shadow

Glimpses of Contemporary Dandabhukti

Pijushkanti Sarkar, State Govt. Employee

Dandabhukti was a prominent territorial sub-division of Ancient Bengal during the period of 6th Century A.D. to 12th Century AD that drew attraction of the historians like Acharya J. N. Sircar (1870-1958) R. D. Banerjee (1885-1931), Dr R. C. Majumder (1888-1980), Dr. D. C. Sirkar (1907-1985) and others who tried to discover epigraphic pasts and the events of the ancient times of a proud Bengal to glorify the Bengali as a race with special characteristics of its own. Bhashacharya Suniti Kumar Chattopadhyaya (1890-1977) on the other hand tried to the interpret the epigraphic discoveries of ancient Bengal in the light of Indian History from the holistic point of view.

Ancient Rarh or Radha region was divided into several smaller regions – Kankagrambhukti, Bardhamanbhukti and Dandabhukti, as parts of the Radha division. It is very much interesting to learn that the area under discussion was an integral part of that Gauda-Banga region which was a shadow zone to northern Indian society. The earliest reference to Bengal and Bengali speaking people contained in the text viz. Aitareya Aranyak written between 700 and 600 BC was indifferent to the instant society in terms of culture and civilization .‘For a long time the river Gandaka of Bihar was taken as the dividing line between civilization and barbarism and the Aryans were advised to avoid the area to its east as far as possible.. ..’ [Sen, Sukumar, 1978, vol1]

It is thus astonishing to learn as to how a non-Aryan people dominated Bengal (though not known in the name) comprising the Deltaic Ganges-Radhas region and extra Gangetic prachina Plateau region that remained neglected throughout the Greater Aryabarta [also that remained out of the limelight of the region “Shorhasha Mahajanapada” (Sixteen Great Settlements) of the Northern India] turned into region of interests with Buddhism and Jainism religions and then how rebel Buddhism and Jainism religious areas were converted into the Brahmanical settlements under the patronage of the kings of that time and it is also praiseworthy to learn as to how a settlement like Dandabhukti comprising a portion of the South Radhas and Orissa took its shape based on a national lifeline-like road passing through the western Bengal and Orissa in the environment of Buddhist culture. Classical Indian philosophers peeped into livelihood of greater Bengal and took the place of stories of Chandal Harischandra-Shaibya, Hiranyakashipu, Satyakam and so on in the life of Bengalis living in the greater Bengal while the scripts of Charyapadas were then being recorded on papers of Toolat Patra, Bhurja Patra used for Punthi (Puthi)-Patra.

Even before the invasion of the Central Asian Muslim leaders-turned-administrators at the dawn of the 13th century AD, the greater Bengal was divided into small independent states like Gouda, Radha, Banga, Sumbha, Barendri, Pundravardhana, Bardhamana-bhukti, Kankagrambhukti, Harikel, Samatata whence Dandabhukti and Tamralipti went into oblivion. Famous laureate Dinesh Chandra Sen mentioned the whole region of ancient Bengal as Brihat Banga (Greater Bengal). As far as the epigraphic study goes, before a period of one hundred year of the Gauda’s emerging as a great settlement under the Guptas, Dandabhukti settlement came into limelight. Access the Full Text>>

 

Kalighat Paintings: A review

Partha Sanyal

Download PDF Version

 “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”. Remembering the quote of Leonardo da Vinci when I visited the exhibition at Victoria Memorial Hall (VMH), Kolkata to see collection of “Kalighat Paintings” from Victoria & Albert (V & A) Museum, London and VMH in the year 2011 and wondered how some simple brush strokes of water colour have given birth to these master pieces, the elegant Bengali folk arts. I have visited several museums after that to get the inherent taste of this gracious art and found a great zeal to write a review with the knowledge that I have gathered these days.

Introduction

Kalighat Paintings refer to the class of paintings and drawings on hand-made or more usually on machine-made paper produced by a group of artists called ‘Patuas’ in the neighbourhood of the famous Kali temple at Kalighat in between 19th and earlier 20th Century.

A N Sarkar & C Mackay1 remarked that “The Kalighat school of painting is perhaps the first school of painting in India that is truly modern as well as popular. With their bold simplifications, strong lines, vibrant colours and visual rhythm, these paintings have a surprising affinity to modern art”.

