Santiniketan was previously called Bhubandanga (named after Bhuban Sinha). This area was gifted from the Sinha family (family of Lord SP Sinha) to the Tagore family. Rabindranath's father, Maharshi Debendranath Tagore, found it very peaceful and renamed it Santiniketan, which means abode (niketan) of peace (shanti). It was here that Rabindranath Tagore started Patha Bhavana, the school of his ideals, whose central premise was that learning in a natural environment would be more enjoyable and fruitful. After he received the Nobel Prize (1913), the school was expanded into a university in 1921. By 1951, it had become one of India's central universities. Many world famous teachers came to be associated with it, including C.F. Andrews and Alex Aronson. Some of its illustrious students are Gayatri Devi, Indira Gandhi, Satyajit Ray, Abdul Ghani Khan and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen.
Rabindranath Tagore with Mahatma Gandhi and Kasturba Gandhi at Santiniketan in 1940
Kala Bhavana, the art college of Santiniketan, is still considered one of the best art colleges in the world. Other institutions here include Vidya Bhavana; the Institute of Humanities, Shiksha Bhavana; the Institute of Science, Sangit Bhavana; Institute of Dance, Drama and Music, Vinaya Bhavana; Institute of Education, Rabindra Bhavana, Institute of Tagore Studies and Research, Palli-Samgathana Vibhaga; Institute of Rural Reconstruction, and Palli Shiksha Bhavana; Institute of Agricultural Sciences. There are also other centres, affiliated to major institutions such as Nippon Bhavana, the Indira Gandhi Centre for National Integration, Rural Extension Centre, Silpa Sadana; Centre for Rural Craft, Technology and Design, Palli-Charcha Kendra; Centre for Social Studies and Rural Development, Centre for Biotechnology, Centre for Mathematics Education, Centre for Environmental Studies, Computer Centre and Indira Gandhi Centre for National Integration. As well as Patha-Bhavana, there are two schools for kindergarten level education; Mrinalini Ananda Pathsala, Santosh Pathsala; a school for primary and secondary education known as Shiksha Satra, and a school of higher secondary education known as Uttar-Shiksha Sadana.
Santiniketan is also home to Amartya Sen, the 1998 Nobel Prize winner in Economics.