Please take it significantly once I say that my complete coronary heart is with you in the nice work you could have began. I want I had been younger sufficient to have the option to be part of you and carry out the meanest work that can be accomplished in your home, thus eliminating the filmy internet of respectability that shuts me off from intimate contact with Mother Dust. It is one thing unclean like prudery itself to have a sweeper to serve that deity who’s in cost of the primal cradle of life.
Rabindranath sent the above observe to the Sriniketan pioneer L.Ok. Elmhirst on 31 March 1922, when he discovered that the primary batch of Surul college students had dug trenches in their very own backgardens to dump the evening soil to assist in the development of agriculture. Rabindranath very eagerly seemed ahead to the day when his village work would profit from the contributions of contemporary science.
In as early as 1906, he sponsored three younger men from Santiniketan to study agriculture and dairy farming on the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, in the USA. They had been his son Rathi, his son-in-law Nagendranath Ganguli (1889–1958, married to Rabindranath’s youngest daughter Mira Devi), and his good friend Srishchandra Majumdar’s son, Santosh Chandra Majumdar (1886–1926, scholar of the Santiniketan faculty, and afterwards, trainer too). The plan was that on the finish of their greater research in agricultural sciences, they would convey their newly acquired information to the work of rural reconstruction in India.
Rabindranath felt certain from his commentary of different agricultural nations that the financial salvation of the village lay in the applying of experience. In 1909, all of the three graduates from the University of Illinois returned with their state-of-the-art coaching in agriculture and animal husbandry and commenced to introduce scientific strategies to the Sriniketan work. Their experiments had been carried out collectively with the villagers.
To take the work ahead, Rabindranath purchased 20 bighas of land in 1912, together with a home that stood on that plot of land simply outdoors the village referred to as Surul, inside two miles west of Santiniketan, the place the Sriniketan Institute was to be positioned. The home that stood on the land was generally often called ‘Cheap Kuthi’. It belonged to the East India Company’s Commercial Resident for the District of Birbhum, John Cheap, who lived in it from 1787 to 1828. His job was to indent the native provide of cotton and silk materials on the Company’s account with an annual funding quota of 45,000 to 65,000 in Pounds Sterling. Silk and cotton materials comprised the key portion of the East India Company’s advances. The weavers used to work on a system of ‘advances’, all of which was dealt with by the Company’s Commercial Resident.
As Commercial Resident, the punctual provide of the Company’s necessities was the principle job. For that, good cooperation was wanted from the native brokers. Mr Cheap discovered Surul and its neighbourhood not solely wealthy in uncooked supplies, however he additionally discovered a good friend and ally in an influential landlord cum businessman of Surul, Sri Srinivas Sarkar. It was from the Sarkars that John Cheap obtained an enormous tract of land, on which he constructed his palatial home surrounded by a backyard and an orchard. It was an impressively massive home, however fallen into damage by the point Rabindranath purchased the property. The proven fact that John Cheap was posted on the place by the East India Company was proof of the sooner prosperity of the area.
John Cheap inspired spinning and weaving in the villages round. He collected his produce, in addition to the opposite items on the market, by means of a community of big clearing stations. It is believed that his enterprise introduced the entire space to a stage of prosperity, which was seen in a sprouting of ‘pukka’ buildings, homes, and temples. Machine-spun material with equivalent patterns, copied from Cheap’s exported items, started to attain the Port of Calcutta at minimize charges. But the inevitable end result was that Birbhum’s hand-woven cloths had been thrown out of the market. As a end result, the villages had been finally lowered to poverty and infested with the illnesses of cholera and malaria. This was additionally the time when the district was getting its first railway line. The huge digging undertaken by the East India Railways in laying the Bolpur Line had an adversarial affect on the surroundings and the folks’s well being.
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For the primary few years of the Sriniketan work, nothing substantial could possibly be accomplished with that plot of land besides to clear the jungles surrounding the world of ‘Cheap Kuthi’ and to meet the villagers. A scheme was additionally began to make the Surul farm right into a mannequin for the good thing about the cultivators dwelling in the encompassing villages. This holistic process was led by Rathi Babu and Nagendranath Ganguli, who, armed because it had been, with their study and coaching on the University of Illinois had been prepared to make an affect on rural reconstruction. But nothing got here of these early makes an attempt to begin the work in earnest, as a result of all the employees got here down with malaria. That is how the preliminary 10 years had been spent like a curler coaster with beginning the work and stopping it at intervals.
