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Old 1st July 2020, 21:46   #1
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Default First weekend drive to Shantiniketan, post-lockdown

Ever since the lockdown confined us to our homes, the ubiquitous weekend drives came to a grinding halt.The entire summer came and went by during the lockdown and robbing us of the usual drive to the hills every year. Now, the pandemic has certainly changed the rules of the game somewhat but then we humans always find a way out by hook or by crook. I was looking forward to the announcement of relaxations after the lockdown ended and as soon as it was announced, i along with my like minded friends made a plan for a weekend drive to Shantiniketan since the place becomes wonderful during the rains.

Selection of Shantiniketan was for two purposes-firstly, the hotels have not yet opened at popular weekend destinations near Calcutta and secondly, the place where we were to stay is known for maintaining impeccable standards of hygiene and cleanliness despite being a homestay/bungalow. The owners have another property in the hills near Gorubathan and we have been there and were looked after very well. It was there that the plan to visit their property in Shantiniketan was made but the situation went into a tailspin due to the pandemic.

Nevertheless, with heightened safety precautions these days, one can have doubts but then I personally take the basic safety precautions you need to safeguard against with respect to the pandemic times that we are living in without the usual fear that has gripped around. Thankfully, our hosts at Shantiniketan also had the same views and we were on the same page regarding the COVID situation. A call was made and we had the whole bungalow for ourselves for the first day and the ground floor for the second day.

So the last weekend of June turned out to be the D-Day and our group consisted of four couples and a kid. Accordingly, two cars met at near the Vidyasagar Setu and the other car met us at Dankuni Toll Plaza. The usual humdrum was missing while we crossed the Santragachi bridge which is notorious for early morning logjams and we reached Dankuni toll without much drama. This post is less about the road and more about the experience post the lockdown phase. We stopped for our breakfast at our usual place all these years at Shaktigarh-Aadi Langcha Bhawan. The pooris that they serve along with the curry is one dish that we all seldom miss whenever we are at Shaktigarh. And uniquely, the taste remains uniform year after year and is hardly replicated anywhere. We just enjoyed the taste of the food after so long though one couple among us refused to join us due to their initial discomfort about having outside food and they went about eating their packed breakfast of sandwiches.

Breakfast satiated our hearts more than the stomachs. The usual practice of using sanitizers before and after any meal at any public place was duly followed. Changed circumstances demand changed reactions and we surely found this during the trip. Breakfast done and just before entering the NH 2B we stopped at an oil bunk for the usual bio break stop. A clean loo is always a prerequisite for any highway trip and pandemic or not, this was always charted out before any. The surface of NH 2B is not in a great condition although work is going on for the repairs. The road has been dug up at many places and being a two lane road, the progress was not that smooth. We finally reached Shantiniketan at around 11 in the morning and were greeted warmly by the staff at the bungalow.

Some pictures to start with:

The entry point of the Bungalow
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The convoy of cars parked outside the Bungalow
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The Bungalow viewed from the front
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The entry to the place was so soothing that we almost got immersed in the ambiance. Lush green canopy of flowers and the lawn which itself was large and along with it the huge jack-fruit tree was literally a colossus standing and giving its shade to the bungalow. The first thing that struck was the warm welcome that we were accorded. The first round of the tea followed soon which was one among the many to come as we comfortably perched ourselves on the comfortable chairs of the closed veranda on the ground floor.

Vintage art deco tea pot which was almost omni present during our stay
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The tea pot was the first of the many things that i started admiring about the place. A little chai time over and we were looking forward for the lunch with much gusto. The first thing that struck me was the sheer amount of books that were on the shelves of every room. The bungalow is a treasure trove for every bibliophile and as i write this, i wish to go again soon to just complete a book that a started reading !!

