Essays-1

An Unexplored Discourse in Kolkata’s Visual Culture

by Sunanda K Sanyal

In its vibrancy, variety, and opulence, Durga Pujo is indeed comparable to such grand spectacles as the Carnival of Brazil. Yet unlike the Brazilian event, which has been closely examined by chroniclers of visual culture, this dynamic Bengali autumn festival has largely been denied serious scholarly attention. From thepandal (temporary sanctuary for housing the deity) and the idol to the neon displays, ad campaigns and fashion, the multi-faceted visual culture of Durga Pujo is remarkably responsive to changing times. Even a brief look at the recent developments in pandal designing can shed light on the inventiveness and adaptability of this creative enterprise.

25 Palli, Khidderpore, 2007.   Designer: Bhabatosh Sutar

25 Palli, Khidderpore, 2007. Designer: Bhabatosh Sutar

A conventional pandal, built by urban artisans known simply as “decorators”, has almost always been a simulation of a lavish residence.But since the late 1990s, involvement of art school graduates has brought a new dimension to Kolkata’s Durga Pujo through a diverse array of environments popularly known as “themepandals”. Along with its religious and mythical identity, Durga Pujo also has a strong secular side, which has been an advantage for the creative experiments in pandal designing. A well-known historic building or site, such as a Hindu temple, co-exists with pandals representing the Bengal countryside.     [More..]

(Published: Art News & Views, 3(3), November, 2010: 52-3)

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Film

“A Homecoming Spectacle”

(58 mins. & 28 mins.)

The documentary examines specific aspects of the visual culture of Durga Pujo, a grand religio-cultural festival held in Bengal, India. Locally, it is seen as the occasion of the Hindu Goddess Durga’s annual visit to her parental home. Central to the rituals is a sculptural image of the Goddess killing Mahisasura, or the buffalo-demon. This mythic event is considered a symbol of the eternal battle between Good and Evil, and of female empowerment.

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