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Spaces of Recognition Puja and Power in Contemporary Calcutta Anjan Ghosh

Spaces of Recognition Puja and Power in Contemporary Calcutta Anjan Ghosh

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This is an important paper on spaces and the role that spatial differences play on our identity and ethnicity.
This is an important paper on spaces and the role that spatial differences play on our identity and ethnicity.

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Journal of Southern African Studies

Spaces of Recognition: Puja and Power in Contemporary Calcutta Author(s): Anjan Ghosh Source: Journal of Southern African Studies, Vol. 26, No. 2, Special Issue: Popular Culture and Democracy (Jun., 2000), pp. 289-299 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2637495 . Accessed: 03/08/2013 08:33
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In this paper. But thepuja gave riseto elaborate festivities ritual and different forms alongwith observances. family-contained ? 2000 Journal ISSN 0305-7070print. and festive atmosphere are setup Calcutta.urban social lifeburgeoned. 3 Aug 2013 08:33:20 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . The transformation of publicspace intoritual and ceremonial space makesDurga puja a verypublicfestival. shelters) all over the city.10. in therevelry Even as the massesparticipated to the bawdy songs or folk performances. and contestation. But as theportcityof Calcutta becamethecapitalof theBritish Empirein India. Introduction of the mother Durga puja or the worship goddessDurga is the mostpopularreligious festivalof the Bengali Hindus.Volume Journal of Southern African Studies.I trace Bengalis and a space for public performances thecourseof thismodemmarker of Bengaliidentity in Calcutta.41.India. during Sometimes thelack of suchspace can lead to somepandals beinglocatedon theroad or thus a temporary closure thedaysofthe oftheroadfortraffic carriageway. The emergent urbancomprador their elite who prospered through services to theBritish soon instituted theDurgapuja amongtheir household rituals. out Worshipis carried in thepandals by brahmin thefestival and theplatform on which regularly during priests theidol of thegoddessand herchildren are placed acquiresthesanctity of sacredspace the festival. thefour (mid-September daysof thepuja evokea universal holiday spirit in the stateof West Bengal and especiallyin its capital city. listening those by professional singersand to invited thebabus (gentlemen dancing girlswererestricted guests including bourgeoisie). Durgapuja was a rural institution was observed oftherural primarily which within thehousehold precincts gentry. Durga puja has becomeiconicof modern Bengali ritualto an Hinduidentity in WestBengal. The pandals are locatedin any open space in the neighbourhood.1Observedannuallyin the autumnmonthof Aswin to mid-October). June2000. Number 2. pp. 26. Studies 1465-3893 online/00/000289-11 ofSouthern African This content downloaded from 202.wherethe deityis housedduring the festival. effecting during festival. Publicfestivities overthelast200 years. historically 1 The word to bothbig annualpubliccelebrations liketheDurgafestival andto more and puja mayrefer private actsof worship and devotion.Calcutta) (Centre As themost popularreligious festival. Its transformation froma rural family on theemergence urbansecularone overthelast 200 yearshighlights theconstraints of a publicspherein post-colonial India.30 on Sat. of popularentertainment in the evenings. 289-299 Y Spaces of Recognition:Puja and Power in Contemporary Calcutta ANJAN GHOSH forStudiesin Social Sciences. Thousands ofpandals (makeshift clothand tarpaulin bamboo. associated withtheDurgapuja have emerged Before theBritish conquered Bengalin themid-eighteenth century. their The urban festival soon becamean iconicinstitution of the peersandEnglish patrons.

