This article seeks to examine the persistence, in Indian and specifically Bengali literature of the twentieth century, of a contradiction: the myth of an ideal or utopian village set against actual experiences of suffering, inequality, and deprivation. It traces some elements of this contradiction to Thomas More’s foundational text, Utopia (1516), and continues by examining the idealization of the self-sufficient and unchanging Indian village community in the social thought of the nineteenth-century British jurist Sir Henry Maine. Subsequently, the village becomes a focal concern for Indian nationalists, producing a strain of idealized ‘pastoralism’ as well as utopian dreams, countered by equally important critiques of rural obscurantism and decay. Both idealization and critique find their place in the literature and art of early twentieth century Bengal, but the category of the village Utopia proves impossible to sustain. The title of the article gestures towards this failure by citing the name (Nishchindipur, meaning ‘place of contentment’) of the village setting for Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay’s Bengali novel Pather Panchali (1928), made into an iconic film (1955) by the director Satyajit Ray. The film generated a curious conjunction of the epithets ‘idyllic’ and ‘impoverished’, and was criticized for its unsparing depiction of rural suffering.