Monday, September 29, 2014

DURGA PUJA 2014 (Part I)

 The work of an unknown artist - Sharatda Mandir,Parnasree

Sharada Mandir is a small temple of Parnasree with a wide open space in its front and right by the side of a water-body. This area is in centre of activities during  Durga Puja - Kali Puja phase.

During the Pujas, hordes of revelers crowd pandals erected here. During Durga Puja, 'bhog' is served against a modest charge - very popular with the residents. In 2013, I heard grumblings about over-booking. The evenings see  'arati' as well as interesting musical programs, quite popular with residents of Parnasree who do not venture much in the crowded streets of Calcutta.

This year Indra Pal and his small team is working here , shaping up three sets of Devi and her family. Famous he is not, but, has a very good temperament. I went to his work area during the last phase of preparation and brought a good nos of photographs. A few  are posted here .

Deity getting dressed up.

Mahisasura subjugated !

Young boy has a tummy ready to compete with that of Ganesha !

Indra Pal attends to Ganesha as Lakshmi Devi stands nearly ready !

Here is another photo of the deity of Sharada Mandir getting ready - she was surely way ahead of others. Had to be - this Puja Committee has provided space to Indra Pal for others' work. Hence, he presumably keeps his present bosses happy.

On the  morning of 'triteeya'.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Three tales from Hindu Mythology

' Anantashayane Vishnu - Lord Vishnu resting on Ananta the Snake'  :

Painting exhibited in a Calcutta Gallery during February,2008 . 
Apologies to the painter from Andhra whose name I forgot to record.

From North to South , East to West ,  Lord Vishnu sleeping  - Yogonidra - on turbulent sea - pralaya jaladhi - on coiled snake Ananta , his hood providing shade to His head ,Devi Lakshmi  at His feet and Lord Brahma rising from his navel : this imagery has been the inspiration of sculptors and painters through centuries.

Above , we find a 21st century interpretation where white lotus blooms in the ocean ! And, Lord Brahma is not offering His obeisance to Lord Vishnu !! Colourful and decorative the imagery is - quite a traditional interpretation.

 Lord Vishnu rests with His head on His left hand,
holds none of His usual  attributes. 
Lord Brahma does not rise from His navel either.
Acknowledgement - Sourced from  Internet.

 The most famous  of the reliefs of this imagery is  the one from  Vishnu temple of Deogarh , UP.  According to Wikipedia, this temple is the 1st one built in India with a 'shikhar' . It was built between 4th and 7th centuries........ I have seen this imagery in many other  temples too - both on wall-reliefs as well as wall-paintings. A beautiful example is from   Radheshyam temple of Bishnupur , 1000 years younger than the Vishnu temple of Deogarh.

Stucco-on-stone work - among the few @ Bishnupur.

'Samudra Manthan - Churning of the Ocean of Milk'

 A collaboration  between gods and (so-called) demons ...... brought out from ocean's depth treasures  most which was usurped by the gods.  The world got Lakshmi - goddess of wealth , powerful horse and elephant , Parijaat - the beautiful flowering tree among others .... and elixir of immortality ! Lord Vishnu - incognito -  fooled the demons and let gods have the elixir .

Snake Vasuki , which was used as the chord for churning , spewed out poison when exhausted . Lord Siva saved the world by drinking this poison which turned His throat blue.Siva was subsequently revered as Neel-kantha - the god with blue throat.

This mythological tale has been cited in our great epics and Puranas. Also, featured in Temple art and Patas .  I have come across  wall-reliefs of Samudra Manthan in temples  built during both Badami Chalukya as well as Hoysala regimes.

Wall relief in a temple of Pattadakal complex.

 A lot of details has been squeezed into this small-sized wall-relief  found in a temple of Pattadakal complex. The gods and demons  - four in each of the groups -  engaged in churning, Vasuki and mountain Mandar as well as the finds. The painting of Wikipedia is the best to view the details of the finds which is being copied here : 

Painting in Wikipedia page - Lots of details regarding  what emerged !

