Making of Goddess Durga: Cultural Heritage in Bengal

By John Rueben Davies, School of History | Arts lead for Challenges in Changing Cities

In December 2021 UNESCO inscribed Durga Puja in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Durga Puja is an annual festival celebrating Hindu goddess Durga. In the run up to the festival, many small sculptures or idols (pratimas) of the goddess are created from unfired river clay to be used as part of the celebrations.

Coinciding with this landmark UNESCO recognition of the Bengali cultural panorama, we would like to highlight the publication of The Making of Goddess Durga in Bengal: Art, Heritage and the Public. The book is edited by Professor Samir Kumar Das and Dr Bishnupriya Basak from the University of Calcutta. Access to the eBook is via the publisher  or through Glasgow University Library.

The book explores the evolution of the making of the festival’s pratimas as both art, and as cultural heritage; and the relation of this heritage to public space. The collection of studies draws attention to the diverse questions and challenges arising from the art and heritage of Kumartuli, the Kolkata neighbourhood which forms the hub for the making of the pratimas. There is also a case study by John Reuben Davies on the celebration of Durga Puja and other aspects of Bengali culture in Glasgow.

The Making of Goddess Durga is an output of a GCRF-funded project co-ordinated by John Reuben Davies (University of Glasgow – Arts lead for Challenges in Changing Cities), and the books’ editors.

The Challenges in Changing Cities research theme is about the heritage and culture of people who live in cities, as much as it is about urban planning. The Making of Goddess Durga highlights the challenges of heritage facing the community of Kumbhakars (religious sculptors) in Kumartuli and wider Bengal, opening up cross-disciplinary conversations at the interface between art history, the sociology of aesthetics, politics and government, social history, cultural studies, social anthropology and archaeology.


First published: 11 April 2022