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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>>

 

Durga Idols of Kumartuli: Surviving Oral Traditions through Changes

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

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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.

The Mystery of Indian Floor Paintings

Swarup Dutta

Dean Academics, Indian Institute of Crafts and Design


 As a child one of my fondest memories is of Lakshmi Puja. The whole household seemed transformed. There was activity all around the household. I could sense a joyous mood in everyone. But the most remarkable reminder of this day to me was alpona – the beautiful floor decorations which my mother and sisters made on the threshold of our household, on the doorsteps leading to the prayer alter…”, remembers Narayan Sinha, a renowned sculptor, who has spent his childhood in rural Bengal.

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