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Kaibartha, Eastern Bengal.

Kaibartha, Eastern Bengal.

Photographer: Unknown

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1860

Shelfmark: Photo 124/(10)

Item number: 10

Length: 23

Width: 19

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

This photograph shows a half-length portrait, against a plain background, of a Kaibartha man posed with a net taken by an unknown photographer in the early 1860s. The name 'Kaibartha' derives from the Sanskrit words for water ('ka') and livelihood ('varta'). They are a Hindu caste of fisherfolk and cultivators who trace their descent from the mythical fisher girl, Matwyagandha. They were amongst the earliest inhabitants of Bengal. An annual festival known as 'Jal palani' or 'net preserving' is recorded in contemporary records as happening each February. It lasted between two and seven days with 'puja' or prayer held in the Ganges on the last day. This print is one of a series of portrait studies of individuals and groups from Eastern Bengal (modern Bangladesh and Assam). It is possible that they were taken in response to the Government of India's call for photographs representing various ethnic and occupational types from across the sub-continent.

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