Sriniketan: An Institute of Rural Reconstruction

The final experiments at Visva-Bharati took form in 1922 with the establishment of an institute of rural reconstruction named Sriniketan, abode of prosperity. Rabindranath insisted from the outset that an Indian education would be incomplete without a relationship with the village as the majority of Indians lived in the villages, and without inculcating a moral responsibility for their survival among the educated classes in India.


The villages were kept out of the mainstream of Indian life and cut off from the advancement of knowledge where they needed it most. One such need was in the application of scientific agriculture which became one of Visva-Bharati’s goals for the Sriniketan programme of rural reconstruction.


Rabindranath argued forcefully that the poverty problem was not the most important, the problem of unhappiness was. Men can make ruthless use of wealth for the production and collection of things, he added, but happiness was beyond all competition and had to be the ultimate goal.


He called upon everyone to collaborate in this effort, scholars and poets and musicians and artists. He warned that the urban populace would otherwise live like parasites, sucking life from the rural people and giving back nothing to them. Such exploitation, he emphasized, would gradually exhaust the ‘soil of life’ which needed constant replenishing through the cycle of receiving and giving back.


For a brief period Sriniketan blossomed into an inspiring environment with idealists and specialists from all over the world joining hands with the village people in bringing action and hope to their lives. Just what the founder of Visva-Bharati worked for. [30]


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This article was written by Uma Das Gupta

Professor Uma Das Gupta is a historian and a renowned Tagore biographer. She is the author of many books and articles on Tagore. Some of the most recent are: Rabindranath Tagore: My Life in My Words. New Delhi, Penguin Books, 2010;  Rabindranath Tagore: An Illustrated Life. New Delhi, Oxford University Press, 2013.