Some pictures of the racks :

Welcome book beside the flower vase
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Book rack in the drawing room
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The shelf in one of the bedroom
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For those who don't understand Bengali, that's the compilation of the famed detective character BYOMKESH BAKSHI by the great SARADINDU BANERJEE
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The Economist on the shelf of another bedroom
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Nifty touches all around the place
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The book i started to read but not completed yet !
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And the great man adorning the walls- VINCENT VAN GOGH was perhaps at the most appropriate place ever.
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Intrinsic paint work at one of the walls.
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Last edited by Aditya : 3rd July 2020 at 21:40. Reason: As requested
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Old 1st July 2020, 23:41   #2
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After looking around the place, it was time for the lunch and what a lunch it was. The spread of the lunch was a treat for the sore eyes. The hungry souls that we were, we simply gorged on the food. The lunch was a classical bengali spread and the taste was superlative along with the quantity which was served with love. We relished the food and finished our lunch in a jiffy. We were in Shantiniketan after long and the ladies of the group were all geared up for the drive to the famed SHONIBARER HAAT-which means saturday bazaar. But before that, some pictures of the rooms of the bungalow :

The Drawing Room
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The room on the first floor
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One of the bedrooms on the ground floor
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Intricate wood frame doors and windows give the house a old style feel
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A little chit chat after lunch and we were off to place called AAMAR KUTIR which is a cooperative society in collaborations with local artisans make local artifacts and products in keeping with the ideals of the founder of the place. The place held a special place during the independence struggle and the owner was jailed for accommodating freedom fighters. Cut to the present day, the place provides employment opportunities for rural women and men alike.

The ever present figure all across Shantiniketan
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The showroom of AAMAR KUTIR
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Freedom that we hardly give respect to these days
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Color all around
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The compound of AAMAR KUTIR is vast and is seeped in history of the independence struggle. Obviously for the times that we were in, the restaurant that they operate is run intermittently and so we had to make do without our usual cuppa of tea. While the ladies went about their shopping, we the men soaked in the ambiance amidst heavy rains. It was raining cats and dogs while we were outside and gave us the glimpse of the famed red soil getting drenched in rain water.

Kiddo enjoying the rains while he plays
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Artefacts displayed inside the showroom
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The usual happenings around the place was missing. This place is usually crowded during the weekends and it was eerily shorn of any activity. We were the only persons present in the compound and the ladies made full use of the situation

Even this wonderful creature was amused by the antics
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Shopping done to their heart's content, it was time for the Saturday bazaar but to our disappointment the haat was closed due to the pandemic. Talking to a lone policeman who was there in the police outpost, got to know that the haat might open during mid July. But the empty haat area gave plenty of photo opportunities to Baahon and he didn't disappoint at all

DRL's do look cool sometimes
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Some lines never cease to amaze
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Wet red soil and the colour blue
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Poser
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And again
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Again and again
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The photo session over, it was time for a hot cuppa and we finally reached our abode and had the needful along with some hot fries of different vegetables and which is quite a mouthful.

That ubiquitous tea pot and the fries
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The evening went on well with some nice talks and it ended fantastically as well with a nice dinner of Dhaka Pulao and Chicken with black pepper. The stress relieving hormones worked big time that night for all of us after months of lockdown.

This paved surface robbed the beauty of the unpaved red soiled rustic feel !!
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Old 2nd July 2020, 10:13   #3
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Default re: First weekend drive to Shantiniketan, post-lockdown

The second day morning started with a bang for us all. The morning cuppa at the open rooftop became our morning pit stop. The rooftop was one lovely place to be in. It was after very long that we all were sitting together in the open and we whiled away clicking pictures along with the great cuppa.

The open rooftop had a wonderful vibe altogether
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Some circular motion for a picture
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View of the lawn from the rooftop
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The get together on the rooftop was broken by a fascinating fragrance of something that was being cooked downstairs in the kitchen. The breakfast was being served and it was the usual delight of almost every bengali i know off- luchi and sada alur tarkari (poori with white potato curry). The foodie that we all are, we had our fill while the sweet oriented had a bowl of boondi to relish.

The tea pot became the binding factor during our stay
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The guitar player
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The smooth talker
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The hand in the cookie jar
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Morning chit chats have their own share of fun when friends are around. The discussions can range from anything and everything under the sun. Here is someone listening to all the gyan before coming up with her own

Soaking in the conversation
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The morning saga went on and ended when another round of aroma started floating in the air. And boy, what a aroma it was. The aroma almost worked like an aphrodisiac for the food loving us. And then it started raining. It was a heavy spell of rain, so much so that the aroma did the disappearing act sooner.

