Gomira_A Dying art of Bengal

IMG_2945mThe Gomira dance is also part of the ritualistic dance forms that prays the Adi-Shakti or the primordial energy. Thus Gomira also celebrates Shaktism or worships Lord Shiva just like other dance forms like Gajan and Neel puja. The worship of Lord Shiva can go long back into the history when primitive animistic festivals were practiced to please the sun god, fire god and various other gods. With the advent of Buddhism,. The Hindu Lord Shiva and Parvati were replaced by Bodhisattva and Tara. Later as Hinduism was revived, the female deities Adya and Chandi became more pronounced and were worshipped as much as Shiva. The festival is celebrated mostly at the end of Bengali year . Gomira is actually an animistic tradition in which the primitive people pay their homage to different Gods in order to attain security. The Gomira dance have extensive .The festival is celebrated mostly at the end of Bengali year by use of wooden masks. The artists wear various masks which depicts various incarnations of Kali, Nrisingha and ghosts.

Though Gomira is celebrated in jalpaiguri and Dinajpur, it’s originated from Malda. Traditionally the Gomira starts four days priour to the end of Chaitra and ends in the first day of Baisakh. However the tradition is not followed strictly now a days and it starts on the last day of chaitra at Kushmandi.

The wooden masks are the symbol of the richness of the craftsmanship of the local people. Masks of various forms of kali,the rakshashas(deamons) animals are used. Nrisingha masks are very common.

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Before the play priest worship the mask used during the dance.

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It is interesting to know that Narasingha a figure of Chandi is transformed into Narasingha a figure of vishnu.

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The wooden masks are traditionally objects of worship and devotion. The craft of Gomira mask-making, in its pristine form, catered to the needs of the Gomira dancers and any villager wishing to give a mask as an offering to the village deity. The Gomira dance masks of Dinajpur district have ensued from animistic practices of the Desi and Poli communities of the Rajbongshis. The Gomira dances or Mukha Khel are organised to propitiate the deity to usher in the ‘good forces’ and drive out the ‘evil forces’ during the harvesting season. Traditionally, the Gomira dance starts with the entry of the characters Bura-Buri, who are the human representations of Shiva and Parvati. Apart from serving the ritualistic purpose, the dance performance is also a source of joy and gaiety for the villagers.

There are no specific green room for their make up but a open space, generally backyard of any village house.
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During preparation they help each other to put on mask or dress. As the masks are so heavy they have to be fastened carefully and securely.
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The play is only performed by the males but they also enact the character of the females. There are differences in the costume of male and female characters,Genarally Male wears triple layered skirt and a jacket , sometimes dhoti and woman wears saree. Almost everyone wears “ghungur” and “waistband”. There costume is also very primitive.
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The place where the dance is performed is called “gomira tola”. There are no specific dance pattern but the dance is famous for the energy and vigour. There is no narration of stories but several musicians are seen playing different instruments. Overall performance is very colorful indeed.
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  • In 2013 a memorandum of understanding was signed between the West Bengal government and UNESCO to promote culture-based livelihoods to change for the better for these mask-makers.
  • Banglanatak, a social enterprise that partners with UNESCO worked for capacity building among the mask-makers at the ground level

In “Mukha mela”organized by state govt of West Bengal about 186 wooden mask artisans, 171 pottery artisans, 63 cane and bamboo artisans and mukha artisans from North and South Dinajpur will take part in the festival. There will be folk programmes at the festival, which has been organised by the Mahishbathan Gramin Hasta Shilpa Samabay Samity and is supported by West Bengal Khadi and Village Industries Board (WBKVIB). It may be mentioned that many of the traditional wooden mask makers had left the profession and joined some other vocation to earn money. Other steps are already taken by the department of MSME to give special emphasis for the revival of this special art form.

