Time: 7th Poush (Bengali Calender) – December
Poush Mela is an annual fair and festival that takes place in Santiniketan, marking the harvest season. Commencing on the 7th day of the month of Poush(December), the fair officially lasts for three days, although vendors may stay up until the month-end. The key characteristic of this fair are live performances of Bengali folk music, notably baul music. At Tagore’s behest, the annual Poush utsav became an important cultural event where students and teachers of his school took active part. Poush Mela, therefore, becomes a meeting ground for urban people and rural folk. Rural artisans bring their wares like batik printed materials, leather bags, earthen wares, paintings, etc to the fair while their urban relatives set up stalls for the rurals to buy new industrially produced goods.
Devendranath Tagore with twenty followers accepted the Brahmo creed from Ram Chandra Vidyabagish on 21 December 1843 (7 Poush 1250 according to the Bengali calendar). This was the basis of Poush Utsav (the Festival of Poush) at Santiniketan
A Brahmo mandir was established at Santiniketan on 21 December 1891 (7 Poush 1298 according to the Bengali calendar). A small fair was organised in 1894 in connection with the establishment anniversary of the Brahmo mandir, in the ground opposite the mandir. What started as a small homely Poush Mela now attracts attention of not only the people of Birbhum district but tourists from all around.
In earlier days the mela (fair) was held in the ground on the north side of Brahma mandir (also referred to as glass temple). On that day, a firework display was held in earlier days after evening prayers. As the mela increased in size, it was shifted to the field in Purbapalli.
Poush Utsav is inaugurated on 7 Poush (around 23 December). At dawn, Santiniketan wakes up to the soft music of shehnai. The first to enter the scenario is the Vaitalik group, who go round the ashrama (hermitage) singing songs. It is followed by a prayer-meeting at Chhatimtala. Then the entire congregation moves on to Uttarayan singing songs.
Poush Mela is characterized by the live performances of Bengali folk music, especially the baul music. It includes folk songs, dances and tribal sports. This fair offers a perfect insight of true heritage of the state. The students of Santiniketan present their magnificent performance and make this festival more enjoyable and glamorous. Each day of this festival is filled with different activities. The last day of this fair is devoted to those who are related to Santiniketan.
Some 1,500 stalls take part in the fair. The number of tourists pouring in for the three day fair is around 10,000. Government statistics put the daily inflow of tourists in to Santiniketan at around 3,500 per day; but during major festival such as Pous Utsav, Basanta Utsav, Rabindra Paksha, and Naba Barsha it goes up to an average 40,000 per day or more. Obviously, many of them do not stay back in Santiniketan, which has 85 lodges with accommodation for 1,650. Biside of this, room on rent can be hire for some days.
Souvenir: Local printed fabrics and handicrafts are available in the stalls erected during the fair.
Basanta Utsav | Time : March
An annual Bengali festival DOL which was named as Vasanta Utsav by Gurudev (Rabindranath Tagore) , Vasanta Utsav heralds the coming of spring season and is an integral part of the Bengali culture. Rabindranath introduced this lovely occasion as an annual event in his Bishwabharati University in Shantiniketan (West Bengal, India). Every year, the students and the youths of the institution, attired in colorful dresses like yellow(Basanti Colour in Bengali), celebrate Holi in a very special way. A number of cultural programs, including group choreography, songs and dance performances, are staged.
Since its inception, Vasanta Utsav has become a milestone of Bengali history and has also captured international interest that is proved by the presence of numerous foreign tourists during its celebration.
Joydeb /Kenduli Mela | Time: January
Jaydev Kenduli (Bengali: জয়দেব কেন্দুলি) (also known as Kendubillo) is a village and gram panchayat in Ilambazar community development block in Bolpur subdivision of Birbhum District in the Indian state of West Bengal. Until recently, it was believed by some, to be the birth place of Jayadeva and has developed as a religious centre with many temples and ashramas (hermitages). An annual fair, popular as baul fair, is organized on the occasion of Makar Sankranti.
Jaydev Kenduli had long been considered as a possible birthplace of the poet Jayadeva, who had composed Gita Govinda in Sanskrit. However, now there appears to be a consensus among scholars that Jayadeva was born in another place in Orissa bearing the same name, in Kenduli Sasan. He was populalrly believed to be the court poet of Raja Lakshman Sen, who ruled in the 12th–13th century. The image of Radhamadhav set up by him is daily worshipped. The asana (mat) on which the poet sat and obtained siddhi (salvation) through meditation is carefully preserved.
During the Mughal era Jaydev Kenduli was part of Senpahari pargana. As per a firman issued by Aurangzeb in the 17th century, Senpahari was added to the property of Krishnaram Rai of Bardhaman Raj. Maharani Brajakishori of Bardhaman had set up temples in different places such as Puri and Vrindaban. Jugal Kishore Mukhopadhyay of Jaydev Kenduli was then court-poet at Bardhaman. It is said that it was at his request that the Maharani set up the Radhabinod temple at Jaydev Kenduli in 1683. The temple stands where the house of the poet Jayadeva, was believed locally to have stood, based on the prior assumption of his birth there.
Around 1860-70, Radharaman Brajabasi of the Nirbak Vaisnava sect set up the Nirbak Ashrama at Jaydev Kenduli, the place of birth of their kula guru (patron saint) of the sect, the poet Jayadeva.In the first half of the 20th century, the Radhaballav temple of the Mukhopadhyay family was established. Many more ashramas (hermitages) were set up and thus Jaydev Kenduli developed as a religious centre.
A fair is organized in memory of Jayadeva on the occasion of Poush Sankranti or Makar Sankranti. It starts on the last day of the Bengali calendar month, Poush and continues up to 2 Magh. The start of the fair commemorates the auspicious day on which Jayadeva is claimed to have taken a bath at the Kadaambokhandi ghat of the Ajay river at Jaydev Kenduli. In 1982, the district authorities took control of the fair to provide a better environment, a good sanitation system, drinking water, lighting and security.
Several thousand bauls, a community of wandering minstrels who sing devotional songs to the music of the ektara (one stringed instrument), assemble for the fair and as such it is also referred to as Baul Fair. The bauls stay in 160 temporary hermitages at Jaydev Kenduli for around a month. These bauls appear to have inherited the legacy of Jayadeva songs.
However, in recent years, the greatest baul fair in the state is gradually losing its character, as the bauls have been outnumbered by kirtanias, who perform in the mela to gain popularity. In 2008, around 2,000 kirtanias came to attend the mela and they obtained contracts worth Rs. 2 crore. It is not known whether Rabindranath Tagore ever visited Jaydev Kenduli. However, many personalities linked with Santiniketan such as Kshiti Mohan Sen, Nandalal Bose, Provat Kumar Mukhopadhyay, Ramkinkar Baij, and Santideb Ghosh visited Jaydev Kenduli and contributed substantially towards the spread of its name outside Birbhum and added to its fame.
The fair, which is believed by some to have been there for around centuries, caters primarily to the requirements of village folk. Everything from cooking utensils to fishing nets are sold in the fair.