The first time I encountered the word “Bengal” was in one of the children’s books my parents and grand-parents used to read to me as a kid. From then on, I have always associated that word with exotic and dense forests, elephants bathing and a tiger roaming.
Well now I can say that I have lived four months in Bengal (okay, technically on a campus in Joka). I did not see any tiger but I got a glimpse of the rich Bengali culture.
Calcutta, Kolkata, the cultural center during the British occupation. What can I tell you about Bengali people without going too much into cliches ? They eat more fish and meat than the rest of India (exclusively non-veg’ as I have heard them say).
Kolkata is not often found in the itinerary of tourists visiting India… and I do not blame them : the city is far from the other points of interest in the country, traffc is bad and the weather is suffocating in the summer.
Yes, there are things to see : temples, markets, Mother Teresa’s house or the Victoria Memorial… I have liked my outings in the city but I am not sure I would recommend Kolkata to someone travelling to India.
First time out of the campus and into the wild ! 😉
The Photography Club took us to Santiniketan, a small town situated north of Calcutta in the state of West Bengal. The name of the city litteraly means “abode of peace” in bengali.
We had a great group of Indian and international students. After settling at the lovely villa we had for ourselves, we went to a local market.
Second day : temple, prayers, flowers and red powder. I am still trying to figure out what to do and what not to do in order to ofense no one when around a temple. One rule : take your shoes off before entering any sacred place.
Santiniketan is mostly known for being the city founded by Rabindranath Tagore.
I don’t know about you, but I am ashamed to say that I had not heard his name before setting foot in India. And yet, he has done some amazing things : he got the Nobel Price for Literature in 1913, wrote the national anthem and actively took part in the negocations during the independance. His artistic creations had a great impact on bengali culture in general.
Today, the university he created is known throughout the whole country for its teaching in arts.