Revisiting Old Bengal
Fakrul Alam
KALHAR (WHITE WATER-LILY): STUDIES IN ART, ICONOGRAPHY, ARCHITECTURE, AND ARCHAEOLOGY OF INDIA AND BANGLADESH (PROFESSOR ENAMUL HAQUE FELICITATION VOLUME) by Gouriswar Bhattacharya, Gerd J.R. Mevissen, Mallar Mitra and Sutapa Sinha Kaveri Books, 2009, 446 pp., 3500
January 2009, volume 33, No XXXIII

This book is as big and as sprawling as its full title: Kalahar (White Water-Lily): Studies in Art, Iconography, Architecture, and Archaeology of India and Bangladesh (Professor Enamul Haque Felicitation Volume). With 370 folio pages of long and short essays and a few short notes, and innumerable plates appended to the main text in seventy-six additional pages, it has been designed as a monumental “felicitation” volume. Haque is a distinguished art historian and student of Bengal Art. He is also Founder Director General of the Bangladesh National Museum, a part-time teacher who has lectured at various universities in and around Dhaka, editor of the Journal of Bengal Art, and author of over a dozen books and catalogues on, among other things, the arts and crafts of Bengal and Hindu and Islamic art of the region, museum holdings and administration, and archaeology.

The volume is edited by Gouriswar Bhattacharya, an expert on Buddhist and Hindu iconography and epigraphy, Gerd J. R. Mevissen, a German scholar who specializes in Indian Art history and architecture, Mallar Mitra, an authority on Buddhist Iconography, and Sutapa Sinha, an archaeologist who also works on the coins of medieval Bengal. The contributors of the volume are not only from India and Bangladesh but also from Austria, Germany, and the USA. They include art historians, archaeologists, research scholars, museum curators, epigraphists, and administrators, indicating the range of Dr. Haque’s acquaintance, expertise and scholarly interests.

Kalhar, is divided into five broad sections. The first includes nine essays related to archaeology, the second presents seventeen essays on the art and iconography of India in general and Bengal in particular, the third focuses on aspects of the architectural history of the region through five papers, the fourth offers eight essays on epigraphy and numismatics, and the fifth and final section includes two short papers that purport to be on religion. Anyone who goes through these five sections will be rewarded with insights into almost everything related to the history and culture of Bengal: its ancient customs, artwork, legends, relics and ruins, rituals, and religious practices. They will learn about interesting inscriptions and copper coins, tombs, temples and mosques, the visual arts and crafts connected with everyday life in the Indian subcontinent. The book also gives its readers a good introduction to the state of contemporary archaeology and numismatics in the region and acquaints them with some of the major excavation work going on in Bengal at this time. To the general reader, the book offers glimpses of the enthusiasm, the passions and the immense energy and dedication that drive scholars in the field and the imagination and insight they must demonstrate to make the remnants from the past speak to the present.

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