A+| A| A-

Ways of Seeing

From mid-August to September, the road snaking out of our locality was transformed into a site of creativity. On a stretch of pavement, figures of the goddess Durga gradually took shape in the sure hands of artisans in anticipation of the Puja season – from basic bamboo structures to bodies of straw held in place with jute strings, and layered with clay. There they were, the many Durgas, with proud breasts and strong arms, slim waists and rounded hips, and unselfconscious stance. One day, it suddenly occurred to me that each time I glimpsed those figures, what I saw was Durga in the making; not once did I think of them as “nude” figures of a goddess, as an over-two-decade-old riotous mode of art appreciation would have us believe.

The fact is, my way of seeing is not uniquely individual. It is part of a “specific cultural look” that has breathed life into Indian tradition, or traditions, as iconic artist, designer and photographer Dashrath Patel put it so aptly in the 1990s. That was a period when all discussions on contemporary art, culture and tradition were beginning to be held hostage to the yardstick of “intent to offend religious sentiments by painting nude figures of goddesses”, as applied by Hindutva proponents, whose main target of ire was the painter M F Husain for his “nude” drawing of the goddess Saraswati.

To read the full text Login

Get instant access

New 3 Month Subscription
to Digital Archives at

₹826for India

$50for overseas users


(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

A climate scholar weaves a critique of environmental policy with a personal tragedy in light of the toxic levels of air pollution in Delhi.

Who decides whether one is disabled “enough” and how does it affect one’s sense of self?

A tribute to actor Soumitra Chatterjee who died of COVID-19 complications.

Having lost a dear friend, the author reflects on the nature of friendship, and its relationship with memory.

As mounting performance pressure on students lays the ground for increasing malpractice, what can academic administrators do differently?

At the root of sexual harassment in the arts is an unquestioning culture of subservience.

Could the lived experiences of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, shared with millions of Americans, be their ticket to the White House?

Back to Top