Most books on India’s vedic culture, its deities and religious stories tend to be verbose and complicated almost tending to be boring for the uninitiated. This book is different. It is an attempt to bring the story of Durga an important deity from North India to the non-Hindu readers as well as Hindu readers in a visually appealing and enticing manner.
The book is at once defining two parallel stories – one story of Durga the deity and another of the idol makers who create it every year for its worshippers and followers to rever her and celebrate her divine power.
The festival of Durga Pooja is to be believed by living through it; the preparation of the idols, the “Mandap” or stage where the idol is placed for its worshippers to admire her beauty and power, the dance and music, the arti (religious songs) and the ultimate “Visarjan” or immersion of the idol in its final home – the holy river.
Smrita’s book takes you through this epic journey in a wonderful and captivating photo journal. The book is laid out in a simple and easy to follow layout with a story-like narration. This book is an excellent resource for learning about an important aspect of Indian history and culture. The book is fun to read and get familiar with the subject.
Smrita has dedicated her book to the hard-working artists who bring idols to life from lifeless mud and who stand aside and let the worshippers rever their goddess and mother. Even when the worshippers immerse the idols to the depths of the holy rivers across India – to forever reside in the depths of the rivers and never to be seen again the artists begin the work on the new idols for the next year again.
“Creating Durga” is a platform to recognize the hardwork of these artists and explains what makes Durga Pooja such a revered festival.
I highly recommend this book for adding it to your permanent library.
Words cannot do justice to the awesomeness of this book!!!
This is critical work that fills a definite gap. Plenty has been written about Durga and the associated festivities but never has anyone chronicled the journey of Durga’s creation like this book.
What adds to the uniqueness of this book is the way each step of creating the Durga idol has been visually captured by the author. The progression from black and white images to color is at first hardly noticeable but upon closer inspection adds to the veracity of the subject. The latter half of the book is filled with colorful images of the Durga festival and almost makes you feel part of the festivities. My two favorite images from the book are:
1. The cover page, which beautifully captures a calm Durga in a subtle interplay of black and white
2. The image where women throw sindoor on each other, which is a wonderful pop of bright color
The layout of the book is appealing and easy to read and follow. The narrative is lucid, well thought out, and has a subtle story-like feel to it. The author has clearly done her research and it shows. She has cleverly explained the history of the subject without going into boring, confusing details and has stressed on key points to the right level of depth. The explanation is easy and is written keeping in mind an audience that might not be familiar with the subject.
What is also appreciable about this book is that the author clearly gives due credit to the artists that create the Durga idols. This book acknowledges the artists’ work and gives it platform for global recognition. The author has truly captured what makes Durga real – the hard work of the creators of Durga.
A highly recommended book, which is worth adding to your library!
This book is a must have! Smrita transports you on an intimate photographic journey through the behind-the-scene moments of the Durga Festival. Durga has been described as a deity, a goddess and even a fierce warrior. I for one am capitivated by her gentle features, knowing eyes and awe-like presence. Smrita manages to capture the true essence of the feminine Durga and the very heart and dedication of the goddess’ worshippers. The construction of the event, the colors and the candid moments reveal that traditions are still sacred. Smrita’s compilation of photos have you longing to visit India and take part in this auspicious event. Om Shanti. Namaste. Ohm.
When I was asked to write the foreword for this book I jumped at the chance. The reason was actually two-fold: one, it comes with immense respect for the work the author has been doing for years in the field of art and design, and second, is the content of the book – being a Bengali who has grown up amidst culture surrounding the Durga Puja fervour (if Bengal was a country and Bengalis its only nationals, then Durga Puja would have been the national festival), the impact which the festival has on the lives of Bengalis and non Bengalis alike is just incredible. Needless to say that any individual who would have at least once in a lifetime been to a puja pandal, have a story to tell and probably reminisce their first crush, first love, the marriage proposal, the endless adda (intellectual fun group discussion) with friends, the food, the dance and the fashion. In India it is the only festival where the celebration spans for one month and includes holidays for a week.
As Pablo Picasso once said that “art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life,” this book makes me realise the importance of this axiom. When I picked up the first draft to read, it gave me an impression of being just a coffee table book; but then when I delved into the text I was introduced to the sociology behind the making of not just an idol but, the artisans, their working conditions and the contribution made by each and every member of the artisan family. The book chronicles the entire process of the idol-making, from the bamboo-jute skeleton to the complete bridal finery of the Goddess which mesmerises you, along with bringing up the poignancy of the kumbhars, the Pal community and the tradition which cascades through generations. It would help the reader to realise the richness of the culture, the roots, the intricate handiwork and the months of dedicated hardships which goes behind the making of idols.
This book is also a beautiful amalgamation of literature and art, telling the reader a story like a garland of events and information. The pictorial graffiti presents a feast to the eyes of the reader, almost making it alive and vivid.
Interestingly, as you come to believe that all pictures are black-and-white, you are promoted to another level of visual feast with the introduction of colour photographs which breaks the monotony. The change to color acts as a metaphor to emphasise the transition process of inducing colour into the shape of the idols by the artisans.
To anyone who wishes to know the history behind one of the important festivals of the country, I recommend this book with utmost enthusiasm.
It is a unique and exceptionally intelligent work that brings a fresh and profound perspective into the sociology of art and lives of the artist. It will warm the hearts of the readers and enthusiast photographers alike.
– Dr. Rituparna Majumdar
Academician & Social Entrepreneur
A full time academician and Lecturer in Gautam Buddha University, Greater Noida and a Founder-Head of Etico Consultancy, Rituparna is a ISO26000 expert and is in the expert panel of GoodWeave International, Fair Wear Foundation and Consumer Goods Forum. Being a Bengali, she is an art connoisseur by birth and loves to sketch, travel, read and strum guitar in leisure.
Who is Durga?
In India, Durga is considered to be one of the most powerful deities who can save people from the clutches of evil. Over the years, the legend of Durga has garnered several interpretations.
What is the main story?
Mahishasura, riding on a buffalo, was bestowed with the powers of invincibility by the Lord Brahma. The power tarnished Mahishasura’s mind to such an extent that he ruthlessly dominated the world and became the king of demons.
Because of this, Lord Shiva the Destroyer, Lord Brahma the Creator, and Lord Vishnu the Preserver combined their powers. From this union emerged tremendous divine energy that is personified as Goddess Durga: she is a magnificent golden-yellow faced woman with ten arms who beheaded Mahishasura. She is often depicted riding on a lion.
What is Durga Puja?
Durga Puja is the most widely celebrated festival in India bringing together many skills that have survived generations.
How long is the festival?
Durga Puja celebrates Durga’s return after killing Mahishasura. The festival lasts four days in the month of October.
Where is Durga Puja celebrated?
The festival is celebrated in almost all parts of India.The festival practices are slightly different from state to state. However, the Bengali community (which is featured in the book) celebrates Durga Puja in a traditional manner throughout India.