The masks making part is the most important part in Gomira dance. It is performed to propitiate the deity, usher in the ‘good forces’ and drive out the ‘evil forces’. Themes of the masks are usually spiritual, historic and religious. The department of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises & Textiles, in association with UNESCO, has developed a Rural Craft Hub at Kushmandi. The artisans’ collective runs a Folk Art Centre, which is also equipped with accommodation facility for guests. One can participate in workshops; learn about the history of the community and craft, nuances of mask-making and the fascinating associated stories.

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The Kushmandi village is a home of Gomira mask makers. Almost every house in the village makes wooden masks . Now a days bamboo masks, various other wooden items are also very common products , which are prepared by the artists of Kushmandi. It’s a great experience to visit kushmandi and see the heritage mask makers at their work.

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Celebration of Holi in Kolkata

After a hectic season of celebrations finally spring has come with its  own charm and a wedding photographer has got some time to write a new blog post 🙂

Though I chose wedding and event photography as my profession, travel and street photography is my passion. The street is the actual stage for the life , enacted in different form and obviously the same scene never gets repeated. This is the secret of my love towards street.

Kolkata holds different stories from different parts of it and this time of the year is the time for celebrating colors, The Spring Festival.

COLOR represents love, ecstasy, madness, youth and after all celebration of Life. And when the place is Kolkata, it reveals all the elements of color. But today I am not here to show you only the picturesque moments of the celebration but the behind the scene stories are equally interesting.

In Kolkata Holi (another name of spring festival) / basantotsav is celebrated in different form in different place. It is started few days before the actual calendar date as well as on the day.

Jorasanko Thakurbari/ Rabindrabharati University:

Basant Utsav literally means the ‘celebration of spring’. The beautiful tradition of welcoming spring in Bengal was first started by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, at Vishwabharati Shantiniketan, the University founded by him. Actually, Basant Utsav is no different from Holi, except for the gracefulness with which it is celebrated. The former is celebrated in a much dignified manner, compared to the boisterous Holi witnessed in most parts of India.

On the day the students  dressed in yellow (basanti) color, welcome spring – the season of hope, in a very elegant manner. They greet spring not only with colors, but also with songs, music and poetry of Rabindranath Tagore. For the Bengalis like me/us the festival is incomplete without  listening some of the songs of him and throughout the year whether it’s winter or monsoon these songs always reminds the essence of the festival.

Here color means love,affection ; a really pleasant celebration to welcome the Spring.

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Venue: Jorasanko thakurbari

Nearest metro station : Girish Park

2017 Dates: 7th March,2017

The same group performed in the B T road campus of Rabindrabharati, on the next to next day , this year it’s 9th December, 2017

Same kind of program held on the Golf Green On the day of Holi during early morning.

Holi at Sudder street:

Sudder street is the adjacent locality of Newmarket, Esplanade, Kolkata. The place is famous for cheap hotels and foreign tourists often prefer the living places in this street during their stay in Kolkata.

Here COLOR means madness, excitement, energy, ecstasy.. Here color bridges the gap between locales and foreigners. Both celebrate the festival together. The celebration is totally different than the previous one.

The celebration starts from the early morning on the day.

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Nearest metro station: Esplanade

2017 date: 12th March,2017

Holi at Burrabazar, Kolkata:

Burrabazar is a neighbourhood in central Kolkata. – It is expanded from a yarn and textile market into the commercial nucleus of Kolkata and one of the largest wholesale markets in Asia and deals in all kinds of garments and textile and commodities.

Here Holi is celebrated in vibrant way from Prayer in the temple to craziness on the road.

Here celebration starts before the actual day, interested persons have to collect information from the local people.

Nandgaon, Barsana is famous for this festival but in Kolkata burrabazar is the only place where you can get the pinch of the essence. Few years back when I went there to collect information I really got astonished to see  peacock in a temple there, the mood inside the temple is totally different as of rest of the city.

