In 1862, Maharshi Devendranath Tagore, while on a boat journey to Raipur, came across a landscape with red laterite soil and meadows of lush green paddy fields, a couple of chhatim trees and date palms. He found solace and serenity in this barren land. He stopped to look and purchased the land rightaway and also decided to plant more saplings and construct a small house. A beautiful garden was laid out on all sides of the house. The top-layer of gritty dry soil was removed and filled with alluvial soil brought from outside. Saplings were planted like mango, amloki, bohera, myrobalan, sal and mohua for fruits and shade. He called his home Santiniketan (the abode of peace). Santiniketan became a spiritual centre where people from all religions were invited to join for meditation and prayers. He founded an ‘Ashram’ here in 1863 and became the initiator of the Brahmo Samaj. Thus a tapovana on ancient Indian ideals was established on the soil of modern India. On 8th March 1888 he dedicated it to his country.
On 22nd December 1901 (7th Poush 1308) Rabindranath Tagore inspired by his extraordinary vision, started a school at Santiniketan with five students only. Poush mela is held every year at Santiniketan commemorating the historic day of 7th Poush. The school was first name Brahmacharyasrama and education in asrama is education for life at its fullest.
The celebration of seasons was always a feature in the asrama. These festivals came to be associated with the special culture of this institution and the introduction of traditional Indian forms and rituals in organising these festivals, including the decoration of the site, use of flowers, alpana, chanting of Vedic hymns and blowing of conch-shells gave them a new dimension, aesthetically attractive, intrinsically Indian yet totally secular. Rabindranath felt, it was necessary that an affinity be built between the students” minds and the flora and fauna of the asrama.
It was always the objective in Santiniketan that learning would be a part of life”s natural growth. The first step towards this objective was to establish in the child a sense of oneness with nature. A child has to be aware of his surroundings – the trees, birds and animals around him. The mind is deprived if one is indifferent to the world outside. Rabindranath said we concentrate on learning from books and neglect the knowledge that is freely available on all sides.