West Bengal: Tagore's Residence Santiniketan Achieves UNESCO World Heritage Status

Santiniketan, a town in West Bengal's Birbhum region where Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore spent much of his life, has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

“BREAKING! New inscription on the @UNESCO #WorldHeritage List: Santiniketan, #India. Congratulations!” the UNESCO wrote on X (formally Twitter) on Sunday.

Santiniketan, established in 1901 by poet and philosopher Tagore, was a residential school and art centre based on old Indian traditions and a vision of humanity's unity transcending religious and cultural divides.

In 1921, Santiniketan founded a "world university" to recognise humanity's unity, or "Visva Bharati." Santiniketan exemplifies initiatives towards pan-Asian modernity, drawing on ancient, mediaeval, and folk traditions from across the area, in contrast to the dominant British colonial architectural orientations of the early twentieth century and of European modernism.

India has long sought a UNESCO designation for this cultural site in the Birbhum district.

A few months ago, the landmark site was recommended for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List by the international advisory body ICOMOS.

The France-based International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) is an international non-governmental organisation that comprises professionals, experts, representatives from local authorities, companies and heritage organisations and is dedicated to the conservation and enhancement of the architectural and landscape heritage around the world.

“Santiniketan, popularly known today as a university town, a hundred miles to the north of Kolkata, was originally an ashram built by Debendranath Tagore, where anyone, irrespective of caste and creed, could come and spend time meditating on the one Supreme God,” according to a description of the place on the official website of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre. It later became the Nobel laureate’s home and base for activity, it said.

"Debendranath, the poet Rabindranath's father, was also known as Maharshi (which means one who is both saint and sage) and was a leading figure of the Indian Renaissance," according to the website.

The sole central university in Bengal is Visva-Bharati in Santiniketan. The Prime Minister is the chancellor of the varsity.

Santiniketan was first considered for World Heritage status by the Centre in 2010. It restarted its campaign in 2021, and a new dossier was compiled by the Archaeological Survey of India with the assistance of Visva Bharati officials and submitted to Unesco.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah stated at a function commemorating Tagore's birth anniversary in Kolkata that the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 was influenced by the educational model created by the Nobel laureate at Santiniketan.

By Prajval

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