Individuals were not clearly demarcatedfromtheir and persons not only representedthemselves but often stood for theircomcommunity.along with the circulation of commodities .1991). This anxietyabout the colonial genealogy of the modernand the capacity to reproduceit.as Habermas notes .an additive idea of the nation as comprising different communitieshad prevailed in India.'5 It is this ambiguitywhich lies at the heartof the modernin post-colonialIndia. 4 P. The contradictions of modernity in Chatterjee'sstatement.Oxford University Press.10. Historical modernitiesinvariablyincorporateelements of tradition and are scarcely counterposedto them.ideas of have also gained currency. In this era of globalization .secularism and market exchange have become normative of the modem. we wouldforever remain consumers of universal knowledges regimes neverwouldwe be takenseriously as its producers. unfettered of race or nationality. The Str-uctur-al Transfor-mation of thePulblic Sphere.distinctfromthe 'publicness' and public opinion of the bourgeois public sphere. MIT Press. this access is of course dependenton being familiarwith the world of lettersand the printcultureof the time.Modernityas a conditionof existence is no longer modernity epitomized by a singularset of attributes manifestin particularlocalities of the West. 'a realm of our social life in which somethingapproachingpublic discourses opinion can be formed'. 3 J. has constantly in India are plagued public consciousness. The nationwas conceived as a collection of 2 J. New German Cr-itiqlue. This difference is well articulatedby Chatterjee: of The way in whichthe history of our modernity has been intertwined withthe history we have neverquitebeen able to believethat there existsa universal domainof colonialism.1997).though not necessarilyany compliance with them. 210.2But public opinion is informed by the rational-critical of citizens. 204. Habermas. As sovereign individuals. freediscourse.30 on Sat. where 'private people come togetheras a public'.democratic participation. In India . Chatterjee 'OurModernity'. 49.ThePrese7t History ofWestBenigal (Delhi.For .Habermas claims that'access is guaranteedto all citizens' to the bourgeois public sphere.Until the early twentieth century. (ed). translated by ThomasBurger (Cambridge.the formation states and the rightsof citizenship. 3 Aug 2013 08:33:20 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .the bourgeois public sphere first develops in the world of lettersbeforebeing appropriated by the public in the political realm.. Mass. certain values of rationality. Chatterjee. As aspirations of people in disparate locations. pp.p. inP.Two of national and territorial aspects of this. 'The PublicSphere:An Encyclopedia Article'.Habermas. 29-38.even thoughpeople emerged as a 'population'. Transnationalflows of information and images between nations have led to a universal recognitionof these norms.p. 'The same historicalprocess thathas taughtus the value reflected of modernity has also made us the victimsof modernity. citizens have rightsand responsibilitiesand it is through theirexercise of choice thatpublic opinion is formed. This content downloaded from 202. 1.. hence being informedof the rightsof the citizenry.fromthe very we have made a shrewd betweenmodem beginning guess thatgiventhe close complicity and modern of power. 3 (1974). enumeratedand classifiedby the colonial government throughits census and other taxonomic exercises . Increasinglyre-visionedas bricolage. the outcome is vernacularmodernities.4 modernity.41.p. have an important bearingon the making of the public sphere. However.this did not yield the 'public sphere' of Habermas. makingfora fraught and contestedpublic culture.3 of the public in India underBritishrule duringthe nineteenth has The trajectory century a different genealogy. munity. by differences Somehow. 5 Ibid.Habermas characterizesthe public sphere as one which mediates between state and civil.290 Journal ofSouthernz African Studies and Public Spheres Modernities The emergence of the public sphere is associated with capitalism and modernity.

8 BalgangadharTilak in Maharashtra.Spaces of Recognition 291 communities: Hindu. Controversiesranged fromhook-swingingduringfestivalsto the observance of the Ganapati festivalstartedby to the performance India. Public opinion foundarticulation underthe colonial regimeas performances and symbolic enactments. 8 N. and at other timesexpresses conflict amongunequals. Muslim. Economic and PoliticalWeekly. 1990).Comparative Colonialism and Anthropology Stuidiesin andHistory.underMahatma of transition fromcommunity Gandhi's leadership. Along withthe land question. 19. With the withdrawalof colonial rule the confines of public arenas have expanded..pp.30 on Sat. locale and henceaccommodates and reflects change. the public opinion of citizens findsdemocraticexpression not only throughthe media but also throughthe ballot. Exclusions fromthepublic spherecontinueapace through mechanismsof development stratifying and the market.R. The Construlction of Communialism in Colonial Nor-th India (Delhi. Christian. as theirsocial space through moral appeals and on Chatterjeesuggests. 1(January Lokmanya (Berkeley. Taking the example of a park in south 6 G. Public arenas in India did not emerge as a resultof social transformations like the coming of national and territorial conditionedby access states. Universal adult franchisehas dissolved the restrictions of property imposed on votersundercolonialism.B. For the others. the bourgeois public sphere is able to accommodate only those who articulatewithinrecognized folds. 3 Aug 2013 08:33:20 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .nor were theybased on free and equal participation to information.41. .theatre and symbol. to have recourse to such popular festivities. it is a worldtiedcloselyto thesocial and political contexts taneously. of the Rama-Lila in northern In all this a language of speaking to the British and with the other 'natives' was being fashioned.6It was also the period when. 9 P. 7 February 1988. Freitag.the Indian national movementacquired a mass following.Only a small elite section of the people had access to these.p. University of California p. Myth ofthe 39.1978).PlblicArenias and theEmergence of Comuzltialismn in Nor-th India (Berkeley.the victimsof the developmentprocess thatbuttressesthe 'modern' . 'Community in theEast'. those who remain marginalto the institutionalized apparatusesof power hardlyfindtheirviews included in public opinion.It is a universethat sometimes reinforces hierarchy. On the otherhand secular and religious festivities were able to attract Hence nationalistmobilizationsalso foundit necessary popular participation.the vocabulary of rightscarries littleresonance. Pandey. 7 S.10. Presently. This has been characterizedby Freitag as a 'public arena'. Society 1997). The communitarian contesting of public domains since the end of the nineteenth century created a space between the state and society that served as an arena of ritual acts and performances. Instead.1990). Press. Cashman.As social and economic inequalities widen.9This separate but contingent sphere is characterizedby him as 'political society'.Freitag definesher notion of public arenas as: a world of ritual.7 thatthe will of the public was Clearly it was in the realm of the symbolic and performative articulated undercolonialism. Parsi and Sikh. 182-212. Yet the question remainswhether the gap between citizens and subjects has been drasticallyreduced in post-colonial India. This content downloaded from 202. This thenwas the time displaced by a different to civil society. this was notion of a nation composed of 'citizens'. Dirks.. University of California Press.Public opinion undercolonial rule was manifested only in a limitedway through institutionalized political channelslike the courtsand legislatures. Chatterjee.'The Policing ofTradition: in SouthIndia'.public disputations increasingly ranged widely over religious observances and culturalperformances. But by the 1920s.it mayeven do bothsimulof its Most important.theyseek to constitute humanitarian grounds. The contestednatureof the public sphere in India is further demonstrated in Kaviraj's recent exploration of public space in Calcutta. Oxford UniversityPress. 210. In other words.forminga different domain fromcivil society.

