A Curious Picture

I bought this little poster a few years back at an old book store. The image caught my attention for two reasons. First, notwithstanding the central focus of the image upon the mazhars of two Muslim saints, i.e. Pir Shah Chand and Pir Gorachand, the image also prominently displays both the Hindu god, Shiva, and the Christian savior, Jesus Christ. Shiva seems to be walking towards the mazhars, while Christ (specifically identified by a crucifix upon his head) seems to be heading into the water tank where other pilgrims are bathing.

The Bengali Christ

Second, the Bengali legend, though not the Hindi one, at the bottom of the picture adds the caption ‘Golaye dori buri’ which translates into something like the ‘Hanged Old Hag’. If we notice carefully we will also notice an old woman sitting huddled under a tree in the background, whilst a noose ominously dangles from a tree in front of her.Now, arresting as the spectacle of Shiva, Christ and the two Pirs, i.e. Shah Chand and Gorachand, within a single visual frame might be, I am drawn more to the Old Lady. Who is she? What is her relation to the noose? Why is she part of this enigmatic  multi-religious space?

The Bengali Shiva

Going by the typography and print, I suspect the poster dates roughly from the inter-war decades. The address given below the poster is in Howrah, just across the river from Calcutta. Beyond these scant details however, the ‘Hanged Old Hag’ remains an enigma. Yet another mystery that resists an explanation.

The Hag and the Noose

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