This is a thorough and critical study of the cult of Goddess Chandi-a study which throws valuable light on some features of the socio cultural history of Bengal.
Cult of Chandi, as evidences stand today, can well be held as a pursuit of comparatively recent origin, as compared to many other Brahmanical deities held in worship among people today. But the growth of this cult had been closely linked to the wide spread belief in a female element revered as the mother phenomena from remote ages.
Analysis of data made in this monograph reveals that the goddess Chandi is found to have come to an intimate proximity of the life and activities of the people of Bengal, the rise of urban culture and spread of trade and commerce, revealing a highly colourful panorama of intense and vibrant existence.
The monograph is divided into five chapters: I. Introduction, II. Story of Chandimangal, III. Social and Cultural import of the Chandimangal story, IV. Goddess Chandi in sculpture and painting, and V. Epilogue. A select bibliography and nearly twenty five illustrations, including many unpublished ones, enrich this volume, which can be considered as an outstanding contribution to the study of the history of Indian art and iconography.
The author, Somnath Mukhopadhyay, M.A. (Cal), Ph.D. (Cal), is a product of Calcutta University. A devoted student of Indian art and archaeology, he has contributed nearly twenty five papers in various art and antiquarian journals. At present he is Head of the Department of History of Art, Government College of Art and Craft, Calcutta.
THE WORK to which these words are being added by way of an introduction is meant to bring to the notice of the academic circle the nature and background of a deity which has been enjoying a very wide popularity in Bengal for quite an extent of time. The complexes which have contributed to the growth and promotion of culture among the vast masses of people of our country are of a very diverse nature and provide very interesting scope of study. Not much endeavour has been made to go into the details about these complexes, the diversities of which had been success fully fused into a culture of caleidoscopic nature synthesised into a composite whole. This synthesis had provided all contributing groups their place of honour and respectability securing for them a feeling of oneness within the integrated whole. Today when exigencies of economic and political nature tend to exploit the diversities in the multi-dimensional constituents of the society, it becomes increasingly pertinent to take a critical appraisal of the philosophy involved in the processes through which people of different ethnic groups having diverse cultures, beliefs and life styles were brought into a unified whole within which each of those could find a happy and reverential position. The cult of Candi provides one evidence of such an acculturation in the social perspective of Bengal, having been accepted in the orthodox fold to be provided with a position of considerable veneration and high responsibility. The name Candi seems to have been evolved from the austric word Canda indicating strength and hardness compliant with rock which in part as stone finds great veneration among many tribal groups of people as symbolic of the ultimate power and which had been admitted in orthodox fold as symbolic in the Lingam in case of god Siva and the stones symbolising the Matrikäs in village sanctuaries. The name Candi in every possibility finds mentioned for the first time in the Bhishma parva of the Mahabharata where she is invoked as one and the same with the great mother goddess Durga who is also known by such other names as Kal (the dark also implicating Kala i.e.
THE PRESENT monograph which deals with the history of the cult of goddess Candi is the outcome of my research work. The purpose of the present work is to represent a general study about the goddess Candi and an attempt is made to highlight the historical development of the same through the ages in Bengal. My primary endeavour has been to trace the origin of the cult of Candi, study the religious background and the popular lores behind the cult and the numerous representations of the deity in sculpture and painting preserved in Bengal and the neighbouring areas.
While selecting the subject of present study, I was mainly attracted by the colourful patas of Bengal found displayed in the show cases of different museums. I noticed that very limited work has so far been done on this tradition and the art associated with it and thought that a detailed study on the subject might bring about various facets of the art and culture prevalent in this part of India from an early age.
The present study has two aspects-historical and artistic treatment of the material available in different museums. The method adopted for the study of the subject has been mainly based on Indian literature, records, previous works done by different scholars on the subject published in journals, catalogues and books and a detailed study of the specimens of art found preserved in different museums of Bengal, Bihar and Bangladesh. In this connection I have particularly taken note of the representation of the goddess found in the following museums: Indian Museum, Asutosh Museum of Indian Art, Museum of the Directorate of State Archaeology, Government of West Bengal, Gurusaday Museum of Folk Art, Museum of the Bangiya Sahitya Parishad all in Calcutta, etc.
THE HISTORY of the worship of famale deities in India goes back to a remote past, as early literary evidence from the Vedic period downwards and the excavations at Mohenjodaro, Harappa and other places would amply indicate. But the conception of a central goddess revered as Devi or Sakti, to whom all other female deities were affiliated as her parts or incarnations, and the Puranic works dealing the concept of the deity, her nature, exploits and mode of worship were matters of comparatively later origin. As a matter of fact, there have been Mahapuranas dealing with the rites, customs and faiths of the Brahmanas, Pañcaratras and Pasupatas for long, even from the early days of the Christian era, but not a single work of this class has ever dealt exhaustively or even principally with Sakti-worship, although chapters on the praise and worship of different forms of Devi are to be found in the Märkandeya Purana, Vamana Purana, Varaha Purana, Karma Purana¹ and such other principal Puranas of the Brahmanical pantheon.
At a comparatively later age there grew up a number of Sakta Upapuranas of note, of which the following have come down to us: the Devi Purana, Kalika Purana, Mahabhagavata, Devi Bhagavata, Candi Purana (or Candika Purana). It may be mentioned here that these Upapuranas very often deal with the central goddess referred to as Devi and sometimes to one or other of her principal forms such as Durga, Kali (or Kalika), Candi, Sati, etc., although the growing popularity of the conception of Sakti in India inspired people to look upon every female deity as a Sakti (Active Energy) of a particular male god, to whom she was associated, very often as a wife.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
Children’s Books (39)
Brahma Sutras (86)
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