One of the earliest pieces of description on Kalighat paintings by Ajit Ghose2 is also worth to be mentioned here. He said: “The drawing is made with one long bold sweep of the brush in which not the faintest suspicion of even a momentary indecision, not the slightest tremor, can be detected. Often the line takes in the whole figure in such a way that it defies you to say where the artist’s brush first touched the paper or where it finished its work…”

Durga Idols of Kumartuli: Surviving Oral Traditions through Changes

Dr. Lopamudra Maitra, Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication (SIMC- UG), Pune

 Download PDF Version

Introduction

As the torrential rain gushes down the plastic and tarpaulin sheets of the narrow alleys in Kumartuli, covering the half-made clay idols, the smell of wet earth emanates, reverberates, encircles and rises up to announce the arrival of the auspicious occasion— Durga Puja. Finally, as the dawn of Mahalaya announces the arrival of the Devipaksha and the last ablutions are offered to seek blessings from one’s forefathers on the banks of the sacred river Ganga, the artisans of Kumartuli pronounce the occasion through invoking the powers of the female goddess by painting the eyes of the idols of Durga, famously known as Chokkhudaan or bestowing of the eyes. A popular and annual sight in the region every year, this relatively small, yet largely famous and well-renowned region of Kumartuli stands tucked within the narrow lanes and by-lanes of Sovabazar area of the northern region of the present city of Kolkata (West Bengal, India) and the relatively recent construction of the underground metro-railway station of the same name.  A busy place for idol-makers, the kumbhars, their small and narrow workshops, aligned against their crowded tenements, hum with the buzz of activities at most times of the year, especially during the time of the Durga puja. Over the years, the region has experienced a surge and witnessed changes in the style of the clay idols, their expression and depictions, especially the ones made for Durga puja. Carrying forth a string of history within itself, as these depictions represent a strain of continuity of the famous worship of female deities of the region, the changes and alterations in visual depictions of the idols made in Kumartuli also help to reflect new ideas and ideologies in the age of new-media, forming an important part of Visual Anthropology. Based on an extensive fieldwork in the region of Kumartuli and various parts of Kolkata throughout the month of Aswina (September-October) between 2011-2012, this paper tries to look into the significant aspects of the representations of the idol-making formats of Kumartuli, their changing presentations and new reflections and how the local history, oral traditions and lores still manifest themselves through these changing representations.

Temples of Bengal: Material Style and Technological Evolution

Priyanka Mangaonkar

Architect and Researcher


Download PDF version

Art of Bengal, which was mainly religious in nature, was expressed through the medium of temples. Brick temples of Bengal (built between 16th and 19th century) forms one of the most distinctive groups of sacred monuments in India. Due to multiple artistic influences acting upon the region during this period the Brick temples of Bengal show wide range of forms and techniques of construction.  Hence the temples constitute a coherent series in their architecture and sculpture, characteristically expressed in brick and terracotta. The chronological span also significant coinciding with the emergence of the new Bengali culture. “In fact, the Bengali temples may be viewed as one of the most important manifestations of this regions culture, closely associated with contemporary movements in religion, literature and the arts as well as with broader political, social and economic developments.”[i] Due to the political unification and consequent independence of Bengal; a unique Bengali style of monumental architecture was created which was also an expression of the local idioms. “Another important result of this change was the combination of Hindu and Muslim elements as intrinsic part of Bengali culture: thus, Muslim rulers and monumental Islamic architecture, but Hindu revivalism and religious poetry.”[ii]

Krishnalila in Terracotta Temples of Bengal

Amit Guha

Independent Researcher


Download PDF version

 Introduction

The brick temples of Bengal are remarkable for the intricately sculpted terracotta panels covering their facades. After an initial period of structural and decorative experimentation in the 17th and 18th centuries, there was some standardization in architecture and embellishment of these temples. However, distinct regional styles remained. From the late 18th century a certain style of richly-decorated temple became common, particularly in the districts of Hugli and Howrah. These temples, usually two-storeyed or atchala and with a triple-arched entrance porch, had carved panels arranged in a fairly well-defined format (Figure 1). Ramayana battle scenes occupied the large panels on the central arch frame with other Ramayana or Krishna stories on the side arches. Running all along the base, including the base of the columns, were two distinctive friezes (Figure 2). Large panels with social, courtly, and hunting scenes ran along the bottom, and above, smaller panels with Krishnalila (stories from Krishna’s life). Isolated rectangular panels on the rest of the facade had figures of dancers, musicians, sages, deities, warriors, and couples, within foliate frames.

