Ecotourism In and Around Santiniketan: Challenges and Potentialities

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Sharmila Chandra


Santiniketan, Tagore’s ‘Abode of Peace’ is located in the western part of the state of West Bengal in India. The place is the site of Visva Bharati, a world renowned residential university as well as a Brahmacharya Asram (hermitage where a vow has been taken by the residents) established by Rabindranath Tagore himself. Santiniketan, in the Birbhum District of West Bengal and its environs provide ample scope for the development of ecotourism. It is a place where ecotourism and rural tourism go hand in hand. The place has an idyllic setting. Around Santiniketan, there exist a number of tribal villages inhabited by the Santhal tribe. Ecotourism combines nature tourism, wilderness tourism and agri-tourism. This form of niche tourism is essentially rural in character. It is a type of Special Interest Tourism that has emerged recently and has evoked concern among social scientists. Of late, ecotourism has become popular in the tribal villages around Santiniketan. A unique natural landscape here is formed by the khoai, a vast, desolate area with lateritic soil and gulley erosion. Resorts have been built in the khoai by private entrepreneurs where tourists flock round the year. Ballavpurdanga, along with some other typical Santhal villages – Boner Pukur Danga, Mouldanga and Phuldanga, bordering the Sonajhuri forest in the khoai, have been brought within the Rural Tourism Scheme under the Endogenous Tourism Project (ETP) introduced by the Government of India in the early years of the 21st century. Tagore was a wayfarer. Although in his times, the concept of ecotourism had not emerged, the Poet was one with nature and one can say that he would have definitely advocated the practice. This paper studies the scope and sustainability of ecotourism in Santiniketan and seeks to find out the benefits it can provide to the host community and to visitors. The paper also attempts to investigate how ecotourism, as a practice, can serve actively in a rural reconstruction programme as envisaged by Tagore.

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