Maa Durga is Not a Hapless Migrant as the Leftist Intellectuals Have Portrayed Her

Durga Migrant Worker Idol

With still five days to go for the Durga Puja, 2020, a Durga Murti, to be on display at the Barisha Club, Behala has become a major bone of contention and debate between the Bengalis. The Durga Murti here depicts Maa Durga as a migrant laborer carrying a naked baby boy in her lap and two of her daughters by her side.

A section of the Bengali populace feels that such a depiction, which has become a norm with the Kolkata Pujas in recent times, goes against the very essence and spirit of Durga Puja. Durga Puja is commemorated to pay obeisance to ‘Shakti’, the Supreme being, the source of all power and energy, in the feminine form. Maa Durga is the epitome of feminine power in which she is created and empowered by the Devas to vanquish the evil in the world, depicted by Mahishashur. By depicting her as a vulnerable and hapless migrant laborer is an erroneous portrayal, totally opposite of what Maa Durga symbolizes. Maa Durga is the epitome of power and valour, encouraging the women of India to fight against her wrong-doers. She is the warrior, not the victim as this migrant labourer image portrays.

Over the past few years, we have witnessed a slew of weaponless Durga Murtis, where Maa is seen holding up her arms as a gesture of peace. This is far removed from Maa’s Dashaprohoronodharini image, which underlines the spirit of the Puja. Hence such portrayal has been rightfully criticized by the common Bengali populace, who feel this is nothing but a mischievous leftist liberal ploy to undermine the basic puja component inherent in the Durga Utsab, which the latter group wish to retain only as a festival for fun and fanfare, gradually trying to eliminate Puja and retain only the Utsab or the festival part.

This is being seen as a direct attack on a Hindu festival and consequently on the Hindu identity because such tampering with the essence and rituals of any other religious community is not seen, nor do these communities permit such dilution of their religious practices. Their evolution and modernization are not at the cost of their religious beliefs, which the Leftist liberals are trying to do to the Hindus. Another argument against such depiction is that the ‘peaceful’ gesture of Maa Durga, as is visible in these murtis, is nothing but conveying of a message to the Bengalis that they rather not fight any wrongdoing meted out to them or retaliate, thus influencing an already weakened community to be weaker.

 The leftist liberals are the primary apologists for such ‘out of the box’ depiction of Maa Durga, in the name of creativity and also to defy the hindu nationalism, which they feel is associated with the craving for Maa Durga’s Dashaprohoronodharini image. They feel such ‘unorthodox’ depiction makes the Durga Puja more attractive worldwide and such pujas are crowd pullers too. What these leftists fail to see is that the Durga Puja has attracted the interest of the Western world all along, even when such puppet-like depiction of Maa Durga was not done.

Besides, the age-old renowned Pujas of Kolkata, like the Mudiali Club, Ekdalia Evergreen Club, Bhaghbazar Sarbojonin, College Square, Maddox Square, Samaj Sebi Sangha, Ballygunge Cultural Association, and Shimla Beyam Samity have never compromised with their depiction of Maa Durga, which is the traditional Dashaprohoronodharini murti or the ‘Daker Saaj’, since the inception of these pujas, are bigger crowd-pullers than the neo pujas with ‘out of the box’ themes. No amount of pandal hopping is complete without visiting these pujas.

While the artist and the sculptor, Rintu Das and Pallab Bhowmick, who conceptualized and created the ‘Migrant labourer’ murti of Maa Durga in order to pay tribute to the migrant labourers who had suffered during the Covid- induced lockdown, their Durga murti brings forth a few fallacies. Rintu Das was heard mentioning in a short video posted in his Facebook page that, during the lockdown period, the only image that came to his mind was that of herds of migrant labourers walking tirelessly to reach their destinations, that of their homes.

But there is no element of doubt that his concept of Maa Durga is a mirror image of ‘Darpamoyee’, a painting by the legendary painter Bikash Bhattacharya – a woman and her child, in confrontation with the army. Painted in oil, this painting is from his “Durga” series, 1989, i. E more than 30 years back. However, when the images of the Murti in contention surfaced, no acknowledgment of the original work of art was seen anywhere, either by the artist or the sculptor.

Besides, the artist, Rintu Das also did not mention that his creation was influenced by a 30-year old Bikash Bhattacharya painting, rather he mentioned it as his own visualization of a female migrant laborer during the lockdown.

Though each individual is entitled to his/her own points of view, it is not surprising that many netizens questioned how the extremely creative artist, who had conceptualized many Puja themes for well-known clubs like Tarun Sangha, Nalin Sarkar Street Sarbojonin, and of course the Puja in question, Barisha Club, never thought of our real heroes during the pandemic times, the Corona warriors, viz, the doctors, many of whom laid down their lives serving the patients. If the theme of Barisha Club had to be ‘Relief’, why not pay tribute to those volunteers or sevaks/sevikas who braved the pandemic to provide relief to that in need is another valid question.

Some of the netizens who expressed their anguish and dismay at such a portrayal of Maa Durga. Noteworthy was what one of them, Baisakhi Banerjee, IT professional, who trended #StopBreakingMyTraditions with this hard-hitting post.

The fact that Das and Bhowmick’s migrant laborer depiction of Maa Durga is being shared and appreciated in various web portals and Facebook pages of the Left Front leaves no element of doubt that such portrayal is nothing short of leftist propaganda. Ironical is the fact that Bengal, witnessed the exit of a large number of industries during this very leftist era on account of left sponsored militant trade unionism hampering the work culture here, a policy carried on by the incumbent state government, compelling a vast number of Bengalis from all work strata to migrate outside Bengal.

Hence complaining about the plight of migrant laborers seems to be a sort of self-goal for the leftists. The fact that one netizen, Parthajeet Dutta, was threatened with violence and police complaint against him by another blogger because he merely said that he didn’t like the portrayal, indicate the intolerant and belligerent nature of the leftists, which has remained unchanged despite their dwindling public support.

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To sum it up, the general belief is that Durga Puja should not be used as a platform to experiment with liberal art with the intent to dilute the traditional hindu practices and imagery. Any attempt to erase the Puja part and convert it totally into a non-festive, artistic carnival, meant for all communities, should be vehemently thwarted if the hindu community of Bengal wishes to maintain it’s religious and ethnic identity. Experiments with art can be done in separate art exhibitions during the Pujas and otherwise.

Ranita Chanda

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