The of the urban poor is a bit of both . pp. 57. he remarks. It showsin everyday order ofthemiddle form thecontest between class and thosewho flout its rules. 1 (1997). Africa.a 'culture in creolisation'.and it is interactivelyeverywhere'.GlobalCulture (London.p. calls attention to the porous and multi-sited natureof the global culturaleconomy and the of modernity in particularlocalities. Hannerz.Paradoxically. It seems to contribute to the greatpopularity at thecost of seriousmisunderstanding. 4 (1987).12Arguing against the idea of a homogenous modernity. 86. 546-559. Consuming Modernity: Public Culture in Contemporary India (Delhi. As he puts it. Kaviraj himself notes the historical specificityof Habermas's idea. Kaviraj. he analyses how different conceptions of the 'public' are culture.'5 Considering that modernitiesare not merely imported but produced and reproducedthey note that. 12 U. Appadurai andC. of uniformity... Featherstone (ed). 1990).10 Similar appropriationsof public space have been evident in regard to the Durga puja in festivalwhen poorerneighbourhoods have taken over the roads and public thoroughfares order temporarily to install theirpandals and Durga images.. Appadurai.11 argument However. Hannerz. Such appropriation of public notionof the public sphere spaces like pavementsand parks gives expressionto a different than the one spawned by Habermas. 10.1997). It is marked of diversity No total rather than by an organization by a replication of systems of meaning has occurred.defiance and complicity.10. 1-20. specificity beenwidely with oftheidea ofa 'publicspace' ignored. But the worldhas become one network andbetween itsdifferent is a flowof meanings as well as of people relationships regions there and goods. of anger and resentment against the elite. 15 A. This content downloaded from 202.'FilthandthePublicSphere: Concepts of Practices AboutSpace in Calcutta'. nordoes it appearlikely homogenization and expression of social thattherewill be one any timesoon. 84. He writes.'3 The interconnectedness of global modernity and the transnational flows thatcharacterizeit in the work of Appadurai. p.Oxford University Press. in such practicesof defiance. Habermas'swork shows precisely how a specificconfiguration of the idea of the public in themodem ofhiswork has thisquality ofhistorical emerged West. It allows the downtrodden a certainleverage against the state and at the same time extends a moral appeal for support among the middle classes.The defianceof civic mapped on to the uses of common space in a highlystratified normsby the poor not only violates the middle classes' notion of the properutilizationof public space like parks. scholars striving to showtheexistence in widelydissimilar of Habermas's cultures. it is interesting in [the]commonest of violation to readtheprecisemapping of ideas involved a bourgeois of civicrules. 'PublicModernity inIndia'.1996).292 Journal ofSouthern African Studies Calcutta (Deshapriya Park). 'Cosmopolitans andLocalsinWorld Culture'.inC.Kaviraj does not findthe prospectof revolutionary but only a representation transformation. 13 U. This promptsAppadurai and Breckenridge specificity to remarkthat 'Modernityis now everywhere. That of survivalforthe urbanpoor plebeian angerand recrimination is also a negotiating strategy is glossed over by him. Sage.14 Emphasizing the flow of images through is also foregrounded he electronicmediationand of goods and people throughthe marketand mass migration.as Hannerz puts it . 10 S. 11 Ibid.it is simultaneouslyeverywhere.41. 'The Worldin Creolization'. inM. Breckenridge. 14 A.pp. Breckenridge (ed).30 on Sat.Oxford University Press. self-expression The cultureof the modem has become . Modernity at Large (Delhi. 3 Aug 2013 08:33:20 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .but also articulatesa distinctnotion of common good. PublicCulture.