Wall-relief  , Kedareshwar temple, Halebid. 
Here also we find four representatives from ods and demons.

'Setu-bandhan from Ramayana - bridge across to Lanka'

Rama and Lakshana got a bridge constructed by banara-sena  - army of monkeys - to cross over to  Lanka with this army . The effort was not easy. God of ocean did not co-operate with banara-sena in the beginning. The bulk of stones deposited on the bed of the ocean was washed away.Then, Lord Rama picked up his bow and arrows and threatened the god of ocean with dire consequences.God of ocean then wilted and allowed construction work go uninterrupted.

 Wall-relief from Kedareshwar temple, Halebid.

In this context, I shall mention that in depictions of 'Ananata-sayana Vishnu', the ocean has  often not been given enough importance ! A notable exception is this one wall-relief of the Somnathpura temple :

Monday, March 17, 2014


Elephant in Dhauli Hills,Orissa.

I am returning to this page after 5+ months - rather unusual as evident from my 'history' of  writing blogs. The concept of being frozen in the flowing stream of time - interpreted visually and in words - was haunting me for  last few days. Here is the 'collection' of what  I have gathered.

The  advantage of philosophy over other expressed mediums is that it can be expansive , others can argue and project their view point  and the 'concept' grows on the initial platform. A visual has no such possibility - once sculpted and painted, the subject belongs to the viewer.  Before I go the visuals, I shall quote  two paragraphs from Alan Lightman's ' Einstein's Dreams' :  a book best described by Los Angeles Times' --- 'Lightman is an artist who paints with the notion of Time'.In one of the chapters he has written :

' There is a place where time stands still.Raindrops hang motionless in air.Pendulums of clocks float mid-swing Dogs raise their muzzles in silent howls....As a traveler approaches this place from any direction, he moves more and more slowly. His heartbeats grow slower further apart, his breathing slackens, his temperature drops, his thoughts diminish, untill he reaches dead center and stops.For this is the center  and stops.For this is the center of time.From this place , time travels outward in concentric circles...' 

 Written in 1992.
 In this 'story', he has used  a dozen imageries . The concept of  slowing down to stillness at the centre of this world makes deep impact on the Reader's mind, somewhat like what we find in 'Time Transfixed' painting by the surrealist painter Rene Magritte. It is said about him that his paintings challenge viewer's 'preconditioned perceptions of reality'.

'Time Transfixed'

  This painting (1938) was initially purchased by Edward James  - a patron of surrealist art. Rene wanted this painting to be hanged  at the starting point of the staircase so that visitors climb up to the ballroom upstairs with  'stab' from the locomotive.The title of the painting , translated in English would have been 'Ongoing Time Stabbed by a Dagger'. Reane was unhappy with the commonly accepted title       'Time Transfixed ' as well as the fact that the painting was hung above James' fireplace. 

 I find an irony here :  the painter wanted viewers to be 'stabbed' by the emerging locomotive while  the viewers  took  the theme as transfixed time !

 In this context, the emerging elephant  at Dhauli Hills, Orissa ( photo at the top of this blog) - a very famous piece of Buddhist art - came to my mind. This elephant symbolises Buddha .  The sculptor never completed  his work. It was  done during  regime of emperor Ashoka ( 271 - 232 BC) .  This was a scene where the 'elephant' was NOT frozen in time - he was emerging. But, the visual effect can be just the opposite , specially when viewed in context with our current experience. I could not find any reference  explaining why the sculpture was left incomplete  - but, tourists to nearby Udaygiri(Bhubaneshwar) will notice two more elephants, sculpted out of movable rocks, are placed adjacent to each other in front of Ganeshagumpha, one of the caves - very much 'finished' in shape. We need not compare the religious  contexts - Udaygiri  did have large occupation of Jain monks.

Pair of elephants
Udaygiri (Bhubaneshwar)

Thursday, October 31, 2013



Desert cactus green 'Vasudhara' -
Gate of  2012 pandal of Behala Udayan Sangha.

