Voices of Bengal

August 2006 – January 2007

Great Court, Room 3 and Room 91

Admission free

During the autumn of 2006, the British Museum will present a series of exhibitions, installations and performances, concerned with the culture of undivided Bengal.  These will draw on the Museum’s unrivalled collections from the region of modern West Bengal (India) and from Bangladesh, exhibiting many objects never previously displayed. In addition to an extensive public programme, the season will include an exhibition of the little-known paintings of Rabindranath Tagore; an exhibition examining the tradition of story-telling in the region; and the construction of a spectacular image of the goddess Durga in the Great Court.


Construction of the image of the goddess Durga

14 August – 27 September 2006, Great Court

Visitors will be able to watch as master craftsmen from Krishnanagar in India create an imposing image of the goddess Durga shown vanquishing the buffalo-demon. A family of traditional drummers will perform from time to time as the figures near completion. Durga herself represents female power triumphant. Every year, Hindu Bengali communities worldwide make similar sculptures for the Durga Puja festival, the most important event in their social and religious calendar.  This project in the Great Court is organised in partnership with the Crafts Council of West Bengal and the London Durga Puja Dusserah Committee. When they are finished, the figures will transfer to the Camden Centre in Bidborough Street for four days of Puja celebrations and worship.


Myths of Bengal

14 September 2006 – 7 January 2007, Room 91

This exhibition will focus on the rich tradition of story-telling in eastern India. Using story-telling scrolls, sculpture, paintings and prints it will present the narratives of the deities Durga, Kali, Krishna and Rama; the Muslim saints who brought Islam to the Ganges delta; and the local snake goddess Manasa.  These stories revolve around the triumph of good over evil and reflect the unique landscape of the delta country of Bengal. A section of the finest of the Museum’s story-telling scrolls, the 13m long Scenes from the legend of Gazi, will be displayed. This is one of the wonders of the rural painting tradition of eastern India with its gloriously painted war-elephants, tigers, miracle-working heroes and monsters; this was acquired in 1955 through the generous support of the National Art Collection Fund (the Art Fund).



14 September – 12 November 2006, Room 3

The great Bengali polymath and Nobel Prize Winner, Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) is renowned as a poet, dramatist and essayist. He is venerated in South Asia and, in what must be a unique achievement, wrote the poems now used as the national anthems of both Bangladesh and India.  However, it is little known in Europe that he was also an accomplished painter. Rare examples of his paintings from the Museum’s own collection will be displayed, casting a very different light on his better-known literary work.  His published work, some of which has an anti-war resonance, will also be displayed. Finally, it will also be possible to hear excerpts from his literary works in both Bengali and English.


Public Programme

The season will be accompanied by a programme of events and activities. Lectures, music and story-telling performances and events for school children will be included. An extensive film season will feature, among others, films based on Tagore narratives.

A new book, Bengali Myths by Richard Blurton will be published by British Museum Press in September 2006 priced £8.99. The book is part of a series of book s on myths entitled ‘The Legendary Past’.


For more information and images please contact Hannah Boulton on 020 7323 8522 or hboulton@thebritishmuseum.ac.uk