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We are Entering the month of September after having witnessed the wonderful spectacle of Ganesha Chaturthi. The atmosphere of celebration is in the air as our news channels are filled with images of the festivities, with countless Bollywood actors and actresses attending Puja and joining in the celebrations. We have seen an array of new innovation this year; in light of the environmental crisis facing our planet (India’s rivers being some of the most affected) a number of eco-friendly idols have emerged, including a new trend of chocolate Ganesha idols! The evolution and development of our rich culture never ceases to impress, and refreshing to see the tradition is still being contributed to by forthcoming generations.

It has also been a climate of political unrest with devastating effects for some of our Northern states following the tumultuous trial of a well known religious icon. Throughout the ages religion has sadly seen incitement to barbarity. But lest we forget, religion also brings joy, hope and celebration. It connects communities and gives emergence to all manner of art. It is the latter aspect of religion which Art and Deal are wholeheartedly celebrating in our Durga Puja special issue this September.

We begin with a photo-story by Sanjay Das; as part of his seven year project ‘A Photo Essay on Bengal’ he depicts the ritual of ‘Tarpan’ (also known as Shradh in the Northern states) whereby devotees pay remembrance to deceased ancestors.

Partha and Priyanka Mukherjee delve into the rich and deep history of Durga Puja in our cover story ‘Durga Puja: Celebtation of Art and Creativity’. The authors focus on the idol makers, who play perhaps the most important role of all. We gain insight into the lives of these skilled artists and craftsmen who tirelessly prepare year-round for the festivities. In our cover story we also realize how modernization and commercialization of this festival has impacted the seasonal income of these individuals who have been involved in the trade for generations upon generations. Swati Mishra contemplates the future of artists in this rapidly evolving society where new traditions and materials are being explored and the methods of the past are being priced out.

The history of the magnificent Puja Pandal’s which house the festivities and art within, is covered by the reputable Dr. Meghali Goswami. Dr. Goswami explores the architectural design works of these structures in her essay ‘Durga Puja Images and Pandals of Silchar: Storyteller of Tradition, Socio-culture and Aesthetics’ giving us insight into the practices within Northeast, specifically the Assamese city of Silchar. The history of Durga Puja is concisely summarized, the religious backbone behind it and the personal meaning to those who worship.

Dr. Ganesh Nandi’s article ‘Panpatti’ (a Northeastern home of idol making) highlights the strife of traditional idol makers in the modern age, and also touches on the uniqueness of the sex work industry existing on the same streets as the idol makers workshops. It’s not just locality that links the two professions; in Durga Puja soil from outside a prostitutes home is offered in worship (as to why, there are many theories) and it’s for the reader to decide whether this is genuine inclusivity or not. The history of Puja in another Northeasters vicinity of Barak Valley, Assam is also explored by Shanku Sharma.

Lina Vincent Sunish converses with young collectors Rohini Sen and Eshwar Naidu on the practice of displaying dolls and figurines during Navarathri in honor of the Goddess.

Photographer Partha Seal takes us on a visual journey of the goddess’ idol during Durga Puja, from her earthy creation to her immersion on the very last day.

September is also the month in which we will celebrate Dussehra (marking the end of Durga Puja) and also featured in this issue is a bold photographic portrayal of the Dusshera festivities in Delhi. Photographer Pranab Seal masterfully captures the vibrant Dussehra celebrations in Delhi in his photo-story.

Rajesh Punj brings our international art news with his interview with world renowned British sculptor Richard Deacon who elaborates on his creative process. As for the recent happenings in the Indian art scene, Malika Chakrawarti reviews ‘In Retrospect: Recollections of four abstract loving artists’ and as usual we feature a selection of the best upcoming Indian and international art exhibits and events.

Happy reading. We wish you a very happy and blessed Durga Puja.. -Siddhartha Tagore

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