Rain in its full flow
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The weather changed and washed away everything
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The organic turmeric plants that are grown beside the kitchen
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Rain drenched Mossanda
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Yellow double layered hibiscus
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Orangish red double layered hibiscus
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Some photos clicked during the rains and the time was now for the grand lunch. We were so looking forward to the lunch only for the aroma that we inhaled during the morning. Yes, the lunch was a classic Mutton Biryani cooked in house by the skilled people of the bungalow.

The Biryani tasted just as it looked- heavenly
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The setting was a delight and we just gorged on the delicious Biryani
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The Raita and the salad were the perfect foil for the Biryani
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The wonderful lunch over, the afternoon siesta went off real well watching the rains in full flow. The start of the evening was as usual with the tea pot that has made a certain kind of a relation with us all by now.

Hand embroidered lamp shade weave pattern
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Our setting for the evening
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Guitar session about to start
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Awful display by your's truly
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The setting by the evening
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A group picture for the record
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The humble abode during the night
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The evening went on with some nice singing session and ended with a nice dinner comprising of egg and chicken curry.

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Old 2nd July 2020, 13:45   #4
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Default re: First weekend drive to Shantiniketan, post-lockdown

The next day and it was time to again go back to the grind. We all almost forgot about the lockdown and the related stuff for the two days we were in Shantiniketan. Eating and spending time in each other's company, we had a whale of a time. The morning breakfast this time was little different- the humble toast and potato wedges along with lovely looking omelette and three choices of jam and butter. The bread was freshly baked and sourced from a local bakery and it tasted sweet. you see, nothing beats a good breakfast.


The bungalow basking in the morning glow albeit in the background
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Windows are the world that you want to see
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Wedges delightfully presented and which simply disappeared in no time
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A crunchy bite of the slice of bread and that omelette
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For the sweet tooth in us
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And there it was again-our companion par excellence
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The memory I took from the bungalow
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Breakfast done and it was time for our return journey. We bid adieu to the wonderful folks at the bungalow and started around noon for Calcutta. We had a plan to visit a place called BONOLAKKHI for our usual quota of ghee and honey and we fulfilled the plan. The culvert at the end of road which connects the place was under repair and hence we had to walk the last mile. Only two people were allowed inside since monday was a official closure for the place. The place has a nice restaurant too and it remains crowded otherwise. Shopping requirements over and we decided to take the picturesque ILAAMBAZAR route to connect at Panagarh instead of taking the NH2B. The road surface was better than NH2B but not satisfactory with potholes vying for your attention throughout. The ILAAMBAZAR stretch though was a dream to drive just as it has always been.

Baahon posing proudly
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Wish every road surface in India is like this one here
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Yourís truly
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Reached Panagarh by around 3 and we had a late lunch at a lovely Dhaba just after crossing Panagarh. The place has changed over the years but the food remains fresh and tasty as ever. Some of us had the fish thali for lunch while two of us ordered for hot Phulkas with tarka. The food was just as good as expected and the chai at the end served in earthen pots was among the best chais ever.

View from the Food stop
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Fish thali with the usual accompaniments
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Phulkas with Daal tarka
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Stoppage for the bio break
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The food was great along with chai and now it was time for our final return. The rest of the road didnít have any surprises and we finally reached Bhawanipore for one last cuppa of chai together.

Our final chai stop after entering Calcutta
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Hope for the best for us all and that we continue to thrive on each otherís company. A big shout out to all the members here in the forum for the camaraderie. Until the next time, cheers.

P.S- All the due precautions were taken during the journey and the stay without being paranoid about the virus.

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Old 2nd July 2020, 15:26   #5
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Default re: First weekend drive to Shantiniketan, post-lockdown

Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!

I cannot remember how many times I have been to Shantiniketan, but still it felt so refreshing to go through your travelogue! Keep them coming.
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Old 2nd July 2020, 15:52   #6
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Default re: First weekend drive to Shantiniketan, post-lockdown

Never saw a travelogue on Santiniketan so detailed and refreshing anytime soon.
Santiniketan during rain is very close to my heart. The place becomes lush green and with contrast to the red soil the naturescape looks beautiful.

