Illustrated book on Terracotta Temples of Bengal
About sixty years ago [c. 1946 till about 1951] Mukul Dey went on a self-sponsored project to photo-document the terracotta temples in Bengal. He moved from one location to another, photographing these temples, on a bullock-cart, with camping equipment, his cameras, a modest monochrome dark-room.
During his trip, Mukul Dey exposed about 5000 frames at 25 villages in the districts of Birbhum and Barddhaman in West Bengal. Unfortunately a large number of these negatives were destroyed in 1978 Bengal floods and at the moment we have about 1500 of those negatives depicting about 18 villages out of the original 25. In the year 1959 the Lalit Kala Akademi, New Delhi published about 45 of these images with part of Mukul Dey’s text in ‘Birbhum Terracottas’.
Barring Swiss photographer Martin Hurlimann, who visited at least one rural location in Birbhum to photograph the terracotta temples in 1926-27, we know of no researcher who has photo-documented these temples so extensively prior to Mukul Dey. David McCutchion started his documentation about a decade later than Mukul Dey. Also, while McCutchion’s work is more comprehensive in terms of the number of temples, it focused on the temples’ typology and architectural aspects. Dey chose to focus on the themes depicted and the decorative aspects of these temples. Incidentally some of these temples were destroyed even before David McCutchion could document them.
In view of the above, Mukul Dey’s negatives are a significant historical resource and we are working towards digitizing these negatives to publish his original manuscript, along with some annotations in the form of an illustrated book.