Saturday, October 27, 2012


ICONOGRAPHY OF  MAHISASURAMARDINI -  ' সাবেকী  ' vs ' থিম '  পূজা   
( 'SABEKI', i.e. traditional vs 'THEME' PUJO ).

'No to cloning' -

 This time every year ,  argument rages between the groups supporting ' সাবেকী / SABEKI'  i.e. traditional  and ' থিম /THEME'  puja .  Often the ardent supporter from each group  excitedly uses language which further increases the temperature. One such example is here :
It is the exchange between Pradipta Nan and Payel Rinks Banerjee on one hand, Shibmandir Durgapuja's representative on the other  prompted me to prepare my submission.

  Durga mauls Mahisasura  - 
Famous traditional depiction at Vaital temple, Bhubaneswar.

 Centuries ago, when sculptors following  canons of Iconography were creating wonders at Badami, Aihole or later at Vaital temple, those who wanted to break with the tradition created the  relief at Mamallapuram where Devi is shown engaged  in combat with Mahisasuramardini . After centuries, another sculptor 'created' a Durga which has 4 hands, no trident  and the severed head of the buffalo  lying at the centre of Devi's feet ! This  depiction seems to have influenced many of our present day artists - I do not have to mention the names.

  Devi has won the battle - she no longer needs ten hands nor weapons. Even the trident is not here.
Severed head of the Asura lies at her feet.

 We can guess the ruckus the purists of those days had raised ! Yet, the wall-relief was installed and stayed put to the delight of Iconographers of these days. I have in my HDD another Durga where she has slain the Asura. Here she  has the trident in her hand.

 During the middle of  the 20th century, we found  many  artists broke from the mould. Reportedly Sunil Pal was  one of the pioneers of this trend. His work of 1945 at Kansaripara  is now forgotten - I could not get any photo of the same from a senior Art critic from whom I heard the 'story'. Later on Jiten Pal took the trend forward during 1950s. I used to admire the tremendous imagination his idols at 23 Pally used to demonstrate . I can still visualise his Durga turning away from the arena of combat with severed head of Mahisasura in her hand, her face and eyes red with anger. As far as my memory goes, she had two hands , not ten. Her dresses were unconventional too. This particular depiction attracted notice and criticism from purists and orthodox  section of  Durga's worshipers. But, Puja Committee of 23 Pally continued to patronise the trend and Jiten Pal .

 Traditional idol - ageold Puja.
Source - Bengali Statesman.

 Since  1950s,not only Jiten Pal , but some more artists started the trend of experimenting with Durga's iconography. In traditional format, Durga stands erect with her right foot on lion's back, left one on Mahisasura, her trident piercing Asura's breast . The implication is : the battle is over. The image is somewhat static.Many artists brought out scene of combat - somewhat like  the famous wall-relief of Mamallapuram -  thereby  a  sense of tremendous movement. During 2011, Bhabotosh Sutar  could portray  such dynamism in his Naktala idol.

One of the finest Durga I have come across - the 'movement' here is captured so perfectly !
Naktala Udayan  Sangha. Bhaboiosh Sutar.

Gradually,over the decades, Durga's depiction changed . These days, we have lots of varieties. Purists have their Bagbazar,Maddox Square,Durga Bari (Ballygunge Place).  Theme lovers have Sanatan Dinda, Tarun De, Shibsankar Das and .... also ShibMandir.

  Iconography of this idol of Durga is not easy   - 
it is important to 'understand' the interpretation before commenting !
95 Palli, Jodhpur Park

I appreciated Shibmandir's concept of merging 'RaktaBeej' and 'No to cloning' ! That neither means Pradipta Nan and Payel Rinks Banerjee will have to like the current (2012)  idol of Durga  of  ShibMandir  nor that  means SbibMandir will get so angry at dissents as to question the grey matter content of such viewers ! But, it is proper  that people like Pradipta Nan and Payel Rinks Banerjee refrain from using rude language.

Each to his/her views and choices !

1 comment:

injamaven said...

the form standing over Mahisha's head is an early Devi from Tamil Nadu, perhaps created by the Pallavas called Kotravai. She always holds Vaishnava attributes, not sure why, and is said by some to be Vishnu's sister. It's all very confusing. She's a form of Durga but a different one from plain Mahisamardini. I need a Tamil Iconog. to explain it all.