29 November, 2020

Divining The Devi

In reaction to the razzmatazz of recent years, a new traditionalist mood sets in over Durga Puja

Divining The Devi

HER gaze pierces. Foot placed triumphantly on Mahishasura's neck, she drives her spear through the buffalo demon in a cosmic entrancement of rage. Her large, slanted eyes, the pupils set slightly inwards, hold within them an unspeakable concentration, almost frightening in its intensity. Yet her look is benign; her figure one of exquisite youthful beauty. Bathed in garjan oil—literally, the oil that shouts—she seems afire. Seems alive.

Such is the power of the iconography, a primordial stirring, a sense of the divine grips the witness. Even an agnostic is moved to bow his head.

This is the image of Durga that B.C. Sanyal, the 97-year-old sculptor and painter, remembers from his childhood. An image that incorporates both Durga as Shakti, cosmic destroyer of evil and Durga as Uma, loving mother and daughter returning to her natal home. An image imprinted onto the Bengali collective psyche by artisans from Krishnanagar, Shantipur and Kumartulli since the 19th century, when the worship of Durga as it's known today first made...



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