Whenever I hear about Holi, my heart and my mind moves to Santiniketan, the land of the poet Rabindranath Tagore. The celebrations at Purulia and Shantiniketan in West Bengal are marked by cultural programs. In Shantiniketan Dol is celebrated in a unique way that welcomes the season of spring or basanta with music and dancing until dawn.
Vishva Bharati University organizes an enormous cultural festival called Basanta Utsav in parallel with the Holi festival. Young girls wear yellow saris and dance around the ashram amidst Tagore songs in the midst of a whirlwind of red clouds, songs and joy.
At the full moon of the Phalguna month of the calendar, the Bengalis celebrate Holi as Dol Yatra, where the sacred statues of Radha and Krishna are put into hammocks. Women sing songs, throw colors and dance, while devotees spin to make them swing. The traditional delicacies are prepared in advance and served while playing Dol Purnima. Basanta Utsav at Purulia is a three-day folk festival celebrated on the occasion of the festival of colors.
It is organized by the villagers in order to maintain the local economy and to be able to support themselves. Visitors enjoy the experience of Jhumur, Chau, Natua and Pata dances, as local musicians sing songs and visit the surrounding areas. Several locals organize movement in private vehicles as well as accommodation in tents.
I participated with our group, coinciding with the festival of colors, which welcome everyone who arrives there. The arrival to Santiniketan was beautiful, with a sunset sun in a green population crowded with people everywhere.
It's hard to explain the way you feel! You have to live it in person!! The words in short, will not give you with the reality as it is! With the Holi Hai, everyone comes to welcome us, with a smile on their lips and a welcome sign painted on the face. For a change and we sang some songs in the light of the moon.
In truth everyone is happy, joy is constant and does not rest! They make us feel at home. Santiniketan is one of those places where everyone can dream, as it is so natural, that anyone who goes, would tell that it is true! Its people, its smells, its colors, it seems that everything has been there to receive the visitor, who enters as a curious tourist and leaves as a native, wanting to stay there forever.
Just outside the street, a young woman standing behind a rickshaw painted a mark on the forehead, and we painted her a yellow scratch on the face. As we entered the main street, there was already a torrent of people coming and going and seeing us as clean, they stopped and coloured us, but how could it be otherwise, as we also painted them. This scene is repeated almost continuously, I colour you and you colour me, but with a smile and a kindness that makes it cannot be called more than the feast of friendship.
We arrived at a wider field where there was a big stage and some dancers danced to the sound of classical music, but almost the attraction was us. Everyone wanted to colour us, everyone wanted to take pictures with us. How beautiful it feels to be different and at the same time dear!
After coming back we took a rickshaw and went back to the market where we get some handicrafts and clothes at a very good price. We continued along a path and the image was idyllic with cultivated fields and women with modest saris with baskets on their heads. On the way back, once there in an alley I heard the baul music. I approached and saw some musicians with the iktara, who played some melodies.
A few people danced to the tunes and immediately invited me to join the dance. They considered that I was not sufficiently painted so I was thrown a whole bag of paint on the head. The color, noise and hospitality that accompanies the celebration of Dol Purnima testifies to the sensations of oneness and a sense of brotherhood and will.
About 160 kilometers from Calcutta, near the town of Bolpur, the serene settlement of Shantiniketan was founded by Tagore as a school and later became Visva Bharati University in 1921. Nowadays, although its structure is somewhat more conventional, the university continues to maintain and respect the tradition of outdoor classes and is among the most prestigious institutions of higher learning in India. From here has passed illustrious students such as Amartya Sen, Indira Gandhi or the Bengali filmmaker Satyajit Ray, famous for his Apu trilogy. It emphasizes the faculty of Fine Arts, considered one of the best in the world. Shantiniketan's relationship with contemporary art is reflected in the works exhibited by many of the country's leading artists, such as Binode Bihari Mukherjee, Nandlal Bose and Ram Kinkar Baij.
You cannot miss the Vichitra Museum , dedicated to the life of the poet, which houses numerous family photographs and his paintings, which he developed from the sketches he made in the margins of his written works. The surroundings of Shantiniketan also offer attractions to the visitor. Three kilometers away is a deer garden and a bird sanctuary. In addition, there is a craft center, the Amar Kutir, where you can buy local products, and every Saturday there is an interesting handicraft market, the Sanibar Haat.