On the specific day the priest started the festival by spraying water color and color powder to lord Radha-Krishna and then to the devotees.  The devotees believe this as blessings which will protect them against disease throughout the year.. The temple persons and devotees sing various religious song throughout the celebration. It looks magnificent when the priest throws different colors of gulaal ( powdered color) towards the devotee.

One should get prior permission from temple authority to take pictures on the specific day.

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Note: Photographers are expected to maintain silence inside the temple and are not allowed to take photos of the idol.

The local people celebrated the festival on the calendar date. To photograph their celebration was so much fun that you will remember it for a long time.

Here COLOR means craziness with full of  zeal.
Composition/ frames are just happened here, no perceived idea won’t work .
Every time when I figured out something and decided to click something happened and the composition got totally changed. Moments are just created in every bit of second.
They not only play with their own group but forced to join the people passing the lanes.
Lanes within the lanes become colorful on the day.

Note: Police postings are there in every lane or nearby, if faced any misbehavior or problem please ask for help.

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Nearest metro station: M G Road
2017 Date: 13th March,2017

In another celebration in Burrabazar a procession came with Radha-Krishna in a rolls royce car. The devotees took the lord to the Laxmi-Narayan temple of Kalakar Street.
Mainly the businessmen are associated with this procession.
The lanes turned colorful during their celebration.
There is no exact date for this celebration, you have to inquire beforehand.

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Note: Please take care of yourself and your gadget while taking photos in colors..
Happy Holi

For more photos please check  http://www.sandipamalakar.com/

Keep in touch and feel free to revert for more details if any.

Kumortuli ~ The Names Behind the Art

Kumartuli is a traditional potters’ den in NorthKolkata. These people who are blessed with such creativity just not only supply clay idols of hindu gods and goddesses to barowari pujas in Kolkata and neighborhood , but a good no of idols are exported too.

Kumortuli
Kumortuli

Every year at the time of durga puja thousands of idols are made in kumortuli but the icon artisan mostly dwell in poor living conditions.

A naked child is playing in front of the Deity
A naked child is playing in front of the Deity
A small tea shop in Kumortuli
A small tea shop in Kumortuli
Relaxing session
Relaxing session
Potters are chit chatting
Break time

This place is the hot spot for every photographer (both amateur n professional) before the puja. Sometimes the newspaper headings are like “due to amateur photographers hand of lord kartick and trunk of lord Gnesha is broken down” . From this one can easily understand the rush in this period of time.

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Everyone is busy in taking photographs of the idol, the face of the idols from different angle , sometimes they became amicable to the potters also but hardly anyone ask their names or remember their names while talking to them.

My this series of photographs are dedicated to all those potters whose artistry make our festival so beautiful n colorful too.

Tapas Paul
Tapas Paul
Gobinda Paul
Gobinda Paul
Samir Paul
Samir Paul
Asit Kumar Paul & Sisir Kumar Paul
Asit Kumar Paul & Sisir Kumar Paul
Mala Paul
Mala Paul
Madhuri Shilpalay_Asit Kumar Mukhopadhyay
Madhuri Shilpalay_Asit Kumar Mukhopadhyay
K C Paul & Debojyoti Paul
K C Paul & Debojyoti Paul
Ganesh Chandra Paul
Ganesh Chandra Paul & Sons
Asim Kumar Paul

Ram Chandra Pal

Idols are available for sell
Idols are available for sell

When the puja is started no one even bother to go to the kumortuli as all the idols are already in the puja pandals.

Idols are transferring to the Pamdal
Idols are transferring to the Pamdal
Idols are transferring to the Pamdal
Idols are transferring to the Pamdal
Only three idols are lefft for the year
Only three idols are lefft for the year
The Beautiful Idol In the Pandal
The Beautiful Idol In the Pandal

Tour to Ravangla n Pelling covering Phang Lhasbol Festival

Magnificent Sikkim
Magnificent Sikkim

Sikkim, yes that is the name which has put a full stop to all my restlessness I was experiencing for last few months. This time specially to cover the festival n the beauty of the nature of course. Our 1st destination was Ravangla, “Dzongri” hotel.
After reaching NJP it took 6hrs to reach Ravangla. it was 4:30pm when we reached our hotel, Dzongri. As soon as I freed myself with the lugagges, I went up to the window and was amazed to see the awesome view of adjacent hills.