genders) constitute their forms by their experience in relation to thepractices of everyday life.Spaces ofRecognzition 293 of modernity and as their Most societiestodaypossess the meansforthe local production and inflect members move aroundthe world. 'PublicModernity 18 Ibid.2' Recogundergoingfragmentation nition of this fissive process is manifestedin the post-colonial era in institutionalized culturalpractices. gender.5. in India'.17 By detachingthe notion of 'public' fromits institutional connotationthey seek to expose a 'zone of culturaldebate'. see P.. an insightinto the rhetorics public cultureaffords of the modern . 19 The limits ofthediscourse ofreform havenowbeenbrilliantly interrogated inLata Mani. they contend thatthe: of publicculture has muchto do withthetensions and contradictions contestatory character between national sitesand transnational cultural processes. Envisaged as a zone withinthe process of globalization.41. Chatterjee.largely confined to urban a mode of differentiation thatexcludes a large body of people in India centres. it also creates a distinction those who do not. Chatterjee.have led commentators to invoke the image of a Bengal Renaissance. 4. NJ. The introduction of social reform widow immolation at the funeral pyre of Hindu husbands'9 and the spread of English education in Bengal . For as the notion of public culturedraws attention to the productionof betweenthose who consume and meaningthrough consumption. This content downloaded from 202. As sites of contention.these experiences inform one another. class. identities of mass mediated ethnic groups. as Westerneducation was largelylimitedto urban Hindu middle class males who came principallyfromthe rent-receiving classes and were complicitin maintaining British colonialism.religious and regional lines.18 In their overt attentionto transnational flows. 1986). and the Colon2ial World Nationialist Thought Zed Books.p. The imperative of cultural consumption. thus makingeven the paradigmatic modernity of the UnitedStates and Europe (itselfnot an no morepristine. 17 Appadurai and Breckenridge. TheNationt and its Fragmenits (Princeton.1994). (London.Contentious Traditions (Delhi.p.'6 unproblematic assumption) However.Oxford University Press. along caste. Consequently modern Bengali self-fashioning has been overtly restrictive.Its implication for post-colonial formationslike India and the deep ambivalences of the modem subject to modernity thereinremainsunnoticedby Appadurai and Breckenridge. theyconceive of public cultureas: in a variety ofhistorical setof arenas that haveemerged conditions andthat articulate thespace between lifeandtheprojects where different socialgroups domestic ofthenation-state (classes.20 Critical historical scrutinyhas subsequentlyunderscoredthe frailtyof such an analogy. 21 For an account of some of thesefragments. Shifting attentionfrom the Habermasian 'world of letters' and 'public opinion' to the mass 'consumptionof culture' and idiom of one-upmanship.1999).like the ban against sati or the practiceof Bengali self. It is this spirit of contestationin the public world that prompts Appadurai and Breckenridgeto propose the concept of 'public culture' in a globalized context.10. what this discourse of global culture omits is the unequal nature of power throughthe working of relations among global partnersand how these were constituted colonial difference. 3 Aug 2013 08:33:20 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Princeton University Press. 20 See thediscussion on theBengal Renaissance in P. they are less attentiveto the implications withinthe nation.30 on Sat.These practiceshave not remainedconstantbut undergonechange as they have been appropriatedand contested by the marginalcollectivitiesto speak to different 16 Ibid.constitutes fromits purview.