Bonokathi’s Mystic Deul and the Legend of Echai Ghosh

Somen Sengupta.

Freelance Writer


Download PDF version

In Bengal school of temple architecture Deul style has its own place. Divided mainly between Bongiyo deul and Oriya deul this particular shape of temple or place of worship are few in this part of Bengal but each of them are unique and enrich. Deul temples are tower like structure with expansion on the either side. It is simple but majestic in presence. Jatar deul of South 24 Parganas and Bahulara deul of Onda village in Bankura are two most famous deul structure temple in Bengal. With this we have another lesser known deul temple in a small village near Burdawan and Birbhum border. This one known as Echai Ghosher deul holds an equal importance in the study of Bengal temple.

In Search of the Temples of Daspur

Amitabha Gupta

Independent Researcher and Photographer


Download PDF Version

 My first visit to Daspur was in September 2011. The fact that there are several temples having exquisite terracotta panels on them scattered over such a huge area in the Midnapore district of West Bengal was enough to arouse my interest. Having read some books on Daspur and consulted some knowledgeable friends, I decided to venture the area. As per David McCutchion “Daspur was one of the leading centres of temple building in 19th century”. The Artisans who built up these temples used to describe themselves as Sutradhara Temple Builders. In 1975, backed up by Gurusaday Museusem, Ranen Chattopadhyay  made a documentary film on this artistic tradition of Daspur. Once upon a time in the history around 150 Sutradhar families used to stay at Daspur.

Saraswati Puja Decoration

Debasmita Goswami, Freelance Writer


 

Saraswati Puja in Eastern India has a broad impact on young minds. This is not just a ‘Puja’ (worshipping ceremony) to please the Goddess, but is also a scope to relish together the mirth and cheer of early spring. Devi Saraswati is probably worshipped in many countries in Asia but with different acquaintances. In Burma she is Thurathadi, in China she is Biancaitian, in Thailand she is known as Surasawadee and in Japanese as Benzaiten. As the country differs the appearance of the image changes, but the purpose of her worship remains the same, to please the deity of knowledge and wisdom. Again, Devi Saraswati combines in her single embodiment all the qualities of the nine Muses of the Hellenic tradition.

In India Devi Saraswati is depicted as a beautiful woman attired in a pure white saari and seated on a white lotus that symbolizes the absolute truth. There always remains a swan just next to her feet which is considered as a vehicle of the goddess. For this reason she is also named as ‘Hangsha vahini’ or ‘Maral bahana’ (someone who travels by swan). Devi saraswati holds a ‘Veena’ (a musical instrument) in her hands symbolizing her sway over art and technology together. An all over white appearance of the idol including the swan represents the purity of knowledge.

In Eastern India, mainly in state of Orissa, Bihar and West Bengal Devi Saraswati is mostly worshipped by the students. They feel much enthusiastic to decorate the arena around the idol where that is placed. They are not artists, nor are they superb craft-persons, but they all enjoy working together in a team to do something precious. Apart from decorations they participate in drawing exhibitions, some other cultural programs, or some sort of charitable works.

Students of schools and colleges get involved in creating numerous decorative items on this occasion. A few years back the decoration used to be only of colourful paper crafts. But now the students are experimenting with newer thoughts within a moderate amount of budget.

In the process of decoration first and foremost comes the item of ‘Rangoli’ or ‘Alpona. The floor decoration in Saraswati Puja festival is almost an inevitable part in India. Working with ‘aabir’ (coloured powder) brings out colourful rangolis, where as paint, brush and chalk paste are used to draw alponas. Swans in Alpona make it more appropriate to put before the idol.

The decoration with pottery is a common practice all over the India. Decoration with earthen bowl, earthen lamp, lamp stand, wooden spoons, stuck on a mat base provides decorative yet cool look. The style and color of the statue complement the whole arrangement.

