Centre for Development Practice and Research, Patna

TISS Patna Centre - Third Hetukar Jha Memorial Lecture


Date and time: Feb. 15, 2020 3:30PM - 5:00PM

Venue: Jagjivan Ram Institute of Parliamentary Studies and Political Research, 10 Mangles Road (Veerchand Patel Road Area), Patna - 1

Centre for Development Practice and Research

Third Hetukar Jha Memorial Lecture

Title of the Lecture

Temporal Rhythms in Village Life: Stories of Abundance and Lack in Purulia, West Bengal


Roma Chatterji, Professor, Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi


In my presentation, based on fieldwork in a village in Purulia, I will discuss the ways in which the social calendar is organized in terms of narratives about the seasons, marked as they are by ritual and agricultural activities. As in other parts of Bengal, in Purulia too, it is the journey of paddy (dhaner jatra) that provides the meta narrative through which social time is perceived. But Purulia is also a region that suffers from chronic drought. Narratives of drought have shaped historical memory beginning with the Great Bengal Famine of 1943. Tropes of scarcity and hunger that occur in ritual songs or even in everyday conversations are always measured in terms of the 1943 event.

Affliction as a sign of divine lila is a common trope in Bengali folk songs and sacred narratives, a mark of grace signifying the presence of the gods in our everyday lives. Natural calamities such as floods and epidemics are the common sources of ritual and narrative creativity in rural Bengal. The Great Bengal Famine is not narrativized in the same way as are the periodic calamities mentioned above. Instead it is woven into the larger story of paddy and the ways in which paddy becomes a part of social life.

About the Speaker

Roma Chatterji is Professor at The Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics. She has an abiding interest in folklore and the narrative traditions. She is the author of Writing Identities. Folklore and the Performing arts of Purulia (2009); Speaking with Pictures. Folk Art and the Narrative Tradition in India (2012); Graphic Narratives and the Mythological Imagination in India (2020); and co-author (with D. Mehta) of Living with Violence. An Anthropology of Events and Everyday Life (2007). She has edited Wording the World. Veena Das and Scenes of Inheritance (2015) and co-edited (with D. Mehta) Riot Discourses.


A Tribute to Prof. Hetukar Jha

Hetukar Jha (1944-2017) was an indefatigable academic and educationist. His achievements as a sociologist and his efforts of developing the field of historical sociology is well known in academia and much appreciated. Jha who retired as Professor from Patna University was a prolific writer. Some of his notable works are Social Structures and Alignments: A Study of Rural Bihar (1985), Social Structures of Indian villages: A Study of Rural Bihar (1991), Historical Sociology in India (2015), etc. along with several journal articles. It is as a passionate and rigorous collector of historical documents and a builder of archives that Jha acquires even more significance and his contributions invaluable and unparalleled. His knowledge of documents on Bihar and its villages was surpassed by none. At the time of his demise, he had collected documents, which included village notes relating to 6000 villages in Bihar. He was in the process of writing a social history of villages in colonial Bihar and had collected documents that covered the entire period from 1894-1916. It is a task that needs to be taken up from where he left.

Hetukar Jha's association with Centre for Development Practice and Research, Patna began since its inception in 2016. He was part of the senior group of academics who provided valuable inputs to research scholars at the Centre on their respective research projects. Despite his failing health, Jha
agreed to deliver the inaugural lecture at the First Orientation Programme on migration organized by the Centre in 2016-17.

As a mark of respect for Jha, the Centre has instituted a memorial lecture in his name. The first memorial lecture was delivered by Prof. Ratneshwar Mishra and the second by Prof. Savyasaachi. Full text of previous lectures may be downloaded from the Centre's webpage.