The first Diwali ank, Manoranjan was published in 1909 by KR Mitra. The trend took a few years to pick up, but soon became one of the most recognised platforms for new and amateur writers to make their debuts in the Marathi literary world.
By the time Manoranjan stopped being published more than 50 years ago, magazines such as Mauj and Dipawali took the centre-stage as well-regarded literary anthologies.
These anks would typically include one novel, a few short stories and a set of poems. If well received by the public, the novels would then be published in book form.
According to writer Aroon Tikekar, the “golden era” for Diwali anks were the 1970s and 80s, when artistes such as PL Deshpande and Dinanath Dalal would contribute to them.
The only other region with a similar culture of annual, festive-time magazines is West Bengal, where the Durga Pujo specials (sharodiyaas) used to be a showcase for emerging and established literary talent. They were must-haves in every middle-class home in urban Bengal.
For a new Bengali writer, having a story or a novella in one of the major ones was a huge thing: it was a career boost, an indication that her or she had arrived, and an assurance of being noticed and published as a writer later on. All the established writers would contribute poems, novels, stories, essays and novellas.
Over the years, as newsprint has become expensive, some of the festival numbers have shrunk, some have dwindled, some still continue to go strong. Nevertheless, if you wanted a snapshot of contemporary Bengali writing (where it is at; the road down which it is going; who is new; how the aging ones are holding up), these magazines (some of them hundreds of pages thick) are still where one would go.