|Pous Mela at Santiniketan in December 2013; the Sriniketan ground where Visva-Bharati is planning to shift the fair
Santiniketan, Jan. 8: Visva-Bharati is planning to shift Pous Mela out of Santiniketan for the first time in over a hundred years.
Officials of the varsity and the Pous Mela committee said the sprawling Moldanga ground in Sriniketan, 3.5km from Santiniketan, was being considered as the venue of the fair this year.
Visva-Bharati has also decided to curtail to three days the over-two-week holiday that students get in view of the annual event. Classes will not be held only during the three-day fair that usually begins on December 23 on a ground adjoining the varsity campus.
“Till last year, classes used to be suspended from the first day of Pous Mela to January 10. The vacation used to be given because the bhanga mela continues till the first week of January. It is difficult for students to attend classes during the fair because of noise and traffic congestion outside the compound,” a senior varsity official said.
“So we are planning to shift the next Pous Mela out of Santiniketan as classes will resume immediately after the three-day fair,” he added.
Vice-chancellor Sushanta Dattagupta echoed the official. “Now, the academic section of the varsity remains closed till January 10. But from this December, we will curtail leaves. Several of our departments and the central administrative block are just beside the fairground. So we have to look for a permanent solution,” he said.
Another varsity official said a meeting would be held soon to finalise the venue.
Sougata Samanta, the joint secretary of the Karmi Mandali — the organisation of teaching and non-teaching staff that organises the fair — said Visva-Bharati was planning to shift the fair to Moldanga.
“Moldanga is a property of Visva-Bharati. It is spread across 100 acres, much bigger than the current Pous Mela venue. Till last year, the fair was held on the Purba Pally ground and two adjoining smaller fields,” Samanta said.
The varsity’s plan has evoked mixed reactions from Santiniketan residents.
Painter Jogen Chowdhury, an emeritus professor of Kala Bhavana, supported the decision. “It becomes unbearable for us in Santiniketan during Pous Mela. Garbage piles up and there is severe air and noise pollution around the ground. So I will support Visva-Bharati if they shift the mela to Moldanga,” he said.
“The mela wreaks havoc on Santiniketan. There are huge heaps of garbage, and dust clouds the atmosphere. So many cars come here. The main area of Santiniketan should remain untouched. Thousands of people come to Santiniketan during the fair and huge piles of garbage, paper and plastic gather all over the place. It becomes an open-air toilet,” Chowdhury added.
Painter K.G. Subramanyan, also an emeritus professor of Kala Bhavana, supported the varsity’s move but added that Bolpur municipality should organise Pous Mela.
“The municipality should organise the mela and take it away from Santiniketan. The Pous Mela that is now being held is not what Tagore and his father had envisaged. The mela has lost its rural texture,” he said.
Subramanyan said he had earlier objected to organising the fair at Santiniketan. “I had written to the governor. The way Pous Mela has turned out today has nothing to do with the institution. It is a suburban trade mela…. It upsets day-to-day life for several days at a stretch,” he said.
Subramanyan said Rabindranath Tagore’s father, Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, had conceived Pous Mela as an intra-religious meet. “Now they sell cars and scooters there,” he said.
Scholar and writer Arun Nag said: “I have no objection if a smaller and more orderly version is started here (Santiniketan). But thousands of outsiders descend on Santiniketan during the fair. Visva-Bharati does nothing to clear the mess. It is like the development Santiniketan is witnessing. There is no planning. It is haphazard.”
Supriyo Tagore, a former Patha Bhavana principal, said he was “shocked” to learn that Pous Mela could be shifted out of Santiniketan. “I can’t imagine the fair could be shifted from Santiniketan. How can I speak about something that is beyond my thinking?” he said.
Veteran ashramite and former Visva-Bharati professor Somendranath Bandopadhyay also objected to the move.
“If the fair is shifted to Moldanga, then it will become a fair of Moldanga, not of Santiniketan. Santiniketan and Pous Mela are synonymous. The varsity authorities should bring back the former glory of Pous Mela without shifting the venue,” he said.
A varsity official said Debendranath Tagore had started Pous Mela in 1894. “Maharshi started the mela as he wanted to promote rural handicrafts and culture. So, apart from stalls selling handicrafts, a stage is set up to showcase folk culture like baul songs and kirtan,” he said.