4. Mother GoddessesofIndia (Calcutta. Bhattacharji.p. She is accompanied by her fourchildren. Durga puja takes place in autumnduringthe bright fortnight It continuesfor four days at the end of which the images of the deities are taken out in public processions and immersedin the river. It is a show of respectand honourfora deitybut also refers to 'a formof ritual. This content downloaded from 202. By consideringDurga puja as integral to the public cultureof Bengalis. emitted from hismany assumed theform effulgence limbswhich of a woman. it has displaced the elite imagination from constituting the festivitiessolely in its own image. the figureof Durga represents to theirnatal families and be free fromthe young Bengali brides of yore. Saraswati (the goddess of learning).24 But in Bengal. hence her . Durga is not a singularfigure.She lookedawesomeand powerful and whenthegods saw herthey tookheart.Oxford University Press. K.the slayerof the buffalodemon.Durga is a powerfulgoddess and the consort of Lord Shiva. 25 S. The Worshipof Durga Puja means worship and comprises a part of everyday life in temples and many Hindu households.but protective. buffalo who had nearly demon. 23 C.294 Journal ofSouthern African Studies purposes.1982). I interrogate the changes that have occurred in the societal structureand expanded the horizons of participationamong the people.As the legend has it. TheDivine andthe Demoniac: Mahisa's HeroicStruggle with Durga(Delhi. Princeton University Press. wipedout thedivinearmy.p.P.30 on Sat.display and status have now been appropriatedby the non-elitesections of society as well. 62. In a sense. The formin which she is worshippedis known as Chandi (her fieryand warlike mode). Tamil Nadu and AndhraPradesh. piningto return constraints of theiraffinal stifling homes.Her furyis neithervengefulnor random. of the lunarmonthAswin. incorporating widespread popular participation fromdisparatecastes and classes.who visits her parental home annually for four the yearningsof days with her childrenin tow.22 Puja can also signify . The popularityof the festival has enhanced its festive aspect while eroding its ritual features.University of ChicagoPress.as the key festivalof the Bengali upper caste Hindus . Thus . 24 C. Play oftheGodsAmong Men (Chicago. 1995). At last he managed all thegods.as in the case of Durga when a particular puja . She is depicted as slaying the buffalo demon astride her lion.1992).32-33. a series of actions.and Ganesh (the elephant-headedgod of prosperity).Durga puja has increasingly become a secular and hybridentity. Bagchi.23 deityis worshippedand the legends associated with it evoked. Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth).an annual festival. and enabling women to emerge fromthe seclusion of theirdomestic sphere to inhabitpublic spaces duringthe period of the festival.41. Fuller.25 22 A.1995). 3 Aug 2013 08:33:20 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .Further. The mainadversary of thegods was Mahishasura.This has to an extent 'secularized' the worship of a Hindu goddess into a cosmopolitanfestival. Oster. Theneach of themcreated replicasof their own special weaponswithwhichtheyequipped her. This formof hers is not othername Mahishasuramardini unique to Bengal but well known in otherpartsof India like Maharashtra. The legend of Chandi which is invokedduringthe worshipof Durga clearly bringsto the fore the 'other' side of the benevolentmother. The Camnphor Flame (New Jersey.Kartik She is thus (the general of the army). and a set of attitudes'.10. Berkson. ragedbetween lasting nearly years. to defeat Drivenout of theirheavenly abode the divinepersonages wentto Brahmaand sought Brahma a dazzling protection. The attributes of conspicuous consumption. perceived as a benevolent motherfigure. Once a fierce a thousand battle thegods and thedemons.pp.

