Creating an image of the goddess

12 August – 27 September 2006

This exhibition is now closed

Great Court

Part of the Voices of Bengal season

To launch the Voices of Bengal season, craftsmen from Bengal created a spectacular image of the goddess Durga killing the buffalo-headed demon Mahisha, in the Great Court.

The image was made using straw, clay and paint, and visitors were able to see the whole process, from the construction of the initial wooden structure, to the painting of the giant figures on the tableau, which were then ornamented and dressed. It is a rare, outside of Bengal, to be able to witness the remarkable skills of the West Bengali craftsmen creating the image of Durga.

There was also a display of photography by John Williams of the construction of images of the goddess Durga in Calcutta on show in the Clore Centre foyer.

The British Museum would like to acknowledge the benefit of experience gained from the Scottish Indian Arts Forum and National Museums of Scotland's Making a Durga project in Edinburgh 2002.

The British Museum would also like to acknowledge the support of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) with the Durga project.

Construction project

The construction project was organised by the British Museum, the London Durga Puja Dusserah Committee (LDPDC) and the Crafts Council of West Bengal.

The image of Durga was created by Nemai Chandra Pal (master-craftsman) and his two assistant image-makers Biswajit Chakraborty and Madhu Sudan Pal.

Construction took place between 12 August and 24 September 2006 in preparation for the worship of the goddess during the Puja festival (Durga Puja), which the LDPDC organised at the Camden Centre (Bidborough Street, London, WC1). The images were then ritually immersed in the Thames by Putney Bridge on 2 October 2006.

The completed tableau, 24 September 2006
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    The completed tableau, 24 September 2006

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    Biswajit Chakraborty, Nemai Chandra Paul and Madhu Sudan Paul, 22 August 2006

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    Nemai Chandra Paul and Biswajit Chakraborty, 23 August 2006

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    Tableau in progress showing figures covered with straw, 23 August 2006

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    Madhu Chandra Paul applying clay to the image of Durga, 8 September 2006

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    Image of Durga, 8 September 2006

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    Left to right: Ganesh, Lakshmi, Durga with lion, Mahisha, Saraswati and Kartik, 9 September 2006

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    Durga's lion and Mahisha (buffalo demon), 12 September 2006

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    Saraswati (goddess of lion) and Kartik (warrior god) mounted on a peacock, 15 September 2006

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    Painted head of Mahisha, 15 September 2006

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    Nemai Chandra Paul

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    Nemai Chandra Paul

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    Nemai Chandra Paul

The completed tableau, 24 September 2006