Friday, June 7, 2013

Football and the worship of Kali

I was watching 'Egaro- The Immortal Eleven', a Bengali film released in 2011 yesterday. A refreshing film, it celebrates the centenary of the historical football match between Mohun Bagan and East Yorkshire Regiment for the IFA Shield. The match saw Mohun Bagan winning the shield on 29 July 1911, a time when the British still ruled over India. Though on a simplistic level, the film is about one particular match, yet on different levels it also showcases the patriotic passion that drives the eleven players and those who are associated with them, as well as the spectators who even if for that one moment stand united against the British regime.

There are many aspects in the film which are really nice, especially because it hasn't been reduced to a song and dance ritual like Bollywood films. A portrayal of the culture, traditions and people of those times are interesting( though there are some very slight inaccuracies).

One scene particularly caught my interest. An underground revolutionary group headed by Nagendra is shown worshiping the Goddess Kali, while recruiting new members to the group or even praying to her for inspiration for their goal of killing the British officers.

Kali worship in Bengal probably began in the 18th- 19 the century. Usually so far associated as a goddess worshiped by petty thieves and robbers, Kali now began to be worshiped by the elite of Calcutta too. The atrocities of the British regime combined by the devastating famine, probably made them look for an all powerful deity who graphically represented brute power (the martial aspect of Shakthi) against the forces of evil.

There is also evidence that during the early part of the 20th century revolutionaries of the Indian freedom struggle , used the imagery associated with the worship of Kali. The name of revolutionary groups like Anushilan Samiti comes to the fore in this regard. According to Tantric belief the worship of Kali transforms negative energies and defeats demonic forces, probably why the revolutionaries could associate themselves with her.

Interestingly, the freedom movement has seen its fare share of influences through feminine forces. Abanindranath Tagore( nephew of Rabindranath Tagore and founder of Bengal school of Art) painted his famous watercolor 'Mother India' in 1906, representing the country as a beautiful, ascetic goddess clad in pale saffron. This image became the artistic icon for the nation during the struggle for freedom.
Curiously, the image was inspired from a book by Sister Nivedita (a Scots-Irish social worker and devotee of Swami Vivekananda), called 'Kali the Mother'.

( Image from the Internet)

3 comments: said...

Ma Kali has been associated with Bengal as much as Durga Puja !!
Even till date many use MaaKalirdibbi
to prove they are right and I have rarely seen anyone questioning the person after that :)
Thanks for informing about Egaro .. the last Bengali movie in recent times I have seen is Bhooter Bhobissot .. I think you may not have missed it as well !!

Gyanban said...

The object of one's attention is often associated with an object.Perhaps it helps focus or channelise the thoughts better. Idol worship takes origin in this very thought.

Yet we never question the origin of needing a focal point. That is how life is defined to us and so we follow.Floating,drifting or just being what you are, is often construed as lack of ambition.

So worshipping of the Godess had no impact on the players ability, but certainly on the belief of their ability. And they won.

Maitreyee Bhattacharjee Chowdhury said...

Thanks for reading friends..yes of course I have seen 'Bhooter Bhobishyot' a delightful film!