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Yoga at ‘abode of peace’ for students to fight stress
Visva-Bharati bid to battle suicides, drug use

About 150 years ago, Debendranath Tagore chose a solitary landscape in Bolpur and found it peaceful. He sat under a Chhatim tree, where he is said to have attained his spiritual realisation. He named the place ‘Santiniketan’, which means abode of peace.

His son, Rabindranath, was later to set up a university, Visva-Bharati, there.

But obviously Santiniketan is not generating enough peace now.

Visva-Bharati, a central university, is so much in need of peace that it has started a yoga centre.

On May 13, the university started a meditation and yoga centre for students, staff and ashramites at the residence of Tagore’s elder brother Dwijendranath.

It was inaugurated by Ashis Datta, founder-director of National Institute of Plant Genome Research, New Delhi, and former vice-chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University.

University officials said the need for a meditation centre became urgent after the authorities observed stress and obsessive behaviour patterns taking a toll on students of Visva-Bharati, leading to an increased number of suicides. Students were part of an “aggressive culture”, which is inimical to the spirit of Visva-Bharati.

“We spoke with different Bhavans (departments) and were surprised at the level of stress among students. A large section of students is addicted to alcohol or other drugs because of stress. They are failing to achieve their academic goals and are behaving badly with classmates,” said a senior official.

A year ago, a student committed suicide after bad performance in exam.

A student was caught stealing his classmates’ belongings a few months ago and latter rusticated.

Holding separate meetings with officials, vice-chancellor Sushanta Dattagupta proposed to start a meditation and yoga centre on the campus.

“Suicides are not unheard of in Santiniketan now. We want a space in Visva-Bharati that will help students to be free from stress,” he added.

Director of students’ welfare Mani Mukut Mitra was given the responsibility of setting up the meditation centre. “We opened the centre at the house of Dwijendranath Tagore who followed the life of a hermit like his father. We hope the centre will run full-fledged from June 1. We shall start registration of interested students, staff members and ashramites from next week,” Mitra said.

Krishnapada Sil, whose name has been proposed as trainer, has said he will teach meditation and yoga.

Meditation will be taught early in the morning and in small groups.

Asanas will form the physical training.

Mitra said a nominal fee would be charged for the yoga classes. “We need regular funds to maintain the centre. So we shall charge a token amount from students,” said Mitra.

Dwijendranath’s house, known as ‘Dwijaviram’, was used as a guest house.

Tagore named the house after his elder brother after he passed away.

The university authorities have renovated the house and its surroundings for the centre.

The meditation centre will be inside the house and the garden will be opened up for open air yoga classes.

It is ironic, though, that a yoga and meditation centre is being opened up in Santiniketan, where peace was in the air.

The place itself was a source of spiritual regeneration, and members of the Tagore family and other ashramites would often meditate there.

Debendranath achieved spiritual solace in Santiniketan.

Dwijendranath, feeling the greatness of the moment of his father’s realisation, continued his spiritual project.

He had an intimate association with the Ashram School and contributed generously for the upkeep of the nursery section.

But no yoga course had to be taught then. Supriyo Tagore, former Patha Bhavana principal and member of the Tagore family, said: “Then there was no meditation centre. However, if the university runs the centre well, it will help the students get relief from anxiety or stress. But it depends on the coaching and the people who will give the training.”