He is said to have begun it as a form of his forhis sin of bringing about the downfallof the Nawabs of Bengal through repentance. he gave up theshapeofa buffalo andturned intoa lion. 1947'. and said. Whenshecharged.28 In this way the people in the village who come to view the image of the goddess are blessed by herpowers.30 It was the exclusivityof engaging in this kind of worship that attracted othernotables. 6.1990).p.Worshippedprimarily the puja in pre-BritishBengal representeda mode of vertical integrationof the rural community. Oxford University Press. (ed). Das.roarand yell as longas and smashed them withherarrows She pierced I drink.Spaces ofRecognition 295 In the battle that ensued between the goddess and Mahisasura. Gupta. While the puja would be organized by the village landlord. In Calcutta. The latteradvised him to perform Durga puja. The puja became more popular under Raja Krishnachandra Roy of Nadia (1710-1782) who celebratedit on a grand scale. 1993. this exchange of vision enables the devotee to absorb the shakti (power) thatflows fromthe goddess's unblinkinggaze. for it is not a passive gaze.26 Withthisshe leapeduponthedemon.p. The Camphor Flame. Unpublished PhD thesis.puja was an occasion to 26 27 28 29 Ibid.p. 1981). the Sabarna Choudhuris of Barisha startedtheirown familypuja in 1606. WhenI destroy you thegods will roarand shout'. He was soon emulatedby Raja Jagatnarain of Bhaduria in Rajshahi district to note why Raja (also now in Bangladesh). she destroyedhis forces before confronting him. 30 J. This led to the end of independent Bengal as it came under Mughal rule.p. swordin hand. This content downloaded from 202. The buffalo demonwas uprooting and hurling themat her.Chaliha andB. 60. Originsof Durga Puja Durga puja in its present form of an annual festival was initiated in 1580 by Raja Kansanarayanof Taherpur(now in Bangladesh). She chopped in great and stampeded overall creation offitstrunk at which itresumed theshapeofa buffalo fury. In the rural areas of Bengal before the advent of the British. M. Kansanarayan summoned his Brahmin adviser Ramesh Shastriand asked him how he could atone forhis action.it would involve a wide section of the people in the village with the service castes providingtheirservices forthe successfulcompletionof thepuja. pierced The worship of Durga epitomizes this search for protectionand the benevolence of the a formof thanksgiving goddess.Durga puja represented fora bountiful in the ruralareas by individualelite families. 331. inS.29 During his times the puja 'was a grand but private affairin the elegant thakurdalan (courtyard of the deities) of the palace' .10. Considered as a harvestfestival. 'Changing Pattern oftheDurgaPujaFestival inBengalfrom theEstablishment ofBritish RuleinBengal in 1757 tillIndependence. D. Regrettinghis action. himwith herspikeand struck offhis head. AnimaBooks. Calcutta University. Darsana or gazing upon the image of the deity has a special significancein Hinduism. vol.30 on Sat. Chaudhuri TheLiving 'DurgaPujainCalcutta'.Calcutta: City. Eck.The goddessstruck a man came out of the decapitated offits head but immediately lion. It is significant Kansanarayan startedthe worship of Durga. Fuller.The goddessslew himin no timebutthenagain an elephant appearedin his place. Justas the devotee gazes upon the image the deityalso gazes upon the devotee and thereoccurs an 'exchange of vision'. 3 Aug 2013 08:33:20 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .27As it is believed thatthe deity is in the image. alliance with the Moghul emperorAkbar. the thirsty goddess drankher fill of wine and smiled with eyes reddenedin hillsand mountains intoxication.41. 12. 'You fool. The entirevillage would be fed on particular days of the festival and the village populace could join in the festivitiesby having darsana (seeing) of the deity. Now. which was accomplished with much pomp. harvest.Darsana (Chalmersberg.2 (Calcutta.

Ritualsas Popullar Cultulre:Towardsa and Culture. in B. 9. Togawa. But its emancipation from the confines of elite households did not lead to the decline of household celebrations of puja.Atul Sur reminiscesthat duringthis childhood in the therewere few baroari pujas. The rupee epitomizedthe holism description of the family or kin community.p. Ghose. This elicited its as solo-ana-puja (sixteen annas made a rupee).pp. Durga puja was carried early decades of the presentcentury out with great pomp and pageantry in the households of the urban elite in Calcutta.pp.'Gentooder DurgaPuja'(Babu's Durgapuja). The upper caste members of the locality attacked the principalorganizerfor defilingtheirpuja. Historico-AnthropologicalUnderstandingof Modern IndiantSociety (Tokyo.35 till about the fourth Dispute and contentions apart.an old Calcutta resident . 109-111. (30 September 1995).a village near Santipurin Nadia districtof West Bengal.'Baroari PujarSekalEkal' (ThenandNowofCommunity DurgaPulja). See M.jatra (folk theatre)and half akhrai (a formof bawdy withthe public worshipof singing).p. 60. MahendranathDutta . 35 Ibid. In Chinsurah.both flourishedconcurrently as the comprador babus of Calcutta now began to engage in status display through their sumptuous celebration of Durga ptuja. 1929.the baroari pujas were able to flourish a decline with decade of the nineteenth afterwhich such public worshipunderwent century. The elaborate preparations requiredfor the puja engaged the efforts of a large familyand members were not only allotted tasks but had a share in the puja.KolkataShaharer Itibritta(History of the Bak Sahitya.10.30 on Sat. Cityof Calcutta) (Calcutta. This content downloaded from 202. a dispute arose between the Vaishnavites and the Saivites (two denominated sects within Hinduism) over animal sacrifice at the puja in 1837. 33 A.a Dutch settlement near Calcutta.The baroari pujas rapidly proliferated during the early decades of the nineteenth centuryin the whole of Bengal.34 Sectarian disputes also arose in regardto the public worshipof Durga. Saptahik Bar-tarnan.Sports 1999).. 32 B.33 The committee collected public subscriptionsfrom the neighbouringvillages and like swang performeda glittering ceremony along with various kinds of entertainment (critical mimicry).296 Journal ofSouthernl African Stuidies reaffirm the social solidarity of the village and division of labour among the different castes. Science. 0 Pratha(Old Stories 36 M.inSteering Committee Project Institutions.pp. the Ritual Organisation ofDurgaPujainRural ofthe Research Bengal'. Networks and Forcesof Changein Contemporary SouthAsia (eds). 3 Aug 2013 08:33:20 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . The baroari pujas by going public also elicited Thus in 1821 a caste disputeeruptedat the Joynagar public conflicts. The coming together of twelve friends(hence baroari) in a committeeled to the first public worshipin 1790 at Guptipara. and diminishedglamour. 320-321. In effect.republished 1975). puppetry display.There was a strongassociation of public entertainment the goddess and Durga puja increasingly became a time of celebration. 1975). 8-10.36 31 In thesenseof thesixteen annasmaking up a rupee.also remembersthe puja in leading households duringthe first decade of the century.32 CelebrationBecomes Public The transition fromhousehold worshipof the mothergoddess to baroari (public) worship was made in the last decade of the eighteenth century. baroari puja in South 24 Parganas on the outskirts of Calcutta. Dutta. Ghose.Only a few of the baroari pujas survivedtill fallingsubscriptions the early years of the next century.the landlord enhanced his status throughhis redistributive capacity. Japanese Ministryof Education. 34 Ibid. when twelve brahminsformeda committeeto conduct theirown Durga puja.41. Sur. Kahinii andCustoms ofCalcutta) KolikatarPurzatani (Calcutta.3'In a sense the deity representedthe whole of the communityin its relation to the family of the local landlord.'RitualTowards Totality: Solo-ania-puja.over an invitation extendedto a man fromthe low weaver caste (tanti) to participatein the proceedings. As village solidaritywas maintained.

