Santiniketan, where Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore built Visva-Bharati over a century ago, has been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The world body made the announcement in a post on ‘X’ on Sunday.
“New inscription on the @UNESCO #WorldHeritage List: Santiniketan, #India. Congratulations!” it posted.
— UNESCO 🏛️ #Education #Sciences #Culture 🇺🇳 (@UNESCO) September 17, 2023
India has been striving for a long to get a UNESCO tag for this cultural site located in Bengal’s Birbhum district.
The decision to include Santiniketan in the list was taken during the 45th session of the World Heritage Committee currently underway in Saudi Arabia.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi called it a “proud moment for all Indians”. “Delighted that Santiniketan, an embodiment of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s vision and India’s rich cultural heritage, has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. This is a proud moment for all Indians,” he posted on X.
There could not have been a better gift on PM Modi’s birthday other than the UNESCO listing, Cultutre Minister G Kishan Reddy said. “The listing Congratulations. Santiniketan in West Bengal has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This is India’s 41st World Heritage site and India stands 6th on the World Heritage List. No better gift on the 73rd Birthday of Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Hon’ble PM is the chancellor of the Visva Bharati and it is under his dynamic leadership that the Ministry of Culture is committed to the global recognition of our monuments, sites, and places that showcase our rich history and culture,” Mr Reddy posted on X.
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said she was glad and proud that Santiniketan has finally been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
“Biswa Bangla’s pride, Santiniketan was nurtured by the poet and has been supported by people of Bengal over the generations. We from the Government of West Bengal have significantly added to its infrastructure in last 12 years and the world now recognizes the glory of the heritage place. Kudos to all who love Bengal, Tagore, and his messages of fraternity. Jai Bangla, Pranam to Gurudev,” she posted on X.
“An immensely proud moment for all citizens of our great nation and Bengalis around the world. May Bengal forever remain a shining beacon of hope, embracing the teachings and ideals of Rabindranath Tagore,” Abhishek banerjee tweeted.
Noted conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah, who had worked on preparing a dossier for its inclusion in the list, said she was “dancing with joy” after hearing the news.
“We had worked on the dossier in 2009 and, maybe time wasn’t right then, but we always believed in the beauty of Santiniketan, and today we feel vindicated seeing it in the UNESCO list,” she told PTI.
Mumbai-based Lambah, many of whose works have received awards and recognitions from the UNESCO, said that once the ICOMOS recommended for its inclusion in the list, it was nearly certain that it would happen.
A few months ago, the landmark site was recommended for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage List by international advisory body ICOMOS.
The France-based International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) is an international non-governmental organisation that comprises professionals, experts, representatives from local authorities, companies and heritage organisations and is dedicated to the conservation and enhancement of the architectural and landscape heritage around the world.
Santiniketan, a university town over 160 km from Kolkata, was originally an ashram built by Rabindranath Tagore’s father Debendranath Tagore and anyone, irrespective of their caste and creed, could come and meditate before the one Supreme God, according to a description of the landmark on the official website of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre.
Maharshi Debendranath Tagore was a leading figure of the Indian Renaissance. “Among the structures built by the Maharshi was the Santiniketan Griha and the beautiful stained glass Mandir, or temple where worship is non-denominational. Both structures built in the second half of the 19th century are important in their association with the founding of Santiniketan and the universal spirit associated with the revival and reinterpretation of religious ideals in Bengal and India,” the website says.
Visva-Bharati, located in Santiniketan, is one of the most prestigious universities in India with degree courses in humanities, social science, science, fine arts, music, performing arts, education, agricultural science and rural reconstruction.
It was founded by Rabindranath Tagore and was declared a central university and an institution of national importance by an Act of Parliament in 1951.
Visva-Bharati is the sole central university of West Bengal and the prime minister is its chancellor.