#hotel, #window_view, #hills, #clouds, #sky, #landscape, #greenery, West sikkim, # ravangla, #dzongri
View from Hotel Window

When I was busy in taking photos of the beautiful view of clouds and hills suddenly I got a call from one of my friends from who told me to visit a monastery named “Karma Theckhling Monastery” nearby.
As soon as I disconnected the call and , me n my friend started to search for the monastery though we both were damn tired after the overnight train journey. N when we found the monastery it came up with a shock of climbing 350 stairs to reach there. But me and my friends made to it and reached there at the dusk. it was literally a tiring affair but fun-filled.
As soon as we reached what we saw was a monastery bathed in the moonlight . It worked as an energy booster and we started taking photos using the pillars n tombs as our natural tripod. At that time in the moon light the monastery was looking like a haunted house.

#monastery, #Karma Theckhling Monastery, #gompa, #west sikkim, #moonligt, #moon #sky,#ravangla
Karma Theckhling Monastery in the moonlight
#monastery, #ravangla#Karma Theckhling Monastery, #gompa, #west sikkim, #moonligt, #moon #sky
Karma Theckhling Monastery in the moonlight
#monastery, #ravangla, #Karma Theckhling Monastery, #gompa, #west sikkim, #moonligt, #moon #sky
Karma Theckhling Monastery in the moonlight

After taking few snaps we had a talk with a lama from whom we came to know that during morning hours they offer prayer n we decided to come again the next morning.

On the next day at 6:30am we woke up and from the window we got a glimpse of Kanchenjunga n to get the better view again we went to monastery after crossing 350stairs again n got beautiful view of Kanchenjunga as the monastery was in the top most place of Ravangla.

#kanchedzongha, #snow, #Hills, #ravangla, #west sikkim, #clouds, #skyline
Kanchendzonga

In the monastery we also witnessed the daily work of the lamas. At that time we also came to know that the festival “Phang Lhasbol” will be taken place on that day itself.

#monastery, Karma Theckhling Monastery , #lama, #west sikkim, #ravangla, Morning, #sweeping
A lama is sweeping the monastery floor

#monastery, Karma Theckhling Monastery , #lama, #west sikkim, #ravangla, Morning, #yawn, #little lamas, #prayer
Little lamas are yawning during prayer
#monastery, #Karma Theckhling Monastery, #gompa, #west sikkim, #ravangla
Daily prayer inside Monastery

#Karma Theckhling Monastery , #gompa, #west Sikkim, #smoke, #lama# daily routine
A child lama is doing his regular work of producing smoke from leaves to control mosquitoes in the monastery area

Post lunch we again went to the monastery but this time through another route of“Buddha Park” where there was a big statue of Buddha amidst the conglomeration of clouds to surprise us.

Buddha In the midst of clouds in the "Buddha Park"
Buddha In the midst of clouds in the “Buddha Park”

In the monastery for few hrs we enjoyed the cultural program n also took photos of people who came to celebrate the festival. Students of different schools n colleges performed folk dances there.

Phang Lhasbol Celebration with cultural folks
School Children are performing folk dances
Folk dance performed by the College Students
Folk dance performed by the College Students
Folk dance performed by the school children
Folk dance performed by the school children
School students are performing folk dances
School students are performing folk dances
An old lady was praying in front of the prayer wheels
An old lady was praying in front of the prayer wheels

From there we started for our 2nd destination “Pelling”. It was charcoal dark when we reached pelling , it took more than 3 hrs to reach Pelling from Ravangla.
On the way there were some spectacular views of nature.. The nature preserves its raw beauty here n due to the monsoon, the clouds added some extra charm to it.