Motif of tall green robust leaf-like structure rising upwards . 
Spectators enters the 'Gabhagriha' through this structure.

Devi was depicted to be in motion in 2012 .
Her path is strewn with lotus . 
Kartick and Saraswati on her  left .

Twister-like spiral stretches from sky to ground level. 
Devi  positioned midway,her children below her level . 

Mahishasura is  at  lower-most level of this twister/spiral. 
Hint of Maslow's triangle ?

Tarun De's style is subtle - not loud at all.Both in Iconography as well as in his installations. Our 1st exposure to Tarun dey's work was through a journalist friend of mine who advised me in 2012 not to miss the Puja pandal of  'Behala Udayan Sangha'. So, we were there on the Panchami night  and were just 'floored'. This year, we were not in need of a reminder. Again, we were there  on the night of Panchami, before the crowd took over.

   Challenge of  Devi's Iconography . 
Tarun De  created completely different facial expression, 
without alteration of setting of eyes, his signature mark  .

 The spirit of  Tarun De's set-up works along a vertical alignment. Sky above. Earth below. The connection can be a spiral. Abuse of nature can be a part of his display. In 2012, the idols exuded a tremendous momentum, as if sliding down a twister-shaped  spiral. In 2013, Devi is standing still.  Same big eyes, yet, her 'dristi' so very different.

In 2012, Taun De allowed  the visitors a view of Devi from the  gate itself.Through slightly slant tall green-panted structure. In 2013, he constructed a hemi-spherical  dome in-between . The exterior is brightly lit,with animals' motif in dark shadows. Inside,  he positioned a   spiral on a cylindrical body under a luminous  figure-filled 'sky'. The photos here are eloquent - I do not have to write many words to explain every bit.

In 2013, Tarun De presents a slightly tapering shaft with a spiral 'path' winding up to reach the sky above, placed in a space with hemi-spherical top
equivalent to 'mandapa'  of a Hindu temple .
( Nataraja , creepers and stars adorn the shaft. Inset - Walking up the spiral)

The point here is , when we take photos, the blog is not planned in my mind simultaneously. What attracts notice is captured in the camera. Later,  bits and pieces are stitched together in my mind . As if a clutch of photos will give the viewer a taste of the whole. That  never happens . Somewhere I read, when the scribbler whistles, he hears the music in totality. Likewise, when I copy+paste the photos, I  visualise the pandals  in totality. All that I can convey to the readers is my impression about the artist's work. And... my regret that  we were not attentive enough while making our observation while clicking photos.

Pardon me for all I have missed. And, ... you ... please do not miss Tarun Dey's work in 2014, if you are in Calcutta next Durga puja.

Entrance of 2013 Pandal. 
In front, an abstract shape  reminds us of power of 'trishul' and aspiration  of  a  bird's wings. A hemi-spherical 'mandapam' with bright lights and interspersed shadows lies beyond.

A battle-scene on the hemi-sphere of the 'mandapam'.

 Devi rests in a 'sthanaka' posture after Mahishasura is vanquished. 
Her eyes and feet express the tension of the battle between her and the demon which has just ended.

 Mahishasura  out-of-balance .

Thursday, October 24, 2013



Work of Tarun Dey @ Behala Udayan Pally , 2013.
 Excellent work on Durga's Iconography.

Work of Tarun Dey @ Behala Udayan Pally , 2012. 
 Devi descends from the skyalong spiral of jyoti and lotuses
and Asura at the  bottom of spiral . !

I enjoy writings/ photos of Durga Puja pandals and the idols published in newspapers and periodicals as well as coverage in  TV shows . Since we returned to Calcutta permanently in December,2003,  I gradually learnt to pick-up the best from the pre-Puja reports and the publications during the active days of Puja. Ruby and I visit  pandals  in early mornings and on Panchami/Dashami/Ekadashi mornings/nights to enjoy the work of art  and  take photos to add to our collection.  Being a senior citizen, I always avoid crowd.  Crowd is a deterrent to taking photos . Sometimes, the volunteers  are too pushy . Only occasionally they demonstrate  tolerance when they notice my age and  a DSLR with a telephoto.