In 1921, Rabindranath travelled extensively to inform the bigger humanity about his Visva-Bharati International University at Santiniketan, a ‘place’ for the world to meet as in a single ‘nest’. When he was in the USA, he organized to meet a younger Englishman who was then a scholar of agriculture at Cornell University. This was L.Ok. Elmhirst (1893–1974, agricultural economist, led the Sriniketan work throughout 1922–24, and later gave it his lifelong assist). Rabindranath had been instructed about Elmhirst by one other Englishman, Sam Higginbottom (1874–1958), who based the Nainital Agricultural Institute, the place Elmhirst had labored for some months as a wartime volunteer in 1917–18. Rabindranath appealed to Elmhirst to come over and begin the Surul Farm.
About their assembly Elmhirst wrote:
I keep in mind properly the morning in the spring of 1921 when a telegram reached me at Ithaca, from Tagore, which learn ‘Come and see me in New York. I made a hurried journey to New York, and shall never forget the friendly welcome I received. ‘I have’, Tagore stated to me, (*3*)
‘But’, stated I, ‘if I am really to be of any use to you, I must finish my course at Cornell’.
Elmhirst got here to work for Sriniketan after finishing his course of research at Cornell. He got here to Santiniketan on the finish of 1921 and began the agricultural work in 1922, by transferring to Surul with a staff of two lecturers and 10 senior college students from the Santiniketan faculty. In the staff had been Rathi Babu, Santosh Majumdar, and Kalimohan Ghose, whom Elmhirst referred to as his ‘three closest collaborators’. Another useful resource one that joined them quickly after was Miss Gretchen Green from the USA, a paramedical nurse, who was requested to arrange the Village Health Centre and Clinic at Surul.
It was not straightforward at first for the Santiniketan-Sriniketan staff to begin their work as there was an ongoing political motion on the time. Gandhi’s Non-cooperation Movement had touched many hearts, even in Santiniketan. The political ferment additionally affected the staff’s relationship with the villagers to some extent. Elmhirst wrote in his diary how Rabindranath used to talk about their native issues and experiences repeatedly and consulted, in explicit, with Kalimohan Ghose, as he was the Sriniketan contact individual with the native villagers. Moreover, the villagers trusted Kalimohan Ghose.
Initially, the staff took up reconstruction work in the three designated villages in Surul’s neighbourhood. The data in Elmhirst’s diary refer to the determined wrestle they had in making the preliminary contacts, at first, with the Muslim villages, and later, additionally with the Hindu villages. Again, as Elmhirst wrote in his diaries, Rabindranath discovered about all of it from Kalimohan and gave his encouragement to hold the work going and reiterated his assist for it.
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After getting the work began, Elmhirst might keep for less than two years, from 1922 to 1924. He had to return to England to begin his personal academic establishment, Dartington Hall in Devonshire, although he remained related with the Sriniketan work all through his life. His correspondence with Rathi Babu bears out how carefully he adopted all issues of Sriniketan, even criticized a few of it in his evaluation. Rathi Babu sought Elmhirst’s recommendation earnestly, and a lot of the main village staff additionally stayed in contact with him. Elmhirst himself returned to Sriniketan on brief visits each couple of years. The woman he married, Dorothy Whitney Straight (1887–1958), endowed an annual grant of Rs 32,000 for Sriniketan, which was of foundational assist to the work through the years. That is how Sriniketan’s ‘permanence’ was ensured. Dorothy Whitney Straight was the daughter of the American financier, William Whitney, and the widow of the distinguished diplomat Willard Straight. Rabindranath devoted his e-book of essays, Pioneer in Education, to Dorothy with the next phrases, ‘To Dorothy Whitney Straight who made Sriniketan possible’.
When the Sriniketan work was being conceived, Rabindranath insisted on an all-rounded strategy that might take account of the villager’s life in all features. He additionally asserted his confidence in the cooperation of the younger folks in bringing concerning the reforms and in step by step taking alongside their elders with them to that finish. That is why he was attracted to the Scout Movement based by Lieutenant General Robert Baden-Powell (1857–1941, founding father of the worldwide Scout Movement), and determined to tie up the Sriniketan experiment with the Scout Movement. Rathi Babu organized for 2 boys from the Santiniketan faculty to be part of a coaching course for Scout leaders in the Central Provinces.
Among the opposite features of the Sriniketan experiment, Rabindranath inspired the collaboration of scientists, economists, sociologists, and technicians with the work. He inspired every one to stand by the villagers in their wrestle in opposition to poverty and oppression. He was additionally cautious that the staff didn’t impose an excessive amount of ‘statistics’ or technicalities on the villagers in bringing concerning the adjustments. He wrote to Elmhirst, ‘All the time when Sriniketan has been struggling to grow into a form, I was intently wishing that it should not only have a shape, but also light, so that it might transcend its immediate limits of time, space and special purpose.’
This excerpt from ‘History of Sriniketan: Rabindranath Tagore’s Pioneering Work in Rural Reconstruction’ by Uma Das Gupta has been printed with permission from Niyogi Books.