River Rangit, on the way to Pelling
River Rangit, on the way to Pelling

On the very next day after reaching pelling we were upset as the chances of watching Kanchenjunga became fade due to heavy rainfall.
Around 10:00 am we started for the sightseeing n our 1st destination was yoksom the 1st capital of Sikkim there we also visited the coronation throne of Yuksom the place full of prayer flags (n leeches, too as we experienced the bite of leeches there).

Yuksom
Yuksom

The next destination was Dubdi Monastery but our driver told us that it’s not easy to go there as there are 1000ft where it’s not possible to go by car n we dropped the idea to hit that place.

On the way we visited “Rimbik falls” , “Kanchendzonga falls” n “Rathangchu” river n we ended up with visiting khechuperi lake Lake, for the day.

Rimbik Falls
Rimbik Falls
Kanchendzonga Falls
Kanchendzonga Falls
Rathangchu River
Rathangchu River
khechuperi lake
khechuperi lake

Next day in the early morning we went to Pemayangtse Monastery to capture n experience the essence of the Phang Lhasbol festival. The total environment was quite peaceful n disciplined. The students of local schools n many other special guests were invited in the festival.
Phang Lhasbol festival is an unique festival of Sikkim. It was introduced by the 3rd king of Sikkim Chakdor Namgyal. Mt. Kanchendzonga’s deity is worshipped on this day for its unifying power. This festival is also in honor of the brotherhood that was signed between Lepchas n Bhutias– n the local deities that were also invited to witness the occasions. Mask dances n ceremonies are performed in different monasteries in Sikkim including Pemayangtse Monastery.

Mask Dance
Mask Dance

The guardian deity is portrayed by the masked Lama daces as a fiery red faced deity with with a crown of five skulls.

Deity Kanchendzonga
Deity Kanchendzonga

The monks also performed Pang-Toed dance n spectacular warrior dance. before the main festival folk song an dances are also performed that have been witnessed in the Karma Theckhling Monastery in Ravangla.
The festival is pretty colorful with mask dances n all. Till afternoon we were there to capture the color of festival with enchanting dragon dance n warrior dance. I must say the lamas were quite helpful n cooperative.

Warrior Dance
Warrior Dance

Warrior Dance
Warrior Dance
Warrior dance n Masked dance
Warrior dance n Masked dance

Next day, the last day of our tour. During early morning we went to the new Helipad Ground to see the sunrise reflecting in the Kanchendzonga but it was our badluck that the cloud overcast didn’t allow us to see the kanchendzonga on that day.

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N finally the time arrived to say goodbye to Pelling. We checked out from the hotel n started our journey to New Jalpaiguri station to board the train.

On the way we visited the Rabdentse Palace ruins. Tensung Namgyal second chogyal of Sikkim n son of Phuntshog Namgyal shifted the capital of Sikkim from Yuksom to Rabdentse in late 17th century AD. The ruins of this ancient capital surrounded by a rubble fortification are scattered over a conspicuous spur . Within a thickly forested valley on the south west of Pemayangtse Monastery. The main settlement which lies on the highest portion of the spur is divided into two sectors by a dividing wall. The sector to the north constitutes the palace complex whereas the south sector was religious complex probably meant for both the Royal family n the common people. Three chortens fronted by a stone paved open floor n attached to double storeyed palace were probably for religious persuits of the royal family only.

Three chortens
Three chortens

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It is1000mt from the main road which is cluttered with fallen leaves, stones n leeches but when we arrived to the top we really enjoyed the ruins mainly the three chortens inside the cloud.
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Finally after a long drive of 7hrs we reached the NJP station on 7:30pm n board the train.
This time our journey restricted to Ravangla n pelling but hope next time we will explore the rest of the Sikkim