“This is the very soil of our village, our mother, our nurse, in whose lap our country is being born every day. The mindset of our educated has been afloat maintaining a distance from this soil up in the firmament of lofty ideals - our union with this soil will be complete and justified only with the down pour of the rain”
The seed of Sriniketan was sown in the mind of Gurudev in 1890 when he was about 29 years old and was sent to Shilaidah by his father, Maharshi Devendranath Tagore to take charge of the family estates in eastern part of Bengal. The first time, he came in close contact with the village life. The poverty and misery left a deep impression in his mind and he decided that he must do something for the rural people and began to sketch all kinds of plans in his mind. At Shilaidah he had learnt the lesson that “we cannot help merely by our willingness to help. There is nothing so dangerous as inexpert service”. Gurudev sent his son Rathindranath Tagore and a friend’s son Santosh Chandra Majumdar to Illinois, USA in 1906 to study Agriculture and Animal Husbandry, respectively.
In 1912, Rabindranath purchased the Kuthibari of Surul (present location of Rural Reconstruction Department - Palli Samgathana Vibhaga) which was a jungle infested and malaria ridden area.
In 1923, Dairy farm was shifted from Santiniketan to Sriniketan and Poultry and Goatery units were added. The Dairy was originally started in 1901 with some cows and buffaloes with the idea that it would not only solve the problem of supplying pure and clean milk to ashrama students but also by taking care of animals themselves, the ashrama students would gain some knowledge of animal husbandry.
Next important event in the genesis of agricultural education at Sriniketan was Tagore’s meeting with Leonard K. Elmhirst, an English youth, in 1920, while the latter was a student at Cornell University, U.S.A. Elmhirst fitted admirably to his plan who responded readily to share his work of bringing back life in its completeness to rural people. About that time a Japanese carpenter cum gardener Kashahara also joined.
The Department of Agriculture and Village Economics (later named Palli Samgathan Vibhaga - Department of Rural Reconstruction) was formally inaugurated on February 6, 1922 with Elmhirst as the first Director. Rabindranath was very happy and confided-to Elmhirst that he wanted two things most at his school - a good art department and a good school of agriculture. That happened on March 1, 1922.
In 1957, in accordance with the recommendation of the National Commission on Agriculture of which Elmhirst was a member, an Institute of Rural Higher Education was set up at the present site of the institute of Agriculture which was one of a few started all over India. The Institute offered a 3-year diploma course in rural services and a 2-year certificate course in Agriculture. The Institute was meant to produce rural leaders.
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