Mother Durga (An Icon of Community and Culture)

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Item Code: IDK354
Author: Abhijit Dutta
Publisher: Readers Service, Kolkata
Edition: 2003
ISBN: 8187891203
Pages: 122 (7 Color Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.5" X 5.5"
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Book Description
From the Jacket

The book furnishes vivid details of the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta and its suburbs in the first half of the twentieth century. It focuses attention principally on the themes of nationalism, communalism, the Bengal Famine of 1943, and Independence, and their connection with the Goddess Durga.

The gaiety and mirth accompanying the festival in Calcutta and its outskirts, despite periodic black-outs and other restrictions imposed during the Second World War consequent upon the ensuing Japanese air-raids on the city, have been portrayed remarkably well in the book which contains a separate section on the impact of that War on the Durga Puja in the city of palaces.

Also colourfully described is the Vijaya Dashami celebrations marking the termination of Durgotsav.

The Study also dwells on the mystical, metaphysical and symbolic sides of the Durga Puja, while detailing the reasons behind the transformation of the festival from a purely household affair to an elaborately established community worship. And, although, the main thrust is on the first half of the twentieth century, particularly the forties, the study harks back to earlier times to emphasise the importance of Durgotsav to Bengali society.

About the Author

Born in 1949, the author, an alumnus of Presidency College and Calcutta University, capped off his otherwise brilliant academic career with a Ph. D. from Jadavpur University.

Of late, he has served as a Research Officer in the Institute of Historical Studies, Kolkata, where he was actively in locating and evaluating Christian Missionary documents lying in and around Calcutta from the earliest possible date to 1947. He is currently employed as UGC Research Scientist in History at Jadavpur University.

His earlier titles which have earned him wide publicity both in India and abroad are:-
1) 'Muslim Society in Transition: Titu Meer's Revolt (1831)'.
2) 'Christian Missionaries on The Indigo Question in Bengal (1855-1861)'.
3) 'Nineteenth Century Bengal Society and The Christian Missionaries'.
4) 'European Social Life in Nineteenth Century Calcutta'.
5) 'Glimpses of European Life in Nineteenth Century Bengal'.
6) 'Child Marriage : An Adult Obsession'.
Activity associated with the Corpus Research Institute, Kolkata, in the capacity of Deputy Director, Dr. Dutta is currently engaged in research on Fairs and Festivals in early 20th century, Calcutta and its immediate environs, of which the present book is a valuable contribution.


This work was completed by me in the capacity of UGC Research Scientist (B), attached to the Department of History, Jadavpur University, Calcutta.

The work, mainly concentrates on the first half of the twentieth century, particularly the forties, including such themes as the freedom struggle, communalism, the Bengal Famine of 1943, the Puja scenario after Independence, and the impact of the Second World War on the Durga Puja in Calcutta and its suburbs.

Hindu-Muslim antagonism over immersion of Durga images during the pre-partition-days has been vividly sketched in the study, along with the endeavours of leading political and social personalities and forums after partition, both in West Bengal and East Pakistan, to stem the tide of communal ill-feeling during the Puja-Id week in October, 1947. This has been painstakingly furnished mainly from the files of the Amrita Bazar Patrika. The miserable plight of Bengal's teeming millions particularly during the Bengal Famine of 1943 has been depicted in vivid colours from the contemporary Bengali daily, the Ananda Bazar Patrika. Besides, an entire sub-section is devoted to the Vijaya Dashami marking the end of Durgotsav. The relevance of Vijaya in the context of political as well as the socio-economic upheavals of the time has been portrayed in details from a careful perusal of contemporary source materials gleaned mainly from the files of the Amrita Bazar Patrika.

Although the area of study concentrates on the first half of the 20th century, the contents of the book hark back to earlier times in order to make the reader well conversant with the history of Durga Puja festival in Calcutta and the mofussil in the earlier centuries.

