Century old Durga Puja songs to be digitised

An artist busy working on a Durga idol ahead of Durga Puja in Kolkata
An artist busy working on a Durga idol ahead of Durga Puja in Kolkata

By Sahana Ghosh 

 Breaking away from the trend of Bollywood numbers and rock hits playing during the festive season, enthusiasts here are trying to preserve age-old devotional songs reminiscent of occasions like Durga Puja by digitising century-old recordings, a process spanning next three to four months.

Sharadiya songs (songs of autumn), a tradition in West Bengal, has been fading with youngsters going for Bollywood hits. These songs encapsulate the spirit of the season, especially during Durga Puja that signals the start of autumn.

One of the first Durga Puja albums, “Sharadabali”, was released by The Gramophone Company of India in 1914. The company started the tradition of releasing special Sharadiya numbers sung by artists like Manodasundari Dasi, Narayan Chandra Mukherjee and K. Mullick.

The Weavers Studio Centre for the Arts here has taken the lead in digitising the originals (in analog format) and an expert on Bengali gramophone recordings, Susanta Kumar Chatterjee, will be contributing from his vast collection.

“No other format was prevalent in those days except for gramophone or vinyl records. The use of musical instruments a century ago and how artistes had to get it right in a few minutes of the recording process, all these need to be archived as they are vintage,” Chatterjee, who has the 1914 “Sharadabali” in his possession, told IANS,

The initiative will be rolled out during the next few months and if schools are willing, listening kiosks may be set up for students to get a slice of history.

“Songs that are of immense value and were popular during Durga Puja, Kali Puja and other celebrations will be part of the digitisation process. We are getting people on board who can help out with the process,” Darshan Shah of the studio told IANS.

Durga Puja, the biggest festival in this part of the world, would be celebrated Sep 29 to Oct 3.

Mahalaya, which is observed around seven days before the main festival, marks the advent of the goddess on earth.

According to Hindu mythology, the goddess Durga, accompanied by her four children – Ganesh, Kartik, Lakshmi and Saraswati – descends to earth each year to visit her parents. This is the occasion that the Puja celebrates.

Durga, it is believed, stays for five days to eradicate evil from earth before returning to her husband, Lord Shiva, at Kailash on Dashami. The goddess, the slayer of the demon Mahishashur, sits astride a lion and wields an array of weapons in her 10 hands.