‘Sandesh’ and Satyajit Ray : Examples of Beautifully Illustrated Covers

Bengali children magazine ‘Sandesh’ was founded by Satyajit Ray's grandfather Upendrakishore Raychaudhury in 1913. His son Sukumar Ray continued with it. In 1923, Sukumar's younger brother Subinoy took the charge after his untimely demise. But it’s publication stopped in 1925. In 1929 ‘Sandesh’ was revived by new publishers (Karunabindu Biswas and his brother Sudhabindu Biswas) who had purchased the machinery of Upendrakishore’s firm. Subinay Ray remained one of the editors. Sadly, in 1934 ‘Sandesh’ again ceased publication.

Satyajit Ray re-revived the magazine in 1961 and bacame it’s new editor. His aunt Lila Mazumdar helped him a lot. She was the co-editor and wrote regularly for magazine. In 1963 Satyajit Ray formed a non-profit cooperative—Sukumar Sahitya Samavya Samity Ltd.—to publish and manage the ‘Sandesh’.

Nalini Das joined the magazine in 1974 as joint-editor and was responsible for overall administration and actual publication. Her husband Asokananda Das was the honorary publisher.

The magazine was never a financial success, but it soon became a darling with the new generation. Children used to wait anxiously for its issues. In those days printing used to be done through letterpress-process. Different sets of blocks had to be made for different colours and text had to be composed manually. Producing a beautifully illustrated periodical—without any financial gain—was no doubt a tremendous task.  

After the demise of Satyajit Ray the magazine too lost its way. Nalini Das and Asokananda Das too died within a year. Though Lila Mazumdar bacame the Executive Editor, she was too ill to continue. Satayit Ray’s son Sandip became new Editor, but magazine skipped many issues. Now only an annual issue is published, that too not every year.  

The covers of 'Sandesh' illustrated by Ray himself were a source of joy to many—including me—in childhood. His genius as a graphic designer is amply on display here. Every cover has a distinct character. His style of expressing maximum with minimum pen/brush strokes is noticeable in each one. Even after many years, these remain contemporary—they are truly ageless and one can relate to them. Sometimes same cover design was used for different issues, changing the colour combination.

Mr. Parimal Ray, who has been collecting the covers of the magazines, including those of 'Sandesh' sums up succinctly, ''Sandesh ran almost entirely on Ray's creative output as he illustrated entire issues of the magazine, wrote stories and novellas, created puzzles and brain-teasers, judged contests and even answered fan-mail.'' He adds, ‘‘Satyajit Ray’s favourite cover possibly was his father’s sketch of a clown reading Sandesh seated in front of a tiger and a crane. He used it on the cover of the Sukumar centenary issue.’’ Mr. Parimal Ray in his collection has all published covers of ‘Sandesh’, barring one.

Incidentally, Satyajit Ray's grandfather Upendrakishore Raychaudhury and his father Sukumar Ray too used to draw beautiful covers for ‘Sandesh’ during their editorship. 

For related reading: http://thebigindianpicture.com/2013/08/shilpi-satyajit/


Asitav Sen said…
Indeed the charm has lost. Apart form it's failure to keep itself upgraded technological, it lost it's touch in business as well. I did not grow up with PCs, smartphones or tabs around me. But 'Sandesh' never came in. I was busy with chandamama, chacha chaudhari, tinkle. And at times the 'pujabarshikis' and tintin. In fact I came to know about 'Sandesh' when I met Satyajit Ray's nephew, Mr. Amitananda Das. Mr. Das was in-charge of Mensa Kolkata group. That was about 8 years back and he was still running the magazine then. You may try to get it touch.
Niranjan Pant said…
Subrato, thanks a lot for such a nice write Satyajit Ray's Sandesh, which I heard about but never had such a pleasing visual presentation.
Unknown said…
Delightful journey back in time. Unique cover and what the contents carried. A timeless joy for many.
Aakar said…
Thank you all your inputs. Please start following the blog to keep in touch and know about future posts.
Dr. Kalyan Kumar Sarkar said…
Subrato, I am delighted to learn about the entire history of "Sandesh". Born and brought up in Allahabad (I was in my early teens in 1961), I feel proud to be one of the regular readers of of Sandesh during that period. Every month me along with my elder sister used to wait eagerly to receive the issues of Sandesh. Thanks to my parents, beside putting us in missionary convent school they forced us to learn "Bangla" at home right in our childhood and in order to strenthen it they subscribed for Bangla monthly magazines like Sandesh and Mouchak for us regularly. Thanks for this great blog which rejuvinated me with nostalgic memories.
Aakar said…
Many thanks, Kalyanda. I too miss my childhood and hope the spirit of a child remain with me till my last breath.
Rahul Chowdhury said…
Sandesh was our childhood. I still remember Nalini Das , personally handing over the subscription receipt as well as the current copy in 1970 .We can only try to maintain this legacy , because there does not appear any scope of recreating that magic , if it is allowed to die out.