Co-incidentally in June, I visited Santiniketan for a day trip too. After changing the clutch-plate in my Etios, a drive to Santiniketan could have been the best day drive to enjoy the car in monsoon. Monsoon rain, with sparse highway traffic and a 400 km day drive was pure bliss. The drive-time from Dankuni toll to Santiniketan was 2 hours.

Somewhere around Illambazar.

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We had lunch at RangaBitan.

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Old 2nd July 2020, 20:42   #7
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Default re: First weekend drive to Shantiniketan, post-lockdown

ABHI after reading the full travelogue feeling an excited sparkle in myself. You have detailed all parts in pieces. I am also in the love of the teapot like you. It is a real masterpiece from yesteryears. Shantiniketan in downpours consistently gives a sentimental vibe. Even though myself, not a poet, but still, my soul wants to be free. I give credit to your braveheart to push out the fear and breath some fresh aroma.
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Old 3rd July 2020, 10:19   #8
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Default Re: First weekend drive to Shantiniketan, post-lockdown

Shantiniketan is one of my all time favourite destinations, ever since childhood. Have been there countless times with parents and there are unending memories of the place which I have. Unfortunately, it has been a while since I have visited the place, ever since I moved to Bangalore during my college days.

However, a visit has been on the cards for quite some time and we typically prefer the winter months in which to visit the place. A family friend has a holiday bungalow there, and we never lose a chance to make use of it Winter in Shantiniketan, just like monsoon, has its own beauty.

Sadly, the rustic feel has decreased over the years with a lot of urbanization and commercialization, but the place still remains bristling with its classic charm.
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Old 3rd July 2020, 11:23   #9
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Default Re: First weekend drive to Shantiniketan, post-lockdown

Nice travelogue. Shantiniketan is truly iconic, interesting and beautiful. It has got something for everyone - those interested in history, many types of art, classic architecture and even nature. After a lockdown like the one we have had, this is the ideal place to go to and refresh your mind.

Shantiniketan may have lost bit of its rustic charm over the years, but even then, it remains on the list of must visit places if you are in Bengal.

PS. Been a while since I came to Bengal. Miss the food!
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Old 3rd July 2020, 15:56   #10
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Default Re: First weekend drive to Shantiniketan, post-lockdown

Feels a place with nice vibes. Enjoyed reading!
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Old 3rd July 2020, 22:53   #11
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Default Re: First weekend drive to Shantiniketan, post-lockdown

Quote:
Originally Posted by BlackPearl View Post
I cannot remember how many times I have been to Shantiniketan, but still it felt so refreshing to go through your travelogue! Keep them coming.
Thanks BlackPearl, even I have lost the count of the visits to Shantiniketan but somehow every time the place gives me something new to experience! Post the lockdown, it felt nice and refreshing.

Regards.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Samba View Post
Santiniketan during rain is very close to my heart. The place becomes lush green and with contrast to the red soil the naturescape looks beautiful.
Thanks Samba, what you think today is what we think the day after
Rains and Shantiniketan has this unique feel which is seldom found elsewhere. Incidentally, I fell in love with the rains here when I used to stay at Mark & Meadows, which is now in shambles these days. Such a lovely property ruined by apathy! Thanks for the lovely pictures from your side, not only the clutch but it seems your Etios has undergone a full blown remodelling. Hope to join you for a drive someday,

Regards.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Travelmania View Post
ABHI after reading the full travelogue feeling an excited sparkle in myself. You have detailed all parts in pieces. I am also in the love of the teapot like you. It is a real masterpiece from yesteryears. Shantiniketan in downpours consistently gives a sentimental vibe. Even though myself, not a poet, but still, my soul wants to be free. I give credit to your braveheart to push out the fear and breath some fresh aroma.
Thanks for the kind words Travelmania, you must channelise your sparkle and give us your next experience. Will be looking forward to hear from you,

Regards.

Quote:
Originally Posted by arindambasu13 View Post
Winter in Shantiniketan, just like monsoon, has its own beauty.

Sadly, the rustic feel has decreased over the years with a lot of urbanization and commercialization, but the place still remains bristling with its classic charm.
Absolutely true arindambasu13, shantiniketan during the monsoons is a delightful experience. I am sure your visit is not too far away. No matter how many times one visits this place, it has something new to offer each and every time. As you said, the inherent charm is always there.