gimmickand excess. 1862. The greater the fanfare. This content downloaded from 202. Mitra. 3 Aug 2013 08:33:20 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Durga puja increasingly became associated with the gentoos or babus of Calcutta. This promptedthem to set up a community association and conducta sarbajanin (community) puja.38 establishment Organizers of these triedto smuggle in nationalistsymbols among the decorationfor the pujas surreptitiously the ire of the Britishgovernment who banned the Baghbazar puja goddess. During its early years. They were the ones who instituted the urban parvenus were the well-establishedold landlords like the Sabarna Choudhuris who also performed the puja with pomp and ceremony.an assertive Bengali nationalistself left its imprint on the celebrationof Durga puja. The religious aspect of the worship was overshadowed by lavish. R. 583.pp.37 By the second decade of the twentieth century. their craven but ineffective emulation of the English and their constant attemptto ingratiatethemselves with the colonial masters. 'Hutomer Chokhe Baroari Puja' (Community DurgaPija as Observed byHutum). by dancing girls and bawdy singers continued the nightduringthe festivedays.Yet . Gupta. Saptahik Bartaman. Some of this was thrownopen to the public throughout and the populace enjoyed the bawdy reparteesof the half-akhraisingers.41. p.but the decline of diminishedtheirnumber. This attracted for some years. 11-1 4. (30 September 1995).Spaces ofRecognition 297 In the latterhalf of the nineteenth century. the familypujas still continue in some of the elite families. 3 (1969).P.decoration and designer lightingfor the pandals became.some of the well-established familyfortunes and seek to emphasize the religious aspect of familypujas continueto maintaintraditions worship.PearychandMitra in his sketches of nineteenth-century life in Calcutta scathingly depicts the indulgence of the babus. in WestBengal'.'Gentooder DurgaPuja'. Nationalism and Community Festivals The baroari Durga puja gave way to the sarbajanin ptuja by the second decade of the twentieth It is said thata few distinguished century.dignity and aristocracy with the ceremonial rituals being performed withdevotion. the community puja or the sarbajanin Durgotsav had become popular. licentious and Such entertainment bawdy entertainment.The extremists . 37 P.who believed in the underground extremists of the national movement. Even beforeIndependence in 1947. These were people frommodest caste backgrounds who by virtueof theirservices as banians (money lenders) and gomasthas (accountants)to the leading BritishEast India Company officialsand merchantswere able to amass huge the familyDurga puja in Calcutta. Ghose.was marked by tradition.even today .thepuja of thegentoos was characterized by glitter.But the songs by professionalsingersand dancers were oftenmeant exclusively forthe babus ('gentlemen') and theirEnglish masters. landlords of the southernpart of Calcutta Sabarna Choudhuris. However. In these performances While the worshipof the of thepuja thereremaineda difference. gentlemenin northCalcutta had been insulted when they visited a familypuja.10. B. Hutum PanicharNaksha (Sketches ofHutum) (Calcutta.republished 1982).30 on Sat.'Puja Association ofAsianStudies.worshippedDurga as the embodimentof shakti(power) and promotedthe armed struggle of gymnasiumsfor the cultivationof physical culture. Durga puja now represented the cohesion and distinctiveness of the para (locality or neighbourhood). Alongside fortunes.Journal 38 J. Basumati Prakashani.some of the prominentsarbajanin pujas were associated with the nationalistmovement. the higher the esteem of the neighbourhood.who were the traditional . 28.Sarma. The Baghbazar sarbajanin or its neighbouring Simla Byam Samiti puja had connections with . The first such community worship was begun in Baghbazar (a localityin north Calcutta) in 1918.

