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Battala

Location

Present day Chitpur Road (Rabindra Sarani) in Kolkata, though the banyan tree that gave the area its name is no longer there. The exact geographical expanse of the Battala boi-er bajaar (book market) is debated among scholars.

 

Historical Significance

A once-thriving neighbourhood filled with publishing houses and printing presses, the Battala book market represented the decisive entry of Indian capital in the emerging print industry in colonial Bengal. Though associated with ‘obscene’ (erotic or sexually licentious) literature or ‘street literature’ of poor quality and denigrated for the same in polite discourse, Battala’s cheaply available prints on a wide variety of subjects left a mark on Bengali print culture and cultural memory alike.

Genres associated with Battala

While Battala printing presses published almost everything from textbooks to erotic literature, the following genres in particular deserve mention: prahasans or farces, nakshas or satirical sketches, ‘Musulmani-Bengali’ texts, woodcut prints, lithograph prints, and panjikas or almanacs.