The university town of Santiniketan shot to global prominence as a cultural centre as well as the space where Rabindranath Tagore penned most of his literary works. Conceptualised by Tagore, its architecture stays true to the vision behind Santiniketan — of a space where music, art and literature amalgamate.
In Architecture of Santiniketan — Tagore’s Concept of Space by Samit Das, he delves into the relevance of Tagore’s architecture in today’s times and also expresses concern at some of the changes within Santiniketan in recent times.
Explaining the purpose behind this title, Das says that it’s about returning to one’s roots: “There are many aspects related to contemporary art and architecture where Tagore’s concepts are relevant. This is a small effort to connect with our roots and to understand our history. In the name of globalisation, we are losing our inherent spirit; it’s important to re-think of this in terms of art, education and culture.” He adds that Tagore’s idea of space wasn’t limited to buildings and was propagated through his paintings and writings too.
Das specialises in painting photography, interactive art works and books creating multi-sensory environments through art and architectural installations. He studied Fine Art from Santiniketan Kala Bhavan. This book took 15-16 years to complete. Das’ favourites include the frame, which shows Tagore seated in the Northern room of Udayana. Das adds that the bard had a deep involvement with that room, and he wrote a letter on the same.
The book highlights that Santiniketan’s architecture assimilates styles from the Greco-Roman, Buddhist, Islamic as well as Santal or tribal house structures. Sustainability and harmony with the surroundings was important to Tagore who supposedly said that the “height of any building should not have gone above that of the tallest trees in the vicinity”. The book also looks at the structures within Santiniketan, its history and significance. They are interspersed with Tagore’s poems and thoughts on space.