which may have more to do with desire than with the occasion at hand. Christiansand dalits (untouchable) in the organizationof the puja . In multi-ethnic neighbourhoods(paras). huge amounts are spent on the construction of the pandal and lighting. Acharya. 'Sarbojonin Durgotsab'. Newspapers and magazines publish their annual numbersat this time withwriters vyingto outdo each otherin theircreativeoutput. As a result. Bose.5 million.10. 'PujorKolkatar ofCalcutta Bikalpalok' (TheWonderland During DurgaPuja). (30 September 1995). 347-353. The juxtaposing of incongruous objects and symbols in the decoration creates a mystique. These wondrousconstructions transform Calcutta duringthepujas into a heterotopic space.in 1969. whereas in 1995.'Puja Association Bengal'. Durga 39 B. of community pujas 300 650 759 901 1003 990 1104 1120 Sources: Banerjee. Baromnas. In the post-colonial era. as a Paris cathedral. Table 1 gives some idea of numbersin Calcutta.pp.40 Durga puja is associated with many aspects of Bengali life. Saptahtik Bartaman.The propensity to buy new important religiousfestival.it is also an important clothes or other goods for the festivalseason means that it is a time of intense business as popular singers tryto release their It is also a time for culturalcreativity transactions. 3 Aug 2013 08:33:20 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . specialDurga puja issue. the numberof communityor sarbajanin pujas has increased rapidly.41. 40 Banerjee. 15-18. 'DurgaPuja EkhonSponsor Nirvar'(DurgaPuja Now Sponsor Dependent).The escalation in the cost of sarbajanin Durga pujas can be gauged when we note that.298 Journal ofSouthern African Studies Table 1. a major community puja would cost about Rs37. Instead 'mega'-pujas obtain sponsorshipsfrom advertisements attachedto puja souvenirs. This money is no longer raised through the collection of individual subscriptions fromthe locality. This content downloaded from 202.as for instance in the Park Circus.000. 9 (September 1973).41Calcutta becomes a wonderlandduringthe days of the Durga puja as communitypuja organizers design theirpandals in the form of the Mysore Maharajah's Palace. decorationand lightingof thepandals and music played over the loudspeakers. theirbudget would range in the vicinityof Rsl-1.30 on Sat. It is not only the most annual event.39The increase in the numberof community pujas has meantthatthereis keen competition among localities to attract large numbersof people to theirpandals to have darsana of the deity. Muslims. 'SarbojoninDurgotsabin in West Calcutta'and Sarma. As has been argued recently by Bose. P.October 1997. Folklore. In an effortto catch the public eye.'Sarbojonin Durgotsab in Calcutta: A Preliminary of thePujas in 1969'. have also participated Wellesley Streetand Ripon Streetareas. Yearwise increasein the number of community Durgapujas in Calcutta Year 1954 1962 1968 1969 1977 1979 1994 1995 No.or as a famous Hindu temple fromSouth India. Report 14. Banerjee.innovationsare carried out in the makingof the image. as had been the practice earlier. 41 P. new songs and recordingsfor the festiveseason.pp.Usually large-scale advertisecompanies through mentsare obtainedby politicianswho are knownto patronizeparticular community pujas.

From the portals of the local landlords to the festivities of the urban populace.but ratherenables the masses to inhabitthe public domain without being its determinant. Durga puja has retainedits imprint of middle-classreligiosity and of imposing culturalhegemonyupon the population. Public spaces are taken over by the people who enjoy a temporary licence to transform the mundaneinto the spectacular. India This content downloaded from 202.Yet this does not invest the populace with subjecthood. Baishnabghota-Patuli Township. ANJAN GHOSH Centrefor Studies in Social Sciences. which transgresses religiousbounds.10.41. puja has become iconic of Bengali Hindu identity. 3 Aug 2013 08:33:20 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Durga It is a timeof festivity and consumption.30 on Sat. R-1. It is a time when incongruity is permissible and enables the masses to appropriatepublic space to give vent to theirimagination.Spaces ofRecognition 299 puja allows all this to be expressed in public.Calcutta-700 029.

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