Sometimes the students try to think something bigger. Students of a college have tried to create a homely atmosphere of a village.  One of the house women is seen lifting up water from a well, one is busy in worshipping on the ‘Tulshi  Mancha’ (basil plant),and  another is busy in singing  who the Devi is herself.

Devi Saraswati in all over ‘Daaker saaj’ (a variety of paper craft) looks much graceful.

People also try their experimentations with the pandals.  Some have tried it only with the news paper rolls which are technically simple, but conceptually awesome.

In another place total structure of the temple is made of cow dung which itself is considered as an auspicious element in India.

The invitation cards of the schools and colleges are also worth mentioning as each one is a specimen of art. If one is from folk culture another is in a form of fine art. No one can be considered inferior to other.

This Puja festival is not only significant for its decorations, but it has some other aspects that give it a different identity.

Often the parents of their little children get a sacramental attempt to begin their studies before the Goddess. The children are taught to write down the initial letters of their alphabet to begin the lessons with her blessings.

As Devi saraswati is the Goddess of Knowledge, keeping an ink-pot is a compulsory process in this Puja. Generally an earthen inkpot is kept before the Goddess that is filled with milk instead of ink. A pen or ‘Khager Kalam’ (a reed of a tree) is placed there which is used to write down the ‘pronam mantra’ (worshipping words) with the milk on the leaves of wood apple. This is almost a must-do task for every student to please the Goddess.

In this occasion the girls are often seen in yellow saris, which is a symbolic colour of the mustard flower that blooms in this spring season. It also resembles the marigold that blooms in this time in abundance. With a rejuvenating spring, with an essence of love, with an energy for creativity, with an atmosphere of festivity the Saraswati Puja gets its greatest height to be enjoyed by the charming young boys and girls throughout the day.

 

Note

All the photos (except the first one) by Debasmita Goswami.


 

Debasmita Goswami is a freelance writer. She loves documenting various Indian festivals.

Call for Papers: Special Issue on the Pictorial Tradition of Bengal

Call for Papers for Volume III, Number 1, 2013
Special Issue on the Pictorial Tradition of Bengal

Astasahasrika_Prajnaparamita_Bodhisattva_Helping

Bengal has a great pictorial tradition. Unfortunately however, any ancient evidence has not survived, perhaps mainly because of the medium used in those times and partly because of humid environment of the region. But one early medieval evidence has survived in copied forms—A??as?hasrik? Prajñ?p?ramit?, illustrations on palm leaves, which proves that Bengal had reached a high level of sophistication in painting during the Buddhist period. Evidence can also be found in Bengal’s rich folk tradition of ground and wall decorations, and they indicate a peculiar mixture of art and ritual. After the British intervention in the country, we find the tradition once again entering wide spectrum of intense creativity. Mainly it started with European influence but slowly it absorbed its local traditions and moved much ahead and flourished in various schools and branches.

In the next issue of Chitrolekha we like to explore this tradition in order to approach it from holistic points of view and see it in relation to the larger history of Bengal. We also invite submission of art-works from artists of Bengal.

Topics may include on anything relating to the pictorial tradition of Bengal, both West Bengal and Bangladesh. For authors’ convenience we are specifying certain areas (which are not exhaustive but rather suggestive):

Topics

  • Exploring ancient and medieval traditions of Bengali paintings, decorations etc.
  • · Pictorial art in A??as?hasrik? Prajñ?p?ramit?
  • · Pictorial art as found in literature and historical documents
  • · Pictorial Folk art of Bengal
  • · Patas and Patuas of Bengal
  • Kalighat paintings
  • Growth and rise of Bengali painting during the British period
  • Discussions on Great Masters of Bengali art
  • Experiments in Bengali art
  • Bengali art after the independence
  • Experimental art, installations etc.

Creative Works: Please submit 5 artworks in Jpeg only. Size: 1500 pixel on the longest side.

Contact: Please contact us at chitrolekhamagazine [AT] gmail.com for any query. Read Submission Guidelines at http://chitrolekha.com/submission.php

Submission Deadline: May 15, 2013.

Facebook Iconfacebook like button