Holiday to me means :
1. Being with nature
2. No noise around
3. Nothing to do
4. Good Food
The name Santiniketan (Santi=peace and Niketan=home) itself was strong enough to attract my wanderer soul. Santiniketan which is at a distance of approximately 180kms from Kolkata can be reached by 3 alternative ways from Kolkata:-
a)By train-A long list of trains run between Kolkata and Santiniketan throughout the day. However, the most preferred ones are Ganadevta Express and Santiniketan Express because of their timings. It takes approximately 2.5 hours to reach Bolpur, the nearest railway station of Santiniketan. You can savour the green landscape through the train window. You may also get Baul singers for company while on your way to Tagore’s abode. The rhythm of the soulful Baul songs is sure to make your journey delightful.
b)By Chopper-This is the latest feather added to the cap of Kolkata. Daily chopper services to Santiniketan and few other places have recently started. It takes only half an hour to reach Santiniketan by chopper service. You have to shell out only Rs.1500 per head to avail the service.
c)By Car-Although it takes approximately 4 hours(if not less) to reach by road, I always prefer to take the roadway wherever it is possible and when the road is NH2 then the journey itself is a pleasure. Me and my husband left for our destination at about 8a.m. After a few hiccups of city traffic we were finally sailing smooth over the NH2.
After about an hour’s drive we took our first stop at a place called Govindpur for filling our car tanker, but were surprised to locate a Cafe Coffee Day outlet adjacent to the Petrol Pump. What can be better than sipping over a warm cup of coffee on a cold winter morning and watch the cars and lorries rush on the highway. Sometimes life feels so good.
Now, there are 2 ways to reach Santiniketan from NH2:-
i) via Panagarh (the longer route and the pathetic road condtion)
ii) via Guskhara (shorter road distance, good road condition, beautiful scenery on both sides)
The road through Panagarh is in such bad condition that a tiny industry of car repairing has mushroomed up on both sides of the road. So we opted for the other way. After reaching Saktigarh, we drove a couple of kilometres and, looked for ‘Renaissance Township’ on our left. As soon as we found that we turned right towards 108 shiv temples and then took the way to Guskhara (NH2B). This ride is a pure bliss. Excellent quality road running through ripe paddy fields on both sides. I wondered how lush the fields would look during the monsoons. With very few vehicles running through this road, the silence was worth listening to.
The only word that summarizes the ride to Santiniketan is perhaps ‘story-telling’. A small suggestion to my fellow Ghumakkars: Playing Rabindrasangeet songs on the way to this quaint little place just sets the mood right.
A number of luxury accommodations are available in Santiniketan. For the ones looking for budget accommodations, Park Guest House near Ballavpur Wildlife Sanctuary (commonly called the deer park) is a very good option. The hotel is the perfect place to reminisce Tagore and his works.
The hotel is a mix of tradition with modernism.
The hotel lawn had ample sitting area where we spent leisurely evening with coffee and snacks. The garden also has a separate area where boarders can enjoy baul / folk song and dance performance during the festive seasons (Poush Mela, Dol/Holi).
As I entered the hotel the dining area caught my eye. The area was very well decorated with different artefacts like masks, paper lanterns, ektara instrument etc. keeping in tune with the culture and heritage of the place.
The hotel was a quaint little place to stay in. We had booked the AC suite on the first floor. It had a nice sitting room with couch, table, television, refrigerator (a bottle opener was also fitted to the wall beside it) and tea/coffee maker. It also had a cozy little balcony attached to it. The bedroom was separated from the sitting area by a beautiful wooden panel glass door. The bedroom is large enough for two people. I was also very satisfied with the bathroom (I am actually very particular about it while checking into any hotel). The rooms were lit up by paper and mud lanterns which is very appealing although at night the light may seem a bit low (for reading purposes). The walls of the room were lined with “alpana”(a kind of hand painting like rangoli). In all, the entire decor of the room had Tagore’s touch to it. At just Rs.1600 tariff, I was more than impressed. The only con that I could figure out with the room were the blankets. I felt I should have carried my own.
Food at this hotel is another part which will perhaps beckon me to stay at this place whenever I visit Santiniketan again. The quality, taste and variety of food available at such a remote location is impressive. For this reason perhaps I noticed a number of non-boarders coming to the hotel for dining.
The evening was spent playing carom, chess and other indoor games provided by the hotel at request. The hotel is also supposed to house a small library although I did not visit it. The hotel also provides boarders with bicycles to ride around the nearby places. On the first day itself I fell in love with the place, partly because of the serenity of the surrounding areas and partly because of this cozy little hotel which reminded me every moment that I was at Tagore’s abode.