With Durga Puja just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to delve into books that deal with various aspects and themes surrounding the Goddess and that of the Hindu scriptures. Here are some books that will satisfy the reader’s desire to sit down with a good read during the Durga Puja holiday.
DURGA PUJA: CELEBRATE THE GODDESS, THEN AND NOW
This book serves as an introduction to Durga Puja and explores how the celebration provides insight into the rich cultural heritage of Bengal. Covering multiple aspects of the Puja – from its origins, socio-cultural evolution, commercialization and elaborate rituals and their symbolisms, the book is filled with stories collected from various journals and newspapers from the 19th century to the present day.
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PROTHOM PRATISRUTI, 1967
Prothom Pratisruti, part of Subarnalata Trilogy, was written by Ashapurna Devi. It’s a story that highlights the struggles of middle-class women who want to enjoy the same rights as men but are shackled by the chains imposed on them by patriarchy. In the story, the protagonist Satyavati rejects the traditional roles of a wife and with great difficulty sets up a school for girls. Throughout the story, Satyavati’s strong character will certainly remind the reader of Goddess Durga, as her indomitable passion and strength reflect the attributes of the Goddess.
Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury, 1965
An abbreviated version of the two main “Itihasas” or mythological legends of Hinduism, the book tells the life of the character of Rama, a virtuous prince of Ayodhya, sent into exile for 14 years in the forest by his father, King Dasharatha. Rama travels through the forests during exile with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana, where Sita is kidnapped by the demonic Ravana – king of Lanka. This results in a war between Rama and Ravana as well as Rama’s eventual return from exile at the end of the war.
It is widely believed that Rama defeated Ravana in battle by killing him on the Dashami day of the Durga Puja after seeking the blessings of the Goddess herself. While the original epic is around 24,000 verses, this particular abridged version makes the story accessible to readers from different walks of life.
IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF RAMA: JOURNEYS WITH THE RAMAYANA
Vikrant Pande and Neelesh Kulkarni
(Harper Collins, 2021)
When reading the Ramayana, one should be curious to know to what extent places or people mentioned in the book are historically real. In Footsteps of Rama details the quest of Vikrant Pande and Neelesh Kulkarni as they try to trace the legendary journey of Rama. They travel from Ayodhya to Dandakaranya Forest and Panchavati (near Nashik) and Kishkindhya (near Hampi), Rameshwaram and Sri Lanka.
During their travels, they explore the extent to which local and regional folklore is linked to the Ramayana narrative, and how the Ramayana story is still relevant to people living where Rama and his fellow travelers would have mapped.
(Mowla Brothers, 2005)
Dhakar Smriti– a series of memoirs written by cultural figures who have lived at one time or another in Dhaka – contains several sections describing cultural festivals as they have been celebrated over the years. From Janmashtami to Saraswati Puja and Durga Puja, reading the older anecdotes makes you think about how the city and its Durga Puja celebrations have evolved over the past decades.
Hrisik Roy is an intern at Daily Star Books. Contact him at [email protected]