Regards.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aditya View Post
After a lockdown like the one we have had, this is the ideal place to go to and refresh your mind.

Shantiniketan may have lost bit of its rustic charm over the years, but even then, it remains on the list of must visit places if you are in Bengal.

PS. Been a while since I came to Bengal. Miss the food!
Absolutely Aditya, you can term the visit as a soul refreshment rather than mind refreshment specially after the harsh lockdown. Despite losing its original rustic charm, the place still has got those earthy vibes which makes your heart yearn for some solace. Next time you are in Bengal, please be my guest and I promise the best food you can have in Bengal

Regards.
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Old 4th July 2020, 09:50   #12
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Default Re: First weekend drive to Shantiniketan, post-lockdown

Thank you Abhi 1512, for this wonderful travelogue. Did I miss the name of the property you stayed?

It's nearly 20 years since a close friend of mine, a product of Shantiniketan itself kindled the desire to make a sojourn there, especially during Poush Mela (hope I mentioned it correctly). The pictures he painted in my mind are so vivid, it's unfortunate that till today I couldn't make the journey happen. The idea was to travel together. Now that we live at opposite ends of the country, I really don't know when I can make it. In the meanwhile, my visits to Kolkata always ended up with having too many engagements, I was always left with little time to visit Shantiniketan, even during off season. I relish travelogues in the meantime.
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Old 4th July 2020, 23:14   #13
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Default Re: First weekend drive to Shantiniketan, post-lockdown

I had to simply say "Beauty lies in the eyes of the camera holder". Excellent photography! The pictures have made the.place look more exquisite. Have been to Shantiniketan so many times that in our last visit (Dec 2018) me and wife decided we have had enough. But now you have made us thinking on a plan again. Coincidentally one of your travel partner is also friend to my wife and thus we came to know about this place. Thank you and keep exploring !
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Old 5th July 2020, 22:39   #14
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Default Re: First weekend drive to Shantiniketan, post-lockdown

Beautiful! I got a chance to visit Shantiniketan on my last trip to Kolkata. I have a feeling I might have shared some pics here of that trip...not too sure though (phone photos) -

>Car used by Tagore. Was placed in a glass-house of sorts and so all the glare etc on it:

First weekend drive to Shantiniketan, post-lockdown-tagorecar.jpg

> Two of my favorite folks in one pic (of a pic):

First weekend drive to Shantiniketan, post-lockdown-tagoreeinstein.jpg

> One of the Tagore residences (I think) converted to museum:

First weekend drive to Shantiniketan, post-lockdown-museum-1.jpg

I also saw a house that apparently belongs to Amartya Sen!
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Old 6th July 2020, 22:05   #15
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Default Re: First weekend drive to Shantiniketan, post-lockdown

Quote:
Originally Posted by megazoid View Post
Feels a place with nice vibes. Enjoyed reading!
Thanks much megazoid, indeed a place with tremendous vibes. Serene and peace amidst the nature is what the place offers in abundance.

Regards.

Quote:
Originally Posted by lejhoom View Post
Thank you Abhi 1512, for this wonderful travelogue. Did I miss the name of the property you stayed?

I relish travelogues in the meantime.
Thanks for the kind words lejhoom, the property is not commercial per say as the owners offer the bungalow as a homestay and it mainly works on referrals. However they do have a page on FB. And no, I didnít mention the name of the bungalow anywhere but it is very aptly named CHAYABRITA.

Regards.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mile_Breaker View Post
I had to simply say "Beauty lies in the eyes of the camera holder". Excellent photography! The pictures have made the.place look more exquisite. Have been to Shantiniketan so many times that in our last visit (Dec 2018) me and wife decided we have had enough. But now you have made us thinking on a plan again. Coincidentally one of your travel partner is also friend to my wife and thus we came to know about this place. Thank you and keep exploring !
Thanks much Mile_Breaker, I am glad that you liked the pictures. The pictures of the rooms were clicked by the same travel partner you mentioned. Some day, may be but will be looking forward to get in touch with you and have a look at the massive engine that you have at your disposal. In the meanwhile, Shantiniketan awaits

Regards.
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