In the Name of the Goddess

The Durga Pujas of Contemporary Kolkata

by Tapati Guha-Thakurta

The book
Each year, Kolkata’s Durga Puja scales new heights as the most spectacular and extravagant event in the city’s calendar. From the turn of the twenty-first century, the festival has taken on a particular artistic dispensation that is unique to the contemporary city, demanding a new order of attention and analysis. Based on field-research conducted between 2002 and 2012, this book unravels the anatomy of this newly-congured ‘art’ event, by tracking the new production processes, the mounting trends of publicity and sponsorship as well as the practices of mass spectatorship that make for the transformed visual culture of the festival. This new visual aesthetic, it is argued, has become the most important marker of the rapidly mutating identity of today’s Durga Puja in Kolkata, bringing into the fray new categories of artists and designers, new genres of public art, and new spaces for art production and reception in the city.

The book’s central concern lies in conceptualizing a specically contemporary and artistic history of the urban festival. In keeping with its title, the book examines the diversity of images and practices—from the consumerist spectacle and the bonanza of awards to the efflorescene of public installations and art and craft productions—that unfurls in this season ‘in the name of the goddess’.

While profiling the Durga Pujas as Kolkata’s biggest public art event, the book also addresses the ambivalence of the designations of ‘art’ and ‘artist’ in this field of production and viewership. One of the main aims of this study has been to lay open the claims of ‘art’ in this festival both as a set of insistent projections as well as a mesh of incomplete formations. The new artistic nomenclature of the festival, it is shown, is not easily secured and has to struggle to assert itself within the body of the religious event and the ephemeral mass spectacle.

Preface • Introduction • The City of the Festival • The Making of a New Civic Event • Pre-Histories of the Present On Artists and Awards • Pre-Histories of the Present On Pratima and Pandal Makers • The Age of the ‘Theme’ Puja • Demands and Dilemmas of Durga Puja ‘Art’ • Durga Puja Tours and Travels • Destruction, Dispersals, Afterlives • Glossary • Bibliography • Index

The Author
Tapati Guha-Thakurta 
is Professor in History and currently the Director of the Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC). Her two main books are The Making of a New ‘Indian’ Art: Artists, Aesthetics and Nationalism in Bengal, Cambridge University Press, 1992, and Monuments, Objects, Histories: Institutions of Art in Colonial and Postcolonial India, Columbia University Press and Permanent Black, 2004. She is also the author of several articles on the art and cultural history of modern India, and exhibition monographs, including In her own Right; Remembering the artist Karuna Shaha, Seagull, 2000; Visual Worlds of Modern Bengal, Seagull, 2002; and The City in the Archive: Calcutta’s Visual Histories, CSSSC, 2011. Along with Partha Chatterjee and Bodhisattva Kar, she has co-edited the anthology, New Cultural Histories of India: Materiality and Practices, Oxford University Press, 2014.

Students, scholars and faculty members of the Departments of Social and Cultural History, Contemporary History, Art History, Visual and Cultural Studies and Urban Studies. Libraries of colleges, universities, and research institutions, like Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (Shimla), Indian Council of Historical Research (Delhi), Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, Calcutta (CSSSC) etc. The book will also be interest to contemporary artists, art galleries and art and craft museums.


408 pp.         Imperial 8vo          Hardback          ISBN: 978-93-84082-46-8          Rs. 5500

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