Have you heard of the Poter Durga of Hatserandi?

Have you heard of the Poter Durga of Hatserandi?
A poter Durga canvas being prepared for this year’s festival. Photo credit: , Photo Credit: Shoubhik Bandyopadhyay

Go on a virtual walk through this village in West Bengal which still maintains an ancient and fast vanishing custom related to Durga Puja

Uttara Gangopadhyay
September 24 , 2020
03 Min Read

The very mention of Durga Puja, the famous annual festival celebrated by Bengalis all over the world (at the same time rest of India celebrates Navratri), brings to mind large idols of the 10-handed goddess in her demon-slaying pose, riding a lion, and accompanied by her four children and their mounts.

Although idol worship is the more popular form, in the ancient days, the goddess would be worshipped through paintings too. Unfortunately, the concept, popularly known as ‘Poter Durga’ (the Bengal word ‘pot’ meaning ‘picture’ or ‘painting’) is almost fading, both as a ritual and as art. Only a few households in West Bengal still follow the practice. Hatserandi, a small village tucked in Birbhum district of West Bengal, is one such place.

 
 
 
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“We want to draw people’s attention to this nearly vanishing practice,” said Tathagata Neogi, cofounder of Heritage Walk Calcutta (a for-profit social enterprise based out of Kolkata), “and hope to gather support for its preservation.”

With the pandemic crisis looming large over the festive celebrations, and people willing to travel virtually, Neogi and his team decided to take the opportunity to showcase it to a large audience through a virtual walk.

According to Shoubhik Bandyopadhyay, with whom the team is collaborating on the research front, Hatserandi village (near Bolpur/Shantiniketan) is home to several families who have been worshipping Poter Durga for more than two centuries.

Said Neogi, even the number of artists painting Poter Durga is dwindling. Many of them have also shifted from traditional styles to modern expressions. Many from the younger generation have taken to idol making as it is more paying.

The goddess and her children are painted on life-size canvases on-site. They are retained for the whole year and taken for immersion only when the new canvas is prepared the following year, said Neogi.

Rituals around the Nabapatrika is important for Hatserandi Poter Durga festival

The virtual walk will not only take the viewers directly to Hatserandi during Durga Puja but also show them how the paintings are done, hold interviews with artists, talk about the rites and rituals, etc.

Called ‘Hatserandi Poter Durga Trail’, these deeply researched and immersive virtual walks are open for a global audience on payment basis.

There will be both English and Bengali language tours at different hours on October 21, 22, 24 and 25. 


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Although Goddess Durga is commonly worshipped in the form of clay idols in Bengal’s greatest festival, a long withstanding century’s old tradition of “Pa?er Durg?” in rural Bengal is still practised across its several districts, particularly in the geo-cultural territory of R?rh Bengal in Birbhum, Bankura, Bardhaman and Paschim Medinipur Other than the traditional painting activities that have prevailed in Bengal since ages viz, narrative scroll “Patachitra” by the Patua community who paint and sing songs while depicting them for a living, floor and wall paintings practised by women known as “Alpana”, painting of dolls made with clay and wood, another significant form of painting is that which is practised on round terracotta plates (“Sara Pata”) and single frame paintings known as “Chouko Pata” (Square Pata) With reference from the oldest “Patas” found in Bengal which represented images of Gods and Goddesses, it is implied that “Patachitra” emerged as a substitute to three dimensiona
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