Basanta Utsav (Holi) in Rabinidranath Tagore’s Santiniketan is the unique festival in many ways. It was first started in 1907 by the poet’s youngest son Samindranath as Ritu Utsav (Season festival). The night before the festival, the students of Vishwa-Bharati Institution walked through the university campus performing Baitalik, a song of praise for the full moon. The next day colour festival was celebrated. However, when Tagore celebrated this festival later, it started off in a different way where the students of his Ashram (Educational institution) participated. The tradition still continues.
Rabindranath Tagore, the founder of the Vishwabharati University in the tranquil countryside of Bengal, was a poet, musician, and artist who had been honoured with Noble prize in Literature for his book Gitanjali (Songs Offerings) in 1913. In 1917 Tagore conceived a new type of university Vishwabharati to connect India (Bharat) with rest of the world (Vishwa). The major highlights of Basanta Utsav in Santiniketan are songs (Rabindra sangeet) and the dance art form evolved by Tagore in his famous dance drama.
Today, The Basanta Utsav has become a symbol of Bengali culture and attracts people from all over India, even from outside. Unlike Holi, the festival at Saantiniketan is held on a purnima (full-moon day), and not on the day of Holi. During the festival Vishva-Bharati (University adminstration) organises cultural programs centred arround the works of Tagore. On the day of the main festival, boys and girl students of Patha Bhavan and Vishwa-Bharati perform Baitalik early morning and later come to a particular place where a cultural program featuring music and dance takes place.The formal announcement of Rong khela or festival of colours is also done from here. Beautiful songs and mesmerizing dance performance by the students bring a new meaning of colour festival to the audience. In addition, students together with their teachers and visiters apply abber (colour) on each other to embrace the true spirit of Holi, locally called as Dol. Thus, celebrated in a different way, the spring festival of Basanta Utsav at Santiniketan, makes you feel elevated to a level which is very special.
How to reach Santiniketan:
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport (CCU) is the nearest airport to Santiniketan which lies at a distance of 139 km. There are trains from Kolkata’s Howrah Station that drop you at the Bolpur Station which is 2.8 km awayfrom Santiniketan. The festival venue is also easily accessible by roads from cities like Kolkata and Durgapur.