artist Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941) founded a school here amid pastoral settings in 1901, which later developed into the Visva Bharati University, with an emphasis on the study of liberal arts as well as humanity’s relationship with nature. A relaxed place, it attracts students from all over India and overseas.
Spread throughout the leafy university grounds are eclectic statues, the celebrated Shantiniketan murals and the Belgian glass-panelled university prayer hall. The museum and art gallery within the Uttarayan complex (Tagore’s former home) are worth a peek if you are a Tagore aficionado. Reproductions of his sketches and paintings are sold here.
Subarnarekha bookshop near the post office has plenty of Tagore’s titles (₹80 to ₹250) in English. Around Shantiniketan, several practitioners of classical dance, music, pottery and painting offer casual short-term courses to visiting students. Ask the helpful staff at Subarnarekha.