Inspired by the mother

PTI | ByBenita Sen, Kolkata
Nov 10, 2004 10:36 AM IST

Durga Puja is popular in any which way in Bengal, as Benita Sen discovers while tracking a new book it.

A couple of months ago, this column announced Kali Kalkattewali, a book dedicated to the quintessential resident goddess of Bengal.

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In time for the Pujas, Rupa & Co released Sudeshna Banerjee’s Durga Puja Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow.

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I take the liberty to mention the earlier since there are several similarities. Both the books, by women journalists from Kolkata, inspired by the Mother Goddess, deal with a phenomenon – not just a faith -- from the same region.

Banerjee’s Durga Puja is inspired by the goddess Bengal is best known for though her visit officially covers just four days. Unofficially, of course, several pandals find their particular reasons for holding on to their beloved Mother for a few days more and the whole of Bengal, specially south of the Dooars, is one merry week-long Mardi Gras. As Shoma A Chatterji, the author of Kali Kalkattewali points out in her book, Kali is the most popular resident goddess of Bengal.

A self-confessed Durga Puja enthusiast, Banerjee "can never tire of talking about it," explaining the choice of topic for her first book. Several years of writing on the topic for , scouring the city for nuggets of information for the daily’s readers every Puja and a script for a documentary on the subject later, she decided to pen this one down in her reader-friendly, journalistic style packed with information from diverse sources. 

Here is a topic that is oceanic in its possibilities, and so, it would not be difficult to look for what she has left out. But that is precisely why I’d rather look at what she . After all, Durga inspires goodwill and leaves little space for critical cynicism while the drums beat around me announcing her arrival.

Banerjee, in the space of 87-odd pages, covers several aspects from the past through to her projections for the future of this festival. While resident Kolkata Bengalis will be familiar with a good deal she has to offer, there are yet several interesting findings that her search has yielded which few of us would know and most would find interesting in all three sections, past, present and future.

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