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Book of sculptures

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The State Archaeological Museum has done something few museums in the state have — compiled a detailed catalogue of all the stone sculptures in its possession.

Vibrant Rock is co-authored by archaeologist Gautam Sengupta and Sharmila Saha. Together with Eloquent Earth (a catalogue on ancient terracotta at the state museum, published in 2007) we have a comprehensive estimation of two large sections of state acquisitions.

Such catalogues are invaluable to researchers who want to trace antiquities of a particular kind or period. Yet neither Asutosh Museum nor the Indian Museum, with their massive collections, has such a catalogue. The catalogue available at the Indian Museum was compiled by John Anderson in the early 20th Century.

“Since the state museum is the major repository of Bengal’s sculptures, we felt this will be a valuable contribution,” said Sengupta.

Over three years, Sengupta and Saha have studied all the sculptures at the museum. “It was very interesting when we found that a Ganga image recovered from the Raiganj area in the 1960s and a Yamuna image traced by police some 50 years later from the same area were corresponding pieces, that is they may have been on either side of a temple doorway,” said Sengupta.

The introduction by Sengupta and Saha gives an overview and history of the collection. There is a general discussion on the iconography and a map of all the sites from where the finds have come. The sculptures are then individually described in detail alongside photographs and inferences . All the data has been carefully crosschecked by scholars like Gouriswar Bhattacharya.

The sculptures are thematically arranged — all sculptures of Shiva or those of Brahma or Vishnu. Architectural fragments are in a separate group.

The book has four chapters and two appendices along with location map of find-spots and microphotographs of rocks used in manufacturing the sculptures.

Appendix 1 presents the various rock types used for the sculptures. Senior officials of the Geological Survey of India have collaborated in tracing the rock types. A map marking the source of each rock type has been provided so that enthusiasts can compare it with the site map and work out how each special kind of rock reached the sculptors. Appendix 2 deals with all the inscriptions on the sculptures which help to date the finds.

The book also provides a bibliography of extant research in the field. Published at Saraswati Press, the 320-page collectible is priced at Rs 2,200 and will be available from May 20.