Durga Puja of Bengal: in stunning Modern Indian paintings

Durga Puja, celebrated by the Bengali community worldwide is a showcase of Indian creativity and the perfect representation of faith-meets-culture. Each year, craftspeople and sculptors (from Kumartuli, Krishnanagar, & other regions of West Bengal) create large scale clay-sculptures of the Goddess and her children; designers often work on a thematic pandal and Puja committees vie for the best display.

Anyone who has attended a Durga Puja would agree that it is a complete sensory experience! It is characterised by the sound of the Dhaak and the fragrance of the Dhunochi, which men and women carry as they dance against visually stunning art installations. The delicious food (bhog) is also something to savour!

Painting by William Prinsep (1830-40) | A depiction of celebrations inside a house during Durga Puja in  Calcutta, West Bengal, India, where Europeans are being entertained. The artist Prinsep was a merchant with the Calcutta firm of Palmer & Company.

The festivities begin with Mahalaya and end with the immersion (Visarjan) of the Goddess’ sculptures in the river.

The Durga Puja festival is now on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity!

The decision was taken during the 16th session of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (December 13-16, 2021). The reason, as stated by UNESCO on its website:

…During the event, the divides of class, religion and ethnicities collapse as crowds of spectators walk around to admire the installations.” It is also “seen as the best instance of the public performance of religion and art, and as a thriving ground for collaborative artists and designers. The festival is characterized by large-scale installations and pavilions in urban areas, as well as by traditional Bengali drumming and veneration of the goddess.

The festival has been recorded in paintings by various European artists such as Charles D’Oyly, Balthazar Solvyns, William Prinsep, Thomas Daniell and George Palmer.

The Durga Puja Being Celebrated on the River Hugli, Calcutta, 1875 | George Gidley Palmer (1830–1905) | British Library

We decided to celebrate the Festival with Modern Indian Paintings !

by Nandalal Bose

This gorgeous line-work by Nandalal Bose first appeared on a postcard (collection of the NGMA New Delhi) & then as a larger piece on paper in August 1945.

by Radhacharan Bagchi

Radhacharan Bagchi graduated from the College of Art and Craft in Calcutta and joined the Kala Bhavana, Shantiniketan as a teacher in 1951.

Durga Puja | Radhacharan Bagchi | Gouche on Board | DAG World

by Bikash Bhattacharjee

Bikash Bhattacharjee was born in North Calcutta and the city’s culture, traditions and society feature prominently in his artworks. Take a look at two of his famous paintings from the ‘Durga’ series. One of his paintings even inspired a Durga-sculpture in 2020!

Durga, 1985 Bikash Bhattacharjee (Indian, 1940–2006). Oil on canvas. Peabody Essex Museum, Gift of the Chester and Davida Herwitz Collection, 2001. E301220. Courtesy of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA. Photograph by Walter Silver.
Durga, 1989

by Gaganendranath Tagore

Gaganendranath Tagore , also known as Gagan Thakur was an Indian painter known for his work in different art styles including caricatures. Along with his brother Abanindranath Tagore, he is one of the earliest modern artists of India. His visarjan series from 1915 are stunning!

Take a look at some more artworks of the Goddess Durga by India’s modern artists!

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