The first part of the book dealing principally with the spiritual basis of Durga worship, concentrates on the spiritual, metaphysical, psychological, and symbolical aspects of Goddess Durga and Her demon antagonist, Mahisasura. The social, religious, and symbolical connotations attached to Devi Durga's companions, viz., Laxmi, Saraswati, Kartick, and Ganesha have also been probed, together with the astrological implications of Her conveyors to the Earth. The ethical side of Durga Puja along with its social significance have been covered in great details to illustrate the true ambience in which it is held. The temporary change in the Hindu mentality during the four days of the festival has also been explored to bring out the spirit of mirth and gaiety on this auspicious occasion. Also highlighted in a subsequent part of the book, are the un-orthodox reflections of Rabindranath Tagore on Durgotsav in Bengal.

Parts of the book dealing with the historical and social perspectives contain sections already highlighted earlier in this Preface. Of special interest in these parts are the names and locations of as many household or community Durga Pujas in Calcutta and the suburbs as I could muster.

One regrettable thing that marred the collection of research data on the subject in the period under consideration lay in the paucity of materials. The reason as to why I had to depend mainly on secondary sources for information from 1900 to 1937 was principally because of the unavailability of primary source materials of the period. Book were either misplaced or too brittle for consultation, while newspapers during this time were mostly in such a state of decay that they could not be handed over to me for consultation by the authorities in charge of them.

Nonetheless, I owe a debt of gratitude to the staff of numerous libraries of Calcutta for the more or less successful prosecution of my work. These were mainly those of the National Library, Kolkata particularly the National Library Newspaper Reading Room at Esplanade East, Kolkata, and those of the Asiatic Society in the city.

Prof. Chittabrata Palit, Professor of History, Jadavpur University and Director, Corpus Research Institute, along-with Dr. Ujjal Ray, Reader in History, Sonarpur College, South 24 Parganas, provided me with great inspiration in writing this book. Thanks are due to the Registrar, Jadavpur University and the Finance Officer, Jadavpur University, for permitting me to get funds for publication, quickly from my contingency account.

I also express my debt of gratitudes to Mr. Aloke Krishna Deb of the Shovabazar Deb Rajbati for providing me with a valuable photograph of the Durga image which graced the Puja podium at the Rajbati premises during Sarodotsav, 1930. He also furnished me with another photograph of the Fair that was held in 1936, adjoining the Durgotsav at the Rajbati premises.

Thanks are also due to Shree Probal RoyChaudhuri of the Barisha Saborno RoyChaudhuri family for allowing me to use a photograph of Durga which was incidentally worshipped at the ancestral premises of the Saborno RoyChaudhuri at Barisha, during Durgotsav in 1920. The same to the Indian Museum authorities at Calcutta for photographs.

Thanks are also due to Mr. Biman Dasgupta for printing, in computer, photographs of the early images of Durga which I had so far collected, among which were two photographs of Durga taken from the Ananda Bazar Patrika, Saradiya numbers of 1935 & 1936 respectively.

I cannot forget the help and encouragement rendered to me during the progress of my work by my friend Mr. Debasish Adhikary & my young Research Scholar, Kaushik Ananda Bahubalindra.

My wife, Bharati, was also a stupendous source of inspiration while my son, Promit, provided comic relief during moments of stress and strain while the work was in progress.

Lastly, thanks are due to Messrs Readers Service for taking the responsibility of publishing the manuscript. The same to Mr. Sushil Kumar Das for expert proof reading and for the preparation of the Index of the book.


Part I
The Spiritual Basis3
Part II
The Historical and Social Perspectives
Part III
The Baroari and/or Community Durga Pujas45
Part IV
Nationalism and Related Social Issues in Sarbajanin Pujas51
Part V
Durga Puja for The Pedestrian Classes60
Part VI
General Sarbajanins in City and Suburbs61
Part VII
Puja Gaiety and Revelry69
Philanthrophy and Brotherhood during Durgotsav75
Part IX
Puja Holidays and Information Gathering Excursions78
Part X
Durga Puja in 194781
Part XI
Durga Puja and The Second World War82
Part XII
The Bengal Famine of 1943 and The Durga Puja91
Part XIV
The Durgotsav and Hindu-Muslim Discord and Disunity on The Issue111
Part XVI
Selected Bibliography176
Appendix I187
Appendix II188
**Contents and Sample Pages**

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