A study of the evolution of Visva-Bharati during the lifetime of its founder, Rabindranath Tagore, offers an insight into what this institution was intended to achieve. Rabindranath founded a school for children at Santiniketan and it was around this nucleus that the structure of an unconventional university developed through careful planning.
In 1863, on a seven-acre plot at the site of the present institution, Debendranath Tagore, the poet’s father, had built a small retreat for meditation, and in 1888 he dedicated, the land and buildings, towards establishment of a Brahmavidyalaya and a library. Rabindranath’s school Brahmacharyasrama which started functioning formally from December 22, 1901 with no more than five students on the roll, was, in part, a fulfilment of the wishes of his father who was a considerable figure of his time in the field of educational reforms. From 1925 this school came to be known as Patha-Bhavana.
The school was a conscious repudiation of the system introduced in India by the British rulers and Rabindranath initially sought to realize the intrinsic values of the ancient education in India. The school and its curriculum, therefore, signified a departure from the way the rest of the country viewed education and teaching. Simplicity was a cardinal principle. Classes were held in open air in the shade of trees where man and nature entered into an immediate harmonious relationship. Teachers and students shared the single integral socio-cultural life. The curriculum had music, painting, dramatic performances and other performative practices. Beyond the accepted limits of intellectual and academic pursuits, opportunities were created for invigorating and sustaining the manifold faculties of the human personality.
After Rabindranath was awarded the Noble Prize in 1913, he was invited to numerous visits all over the world and he came closely to know a large part of the world and its people. By 1917 the range of his experience and the restlessness of his exploration led to his own self-clarification regarding the idea of a centre of Indian culture at Shantiniketan. The centre as conceived by him was to provide “for the coordinated study of the different cultures”. As “music and the fine arts are among the highest means of national self expression… in the proposed centre of our culture, music and art must have prominent seats of honour”. This centre should not only be a centre of the intellectual life of India but the centre of the economic life as well. Participating thus in all the major spheres of Indian life, the institution would attain a representative character and enter into an encounter with the rest of the world.
The institution chose for its motto the Vedic text “Yatra visvam bhavtyekanidam” (where the world makes a home in a single nest). On 23 December 1921 Visva-Bharati became a registered public body which adopted a constitution of its own. The aims and object as set forth on the occasion have since then remained the objectives of Visva-Bharati.
Vidya-Bhavana or the Institution of Higher Studies and Research was the manifestation of the ideal of the proposed centre of comprehensive studies in the cultures of the East and the West. The centre was viewed principally as a community of scholars, Indian as well as foreign, who would be engaged in creation & dissemination of systematised and philanthropic reasoning. The concern was epistemological. Those who followed included Mortiz Winternitz, V.Lesny of Prague, Carlo Formici and Giuseppe Tucci of Rome, Sten Know of Oslo. They added a new dimension to the work that was being carried on by a remarkable group of Indian scholars and creative artists of rare dedication, the services of some of whom Rabindranath had secured even from the days of the Brahmacharyasrama.
In 1937 Cheena-Bhavana, the department of Sino-Indian studies was established, and even today it remains, by any standard, a remarkable symbol of cultural collaboration. In 1939, the Hindi-Bhavana with certain distinct projects of studies was founded. Kala-Bhavana which was originally the institute for both Fine Arts and Music came into existence in 1921 but in 1934 it branched off into two independent institutions, Kala-Bhavana and Sangit-Bhavana each with its own distinct discipline. In generating more informed and cultured interest and more ample educational components, these two institutions played pioneering role in our country.
About Rabindra Nath Tagore
A poet, writer, painter, musician, educationist, Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore’s role in the innovation of educational ideas has been eclipsed by his fame as a poet. He was a pioneer in the field of education. For the last forty years of his life he was content to be a schoolmaster in humble rural surroundings, even when he had achieved fame such as no Indian had known before. He was one of the first, in India, to think out for himself and put in practice principles of education which have now become commonplace of educational theory, if not yet of practice.
Today we all know that what the child imbibes at home and in school is far more important than what he studies at college, that the teaching is more easily and naturally communicated through the child’s mother-tongue than through an alien medium, that learning through activity is more real than through the written word, that wholesome education consists in training of all the senses along with the mind instead of cramming the brain with memorized knowledge, that culture is something much more than academic knowledge. But few of Rabindranath’s countrymen took notice of him when he made his first experiments in education in 1901 with less than half a dozen pupils. A poet’s whim, thought most of them. Even today few of his countrymen understand the significance of these principles in their national life. The schoolmaster is still the most neglected member of our community, despite the fact that Rabindranath attached more merit to what he taught to children in his school than to the Hilbert lectures he delivered before the distinguished audience at Oxford.
Mahatma Gandhi adopted the scheme of teaching through crafts many years after Rabindranath had worked it out at Santiniketan. In fact the Mahatma imported his first teachers for his basic School from Santiniketan.
If Rabindranath had done nothing else, what he did at Santiniketan and Sriniketan would be sufficient to rank him as one of the India’s greatest nation-builders. With the years, Rabindranath had won the world and the world in turn had won him. He sought his home everywhere in the world and would bring the world to his home. And so the little school for children at Santiniketan became a world university, Visva-Bharati, a centre for Indian Culture, a seminary for Eastern Studies and a meeting-place of the East and West. The poet selected for its motto an ancient Sanskrit verse, Yatra visvam bhavatieka nidam, which means, “Where the whole world meets in a single nest.”
“Visva-Bharati”, he declared, “represents India where she has her wealth of mind which is for all. Visva-Bharati acknowledges India’s obligation to offer to others the hospitality of her best culture and India’s right to accept from others their best.
In 1940 a year before he died, he put a letter in Gandhi’s hand,
“Visva-Bharati is like a vessel which is carrying the cargo of my life’s best treasure, and I hope it may claim special care from my countrymen for its preservation.”
Library: The Rabindra-Bhavana library, established in 1942, was built around the nucleus of Rabindranath’s personal collection of books. The library has over 40,000 books which include different editions of the poet’s writings, translations in various languages, a rare pamphlet collection, journals in which the writings by Tagore first appeared, newspaper clippings on Rabindranath dating to 1905. This is a reference library for scholars working on the life, time and works of Rabindranath. Queries on Rabindranath are answered personally, by post and over the Internet.
Ph. D. / D.Litt. / D. Sc
The degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is awarded in any Subject in which provision for postgraduate studies and/or Research is available at the University.
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Bachelors Degree: A bachelor’s degree is usually an academic degree awarded for an undergraduate course or major that generally lasts for four years, but can range anywhere from three to six years depending on the region of the world. In some exceptional cases, it may also be the name of a postgraduate degree, such as a bachelor of civil law, the bachelor of music, the bachelor of philosophy, or the bachelor of sacred theology degree.
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