 Work of Bhabotosh Sutar @Naktala Udayan Sangha, 2013.
 Installation resembles a  temple and its court-yard.

 Apart from  serious writings in Newspapers/periodicals - example : Tapati Guha Thakurta of CSDS, Shouvik Sengupta - I have not come across much in print on modern day Durga Puja of Calcutta.  So much  hard work is done for 3/4 months every year ahead of  Calcutta's greatest show of autumn festival, so little impact  the event makes in our books and periodicals. Films do use  Durga Puja  many times - but it is 'Kahani' that used  the street festival spirit in a manner that attracted major attention of people.

 Work of Partha  Roy @ Suhrid Sangha ,2013.
 Unconventional Iconography .

 From my side, I have made humble effort to write blogs containing photos  of pujas of Behala, of Sanatan Dinda's work, of  some good work of Tarun Dey, Sibsankar Das  and Bhabotosh Sutar.  The most  viewed among them is a Puja very dear to my heart  -  that of Nalin Sarkar Street in  2011.

Work of Sanatan Dinda @ Nalin Sarkar Street, 2011.
 A grand composition positioned within  a superb installation.

 In 2013, news about two publications have made me very happy - one book on Durga puja of Calcutta has already has been published  and the other reportedly is getting ready. I read about the 1st book from a post by my friend Kanad Sanyal. It is compiled by Samrat Chatterjee who is my one-time neighbour and a well-known name in  Calcutta's Durga Puja circuit. The second one is pleasant revelation  - on 20/10/2013,The Telegraph published an extract from a Coffee-table  book which is being made ready by  Mudar Pathreya of Trysis .

 @ Badamtala Asharhsangha,2008.
Pandal styled on Kalighat Pata.

 I take this opportunity to convey to  Mr Pathreya that I look forward to   some serious writings on iconography of Durga,  comparison of concepts of 'Installation Art' among the  present crop Art College pass-outs, their contribution in  changing face of Puja pandal decoration,  plagiarism ....... etc.

 Mr MUDAR PATHREYA, our expectation is high !

Monday, October 14, 2013



 Idol installed in an unequal hexagon. 
 'Chalchitra' complements the geometry - not completely. 
From every angle, a slice stay out of camera's view. Alas,crouching was difficult for me !

 The vanquished !

Triangles, diagonals and squares in frame-work of the pandals  and  very traditional  folk art  - a very distinguished look for  Parnasree South Block Club's  Durga Puja.  A very fine  balanced composition- neither ostentatious nor clumsy.

  View from the gate A vertical pillar, decorated  nicely, 
hides full-view of  Durga.

From entrance to 'chalchitra', mythology and folklores  adorn the pandal. We went there on the evening of Sapatami. When downloading, I saw the the p[anels on the compound wall have not been properly captured. Ruby took a few shots though. I went back in the morning of Astami mid-day when  'pujo' was not over.  The area was full of devotees and - and  later I understood - people waiting for lunch/'bhog' to be served.

 Krsnaleela and Ravan in a vertical panel, inside the pandal.

 Punishment at hell - a horizontal panel on the compound wall.

Most of my friends believe that Puja pandal cannot remain empty and people's head/torso popping in enhances the appeal.Looks authentic ! Here are photos from  what we shot on Saptami eveing and Astami noon.

On   LH - 'Shakti/Chandi' rides a tiger  .
RH - Festivity in a village as a Patua narrates his tale.

  I was  very happy - in fact thrilled  - when I found ABP Ananda gave coverage to this pandal on the morning of Nabami. But for the location - distance from a  main road - aesthetically, a very good work stayed beyond the notice of pandal-hoppers !

View of the gate from inside.