'SHE IS OUR own, the darling of our hearts, Santiniketan.
Our dreams are rocked in her arms.
Her face is a fresh wonder of love every time we see her,
for she is our own, the darling of our hearts.
In the shadows of her trees we meet
in the freedom of her open sky.
Her mornings come and her evenings
bringing down heaven's kisses,
making us feel anew that she is our own, the darling of our hearts.
The stillness of her shades is stirred by the woodland whisper;
her amlaki groves are aquiver with the rapture of leaves.
She dwells in us and around us, however far we may wander.
She weaves our hearts in a song, making us one in music,
tuning our strings of love with her own fingers;
and we ever remember that she is our own, the darling of our hearts.'
In 1862, Maharishi Debendranath Tagore, father of Rabindranath, was taking a boat ride through Birbhum, the westernmost corner of Bengal, when he came across a landscape that struck him as the perfect place for meditation. Captivated by the kaleidoscopic beauty of the luxuriantly canopied chhatim trees and palm groves that offered shade in the rugged, red coloured terrain, he bought the large tract of land that had charmed him, built a small house and planted some saplings around it.
At that time, the area was called Bhubandanga after a local dacoit named Bhuban Dakat, but Debendranath Tagore decided to call the place Santiniketan, or the ‘abode of peace’, because of the serenity it brought to his soul. In 1863, he turned it into a spiritual centre where people from all religions, castes and creeds came and participated in meditation.
In the years that followed, Debendranath’s son Rabindranath went on to become one of the most formidable literary forces India has ever produced. As one of the earliest educators to think in terms of the global village, he envisioned an education that was deeply rooted in one’s immediate surroundings but connected to the cultures of the wider world.
With this in mind, on December 22, 1901, Rabindranath Tagore established an experimental school at Santiniketan with five students (including his eldest son) and an equal number of teachers. He originally named it Brahmacharya Ashram, in the tradition of ancient forest hermitages called tapoban.