Bandel’s life-size Annunciation, Nativity scenes draw thousands

Matters India Reporter

Kolkata, Dec. 25, 2018: Thousands of visitors of all religious beliefs visiting the historic Bandel Church in Hooghly district this year would get to see for the first time a human-size crib set with the theme of Annunciation and Nativity – “Divine Birth of Lord Jesus Christ”.

The life-size crib set has been designed by Subrata Ganguly of Church Art.

An engineer by profession, and art connoisseur by choice for over 30 years, Ganguly hails from a traditional Bengali bhadralok Brahmin family whose ancestors were landed gentry with holdings in Belur and Chandernagore.

Cradled in the catholic ambience of the holy shrines of historic Bandel Church and Belur Ramkrishna mattu, Subrata has an ecumenical outlook on life and culture.

Matters India caught up with Ganguly in his Tegoria (Kolkata)out studio to find how he came up with this unique concept of juxtaposing Annunciation and Nativity of Jesus Christ.

A life long promoter of inculturation in art and life, Ganguly loves to etch his thoughts in art form which could be perceived by people of all walks of life – both children and adults, literate and illiterate alike.

His bronze, fibre, plaster or terra-cotta works of thought provoking art may be found in every part of the country and even abroad, especially in cathedrals, basilicas and humbler small town churches too.

Sitting pensive in his sprawling studio, Subrata ruminates on his thoughts behind the artistic concept for his latest Christmas depiction for Bandel Church.

Sulking on the poisoned scenario of today’s society which is polarized on grounds of caste and creed, violence caused by intolerance and hatred, societal system steeped in corruption and oppression, Ganguly turns philosophical.

He also turns theological when he proposes a new narrative to the meaning of Christmas today.

“It is not the mere birthday of a baby that we are celebrating,” says Ganguly.

“As in all major religions, the birth of the religious leader or guru, the birth of Jesus of Nazareth is divine and holy – an act of divine intervention at a time of a ‘Kali yug’ which needed a fresh divine intervention, another incarnation, god being born in human form.”

It was at the first annunciation by the angel Gabriel that Mary of Nazareth gave her consent to be the mother of Jesus, (Luke 1:26-38).

The second annunciation of the nativity was to Joseph of Nazareth, (Mathew 1:20) whom the Bible calls, a just man. That too is about acceptance of divine will, in the life of a simple carpenter who had to take his woman found with child before their union.

Again, the message of the angel to the shepherds is pertinent – “Glory to God in the highest and peace to all people of good will,” (Luke 2: 14).

Ganguly explains, “The people who received the good news of the incarnation and nativity, were all simple and humble people, whether it be virgin Mary of Nazareth, or the carpenter Joseph of Nazareth, or the three kings who left their kingdoms in the east to take an arduous journey in humility to pay homage to the new born and unknown king.”

It is with this theological enlightenment Ganguly says,”This Christmas, I am placing the depictions of the Annunciation and Nativity of Jesus, as no one has ever done before, just to remind people, both visitors and pilgrims to Bandel Church that Christmas is not about the mere birth of baby Jesus, but a metaphor for humanity which needs to be reminded of the simplicity of life, old fashioned virtues of love, tolerance, love and acceptance of the otherness of every brother and sister, along with social harmony and human brotherhood.”

The Marian Shrine popularly known as Bandel Church is the oldest church in eastern India founded in 1599 by the Augustinian monks. The Bandel Church, declared a minor Basilica by Pope John Paul II in 1988, is dedicated to Nossa Senhora do Rosario – Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary.

Currently Bandel Church is undergoing major renovation and expansion. It has put on display the historical “mast” which had fallen in the storm that struck on 9th May 2010. The Portuguese ship’s mast was a votive offering to the Church from the captain of the ship that was miraculously saved in a tempest in the Bay of Bengal in 1655. The Archeological Survey of India had declared the mast a heritage item.

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