Wednesday January 24, 2018

Visva Bharati University: No longer an epitome of Rabindranath Tagore’s idea of education?

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By Arnab Mitra

Education could not be complete without knowing your own cultural roots.  – Rabindranath Tagore.

Shantiniketan is a celebrated emblem of Bengal’s art and culture. It ignites the renaissance movement of Bengal and discards the British system of education.

William Evert Greeves, former Vice Chancellor of Calcutta University, once said, “Visva Bharati University does not throw a challenge to the British system of education, but it refurbishes the orthodox education system for the betterment of humanity.”

The journey of Shantiniketan started with Pathabhaban School, and it gradually became one of the best places of learning after the establishment of Visva Bharati University. The English daily, The Nation, had noted, Using the money he (Rabindranath Tagore) received with his Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913, the school was expanded and renamed Visva Bharati University.

Apart from educating, the institute also took a part in building the society. Rabindranath Tagore started ‘Raksha Bandhan’ to unite Hindus and Muslims during the partition of Bengal in the year 1905. The institute adorned with renowned teachers and scholars like C.F. Andrews, Gayatri Devi, Indira Gandhi, Satyajit Ray, Abdul Ghani Khan, Sukriti Chakraberti and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen was a true representative of Indian form of education system.

Rabindranath Tagore did not believe in the formal system of education as he himself had never been to a school and possessed no educational degree. He believed that there was a difference between education imparted and absorbed.  He was disgusted with the imperfect education system that was forced upon Indian children by the British. Therefore, he offered an alternative education system through his Visva Bharati University. He felt that the western mode of education was more harmful, and it channelized the children to learn the textbooks of an unfamiliar culture, resulting in withdrawal from their cultural roots. Therefore, in Tagore’s school, the students were encouraged to be creative and were free to do anything on their wish.

At present, the revered university lacks proper infrastructure and traditional system of education, for which once it was famous worldwide. Also, the university is not competent with the global education. Once the renowned ‘School of Painting,’ now subsumes a few old paintings and sculptures, along with a shabby classroom consisting of less than ten students. The night here turns into an illicit ground for local goons and criminals. The pious ground of education is marred by the illegal activities of playing cards, consumption of alcohol inside the campus.

Once it was the institution of pride and prestige, and now it is the institution of gloom and despair, said an ex-professor of Visva Bharati University.

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  • Its time the university should get back to its fame position!! Probably everyone took it for granted and that is a matter of shame! I believe the officials should analyse what has gone wrong and should plug the lapse.

    • Ankita you are right. the best part is that the university is under the central government and it is one of the premier national institutes. we cannot only blame the state government for this situation.

Next Story

8 must-read works of Rabindranath Tagore

Tagore was a versatile artist who provided an earnest insight into society and humanity with his various short stories, novels, essays, songs, plays, and paintings.

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Rabindranath Tagore was the pioneer of Bengali Literature. Wikimedia Commons
Rabindranath Tagore was the pioneer of Bengali Literature. Wikimedia Commons
  • Rabindranath Tagore was the pioneer of Bengali Literature.
  • He has many landmarks works to his name which continues to inspire masses.
  • His collection of poems, Gitanjali got him the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913.

The Nobel Prize-winning writer, Rabindranath Tagore, also known as Gurudeva or the Bard of Bengal, was the trailblazer of Bengali literature. He possessed literary genius through which he brought a revolution in Bengali literature and music.

A painting by mullti-talented Rabindranath Tagore.
A painting by multi-talented Rabindranath Tagore.

Tagore was a versatile artist who provided an earnest insight into society and humanity through his short stories, novels, songs and paintings. His works even today inspire the masses and young readers and writers. Here is the list of some of his remarkable works:

Gitanjali

One of his best work is a collection of 157 poems called ‘Gitanjali’. The poems in this book vary in their themes, from spirituality to complexities of life. It was originally written in Bengali and was later translated into English. This work was so remarkable that Tagore got a Nobel Prize for it in 1913.

Gitanjali is the landmark work of Tagore. Wikimedia Commons
Gitanjali is the landmark work of Tagore. Wikimedia Commons

 Gitabitan

Rabindranath Tagore was a skilled and sensible songwriter. Throughout his life, he wrote a total of 2230 songs which are popularly known as ‘Rabindra Sangeeth’. The songs were compiled in this exquisite book called ‘Gitabitan.’

Chokher Bali

Chokher Bali or ‘A grain of sand’ is a Bengali novel written by Tagore, which was later translated into English. The story revolves around an extra-marital affair and depicts passion, desires, relationships and honesty in all its complexities. The novel is well known for its portrayal of complexities in a relationship.

Gora 

Rabindranath Tagore wrote 12 novels, and out of these, this one is the longest and most complex. It raises a number of concerns, which are relevant to our nation even today. This book aptly reflects different social standards in colonial India.

Rabindranath Tagore produced many works which changed the literature in India. Image source: buddybyte.com
Rabindranath Tagore produced many works which changed the literature in India. Image source: buddybyte.com

Kabuliwallah(The Fruitseller from Kabul)

The Kabuliwala is about an Afghan vendor who came to Calcutta, trying to earn a living. Along the way, he creates an emotional bond with the narrator’s five-year-old daughter. It is a very touching and heart-warming story which will leave you emotional.

Ghare Baire (The Home and the World)

This book has an autobiographical aspect. It reflects upon the deeper meaning of life by showing the struggles of three individuals. The story represents a war between the western and eastern ideology. Tagore chose Swadeshi Movement as the backdrop for this novel and provided a deep insight into the Bengal history.

The Postmaster

This is another one of Tagore’s work which revolves around the search for the meaning of life. This story of a city man working as a postmaster in a village to earn his living will give you lots of food for thought. The story represents loneliness in a beautifully haunting way.

Shesher Kabita

This novel was first released in a serialised form in the magazine ‘Probashi’. It was published as a book in the year 1928. The translated version of the book is called ‘The Last Poem’ and ‘Farewell song’ in English. The book portrays the platonic love of a matured couple and its complication. It is an epic love saga.