The Circle of Divinity: The Ritual Saras of Bengal

Lakshmi-Narayan Sara, Lakshmi Sara and Mahisasurmardini Sara, West Bengal, painted terracotta, Dia. 29 cm, Purchased near Kalighat Temple, Calcutta (2019).
Lakshmi-Narayan Sara, Lakshmi Sara and Mahisasurmardini Sara, West Bengal, Painted terracotta, Dia. 29 cm, Purchased near Kalighat Temple, Calcutta (2019).

Few days after Durga puja, the street shops around the famous Kalighat temple in Calcutta are filled with beautifully painted shallow earthen dishes called saras. Lakshmi, Goddess of wealth is worshiped with these painted saras as idol, on a full moon night few days after Durga puja. These shallow earthen dishes are painted with the images of Goddess Lakshmi and other divinities on the obverse side (convex) to be sold to devotees who would install these images on the shrines of their respective homes.

The tradition of worshiping painted saras is basically from east Bengal, specifically in the areas of Dhaka, Faridpur and Barisal (now in Bangladesh). In the western side of undivided Bengal, for the purpose of worship, a pot (ghot), was used along with an earthen idol of Lakshmi. With the migration of artisans from the eastern side, the tradition of using painted saras during Lakshmi puja was adopted in the western side as well with major concentration in Nadia District as a centre of production and southern quarters of Calcutta. The market around Kalighat temple in southern Calcutta, where thousands of pilgrims who flock every day for worshiping the chief deity, Goddess Kali, buy these painted saras among many other articles on sale related to the temple.

These saras, also carry the images of other deities, worshipped during the auspicious days dedicated to them. For example, the Radha-Krishna sara, depicting the divine couple along with their attendants under a kadam tree, is prepared and sold for the occasion of jhulan purnima (around the birth celebration of lord Krishna).

Radha-Krishna Sara, West Bengal, Painted terracotta, Dia. 28 cm, Purchased near Kalighat Temple, Calcutta (2019).
Radha-Krishna Sara, West Bengal, Painted terracotta, Dia. 28 cm, Purchased near Kalighat Temple, Calcutta (2019).
The Circle of Divinity: The Ritual Saras of Bengal

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