Spiritualism, specially with reference to Maharshi Devendranath and Gurudeva Rabindranath Tagore is a very subtle, yet vast concept. This article does not really intend to deal in details about the nuances of spiritualism at Santiniketan, a conceptual place, the seeds of which was sown by Maharshi Devendranath and nurtured by Gurudeva Rabindranath Tagore in his lifetime and beyond, aided by his superlative power of interpretation of life, beauty and the correlations.
In this article, much after the living days of Gurudeva Rabindranath., the effects of such spiritualism will be touched upon, basically to assess the present realities, that is Santiniketan and Visva Bharati.

Popularly, according to the Hindu philosophy, the life cycle of an individual human being, is divided in four stages- Bramhacharya (a period of celibacy and learning), Garhasthya (the family life), Banaprastha (the withdrawal from active life) and Sanyasa (the spiritual search for definition of self). This cycle is perceived to be the ideal cycle for an individual human being to progress towards the final liberation form all attachments (popularly known as Maya).
The foundation of this kind of spiritualism is based on conscious withdrawal by the aspirant from major activities of life, to move into forests to lead a bare minimum existence at the Banaprashta stage to prepare the mind for the final search for the individual spiritual identity in the Sanyasa phase. In context of the society as a whole, I would like to term this kind of spiritualism as ‘passive’. The coinage of this phrase ‘passive spiritualism’ is not really a scholastic evaluation, but just an terminology used to expand the argument of the article.

Contrary to this line of practice, we may float another terminology ‘proactive spiritualism’; which is quite opposite to ‘passive spiritualism’ in the sense that this spiritualism reacts continuously with the society around with involvement of quite a large number of people in all stages, and from all walks of life. ‘Proactive spiritualism’ acquires a power to urge a society to achieve some goals. Basically, such structures depends a lot on style of living.

After the initial seeding by Maharshi Devendranath Tagore, the ‘concept Santiniketan’ was developed by Gurudeva Rabindranath with some amount of trial and error quite effectively. The society of Santiniketan reacted and expanded with a certain ethos. Among many interpretation of the concept of the super creator ‘Bramha’, one is ‘expansion’. It can be easily inferred, taking into account the many initiatives taken by Gurudeva while establishing a dynamic learning society in Santiniketan, that he preferred the expansion mode. A simplistic study of life of Rabindranath would immediately suggest that he was vastly expansive in all his ideas right till very last stages in his life. And in this process he preferred the ‘proactive’ route of spiritualism and designed the learning center at Santiniketan which invariably created an unique impression on society in and even outside Santiniketan.

From personal experience, being a student from the kindergarten, to high school, to graduation during 1964-1979, a long 15 years, like most of the other students of my era, I have also sensed a spiritual impulse within our life. The perception of ‘life’, essentially remains a fascinating multidimensional phenomenon to us with glorious inter relations, some within the limits of our expressions, some much beyond. Few of my era might have pursued this spiritual impulse to shape interesting interpretation of life and existence. But many like me, however have just taken the spiritual posers floated in Santiniketan along with our subsequent strides in life without really pondering much over it. But none of us would deny that a subtle but distinctive change in our mind set has added a lot of grace to our life in general, and we all have cherished our life at Santiniketan, one of the prime reason being the inherited sense of spirituality. That is precisely why the ‘concept Santiniketan’ is so dear to us.

This ‘concept Santiniketan’ would remain alive as long as it can interact with it’s inhabitants on the spiritual space. The day this ‘proactive spiritualism’ initiated by Gurudeva Rabindranath Tagore ceases to interact anymore with people of Santiniketan, the concept will also become dysfunctional, something belonging to the past and dead.
Has ‘concept Santiniketan’ already become a history or is still relevant? Personally, I am not sure about the answer. The only interesting facet is that, this particular question bothered people even half a century before, it might or might not bother our civilization 50 years since now. Gurudeva Rabindranath Tagore had, however, successfully managed to place an probing question to humanity on the position of spiritualism within the ambit of education. I believe, sensitive minds will need to visit this probing question time and again in near and far future to sort out the purpose and end results of education. Personally I fervently wish ‘concept Santiniketan’ to survive against any onslaught of time.

As far as Visva Bharati is concerned with a previous NAAC accreditation of B, and the more recent evaluation by HRD Ministry of Government of India to be placed at 11 among all other ranked Universities of India; the institution has its own issues to sort out. ‘Proactive Spiritualism’ is certainly not an agenda in these accreditation exercises periodically undertaken as per the recent norms. Consequently there is less emphasis on integration of the University’s 40 odd units on a common spiritual platform, to create an cohesive identity. The quality of learning offered in 40 units vary substantially, synergy between different units is almost nonexistent, separate units prefer to operate separately according to the present mind set of the faculty members. So, naturally Visva Bharati is hardly a cohesive unit as a whole. In consequence the fragmented identities hardly could create much social impact, whether proactive or passive. The essential inference is ‘concept Santiniketan’ and ‘Visva Bharati’ -the University are now two different entities.

Among all this chaos, few integrations can be taken up to probe into the evolution of spiritualism in Santiniketan, even just for historical evaluation. Integration of Philosophy Department with Kala Bhavana (Art wing) to probe philosophy of art as practiced in Santiniketan should be an important study to undertake. Similar integration with Philosophy department with Sangit Bhavana (Music wing) and the school sections should also be an area with immense possibility to explore philosophy of music and education as practiced in Santiniketan. These studies are very important as they are unique to ‘concept Santiniketan’ and is not replicated anywhere else in the same flavour, and these studies might allow us to rediscover the essence of ‘proactive spiritualism’ of Gurudeva Rabindranath Tagore.

Whether such a topic needs a discussion is for the coming generations to assess. For us, the relatively senior ex-students of Visva Bharati, the issue remains a lingering, unfulfilled and disturbing one.
Best Wishes,


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply