When In Bengal Experience Basanta Utsav {aka Doljatra} in Shantiniketan

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Photo of When In Bengal Experience Basanta Utsav {aka Doljatra} in Shantiniketan 1/5 by Sayani

Ore bhai, phagun legeche bone bone…’ Indeed, balmy, sweet-smelling and characteristically vibrant spring is painting nature colourful and Holi is just about knocking on our doors. But have you already got your Holi plans chalked out? Still going for the regular mix of holika, colours and bhang? How about getting high on aesthetics this year and celebrating a Tagore style Basanta Utsav in Shantiniketan?

When the rest of India celebrates Holi getting dirty and sloshed, head to Bolpur’s culture-high town of Shantiniketan to celebrate spring in a complete different way. Let us explain how different it can get.

Photo of When In Bengal Experience Basanta Utsav {aka Doljatra} in Shantiniketan 2/5 by Sayani

Basanta Utsav {or the festival of colours in Shantiniketan} was started years back by this university town’s patron Rabindranath Tagore, himself. Though founded by Maharshi Devendranath Tagore {Tagore’s father}, this little town of red soil lined with chhatim trees and date palms gets its essence from the aesthetics of Rabindranath Tagore, the one who established the town and the university of Shantiniketan. And Tagore, the ever-young poet that he was, who enjoyed nature just as much as he rejoiced all its moods, started Basanta Utsav to {really} celebrate the brilliant colours and joyous mood of spring. Shantiniketan’s Basanta Utsav is less about Krishna and Radha’s love or of Holika’s death or of the celebration of the last festival in the Bengali calendar, and more about celebrating the vibrancy, melody and colours of springtime nature.

Photo of When In Bengal Experience Basanta Utsav {aka Doljatra} in Shantiniketan 3/5 by Sayani
Palash flower © hiveminer.com

Get lost in a riot of colours as the red and the orange of Palash and Krishnachura flowers and the lush green foliage of new leaves paint Shantiniketan vibrant. It’s no difficulty to be infected by the joyous cheer that fills the air or to hum along the Rabindra Sangeet that overflows the university town. To keep up with the style drape yourself in yellow {Basanti colour to be precise} cotton sari or don the tradition kurta and pajama. But what can’t be given a miss is the Palash to adorn you.

Photo of When In Bengal Experience Basanta Utsav {aka Doljatra} in Shantiniketan 4/5 by Sayani
© rediff.com

Gratitude being the key to happiness, begin the celebrations with a prayer along with the students at Amrakunja under the cool shade of mango trees. Then gather around Chhatimtala to watch the students file out dancing and singing to usher in spring. Follow their trail to reach Mukto Mancha to join in the cultural fest of songs, dance and poetry. And then follow it up with sweets and phag {abir made of flowers} as you exchange happiness and pleasantries to all and sundry of the town. Then in the evening, bathed in the glow of the full moon, soak in the romance of the place some more with the dance dramas of Tagore that the students perform at Chhatimtala.

Photo of When In Bengal Experience Basanta Utsav {aka Doljatra} in Shantiniketan 5/5 by Sayani
Upasana Griha © Wikimedia

With a short distance of 162 km to cover, Shantiniketan can be reached well within 4 hours by road from Kolkata. A more smoother mode of travelling is the train {several of them plying between Howrah and Bolpur} that can take you to Shantiniketan in two hours’ time. However, what can get tricky is to find a place to stay because people from world over come to this little town to celebrate Basanta Utsav. So, book your stay at least a month ahead. The government tourist lodge {Shantiniketan Tourist Lodge} is a great place to put up in. Alternatively, you could also check out Mitali, a beautiful homestay or the Mark and Meadows resort in Shantiniketan.

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