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During his stay at the famous Ashram called Shantiniketan founded by Rabindranath Tagore, famously known as ‘Gurudeva’, C.F. Andrews describes a day in the Ashram. Charles Freer Andrews was an Anglican clergyman, Christian missionary, educator and social reformer. Among his close friends were Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore.
Tagore ji considered Ashram to be his dream school. The serenity it brought to his soul led him to name it Shantiniketan (abode of peace).
Talking about the beauty of Shantiniketan, Andrews describes that the splendour of Shantiniketan is beyond description. Gurudeva (Tagore ji), whom he refers to as “our own poet” and teacher, has termed it “the darling of our hearts” in a song, and it is deserving of the title. Shantiniketan’s beauty lies not in its exterior, but in the quality of its teaching and learning. Everyone who has visited the Ashram, young and old alike, has appreciated and felt its true beauty bloom on them.
Andrews utilizes the finest way for elucidating the happenings at the Ashram. Like the birds in the amloki forests, boys at the Ashram wake up before the break of dawn. As soon as the choristers (choir) arise, they sing the morning song all over the Ashram. The tranquillity of their chants and the sounds in the still morning air, as well as the feelings of ecstasy and devotion it conjures, comfort the spirit.
Then, Andrews describes how each boy seeks out a space of his own in the fields to meditate with his asan, or square of carpet. This indicates that Ashram valued meditation as well as education. Andrews explains, Tagore believed that in addition to developing the mind, a child should develop physically, which is why yoga and sports were integral to Shantiniketan.
Shantiniketan Was Different
In terms of having multiple books available and sitting in a classroom, Andrews believes Shantiniketan is unlike other schools. The Ashram had no classrooms, so the boys and their teachers sat outside in the open. The children obtained information through interaction and discussion. The concept behind having classrooms out in the open and among the trees is that students will be more connected to nature and learn from it.
Teachers and students had cordial relationships and teachers encouraged students in discovering their strengths and interests. Shantiniketan, thus supported the boys’ overall growth. Andrews uses ‘living education’ to demonstrate progress in a variety of areas, including creative thinking, meditation, and asking reasonable questions.
Shantiniketan prepares boys for a successful future by teaching them skills such as handiwork, weaving, spinning, music, and painting which explore beyond academics. Andrews also observed that the boys were great at athletics.
The evenings are spent in meditation and the evenings are spent singing Gurudeva’s songs. Hymns are sung by the choristers once again.
According to Andrews, there is no doubt that the boys are happy in their lives. Their expressions convey their happiness and liberation. Andrews believed that Shantiniketan’s students had far more freedom than anybody else in India. Shantiniketan reflects Tagore’s educational goals.
Self-realization, he felt, was an important goal of education. He laid a strong emphasis on the development of the child’s imagination, creative thinking, curiosity, and mental awareness. Andrews’ summary of a day at Shantiniketan justifies it as the ideal school, which helps the students in character building and prosperity in life.