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Where Gods Reside: Sacred Places Of Kolkata by Jael Silliman and Mala Mukherjee

Rita Bhimani

What is common between the Sea Ip Church, the Nipponzan Myohoji Temple, the Maghen David Synagogue, the Gurdwara Badi Sikh Sangat, St Paul’s Cathedral, Kalighat Temple and the Nakhoda Mosque? All of these and more are the sacred places of Kolkata that have been meticulously chronicled in a book Where Gods Reside.

Jael Silliman, author, scholar, a historian with a progressive lens and Mala Mukherjee, acclaimed photographer − she of the all-seeing eye, have abjured the heavyweight coffee table book format to jointly create a more handy tome that covers these sacred spaces of the multitudinous communities of Kolkata. It is a book that should have happened by the tourist authorities a long time ago.

Photo Credits: Rita Bhimani
Photo Credits: Kalighat Temple: West Bengal Tourism

But it obviously took the passion and commitment of a writer and photographer to combine their talents to bring out this portable volume that is any tourist’s delight. Why − the city dweller too should also be the better off for possessing something which is a fascinating historical guide replete with anecdotes, for an understanding of the familiar and the not so well-known temples, churches, mosques, that make for an inclusive, secular city.

Published by Niyogi Books and priced at Rs. 650, this book contains a mine of information of the plurality of a city like Kolkata, a choice-directed, rather than a chance-created book, with an excellent map to guide those not just in search of important places of worship, but also for those in a yearn for historical heft, in easy language. Launched at the new Goethe Institut, Max Mueller Bhavan auditorium, Kolkata, it was a visual treat to be taken through some of the key sacred places through a slide show and accompanying commentary by Jael.

Jael Silliman has been a tenured Associate Professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Iowa, she has written on the Baghdadi Jewish community extensively and has several books of fiction and nonfiction to her name. She has made Kolkata her home.

Mala Mukherjee, a graduate in Applied Art & Design Studies in Photography from the London Guildhall University, has exhibited in major Indian cities and outside the country and has received numerous international awards of excellence.

In their own words, everything they have compiled “constitutes the diverse and textured layering of Kolkata’s profound and dynamic spiritual heritage.”

Photo credits: Banner Left - Nipponzan Myohoji Temple: Wot’s Hot; Banner Center - Rita Bhimani; Banner Right - Maghen David Synagogue: Times of India