Character Sketch of Durga in ‘Pather Panchali’

The character of Durga is one of the most significant creations of Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay. In fact, it is delightful to read about Durga in the novel. She is a mischievous, sprightly girl who is absolutely filled with life. The readers are bound to be entranced not only by her sheer love of the world but even by her numerous imperfections. In fact, she is made especially enchanting because she is such an ordinary and flawed human being. She steals from the neighbours. She is angered by and hits Apu. She manipulates him and others to get what she wants. She is very much like most other children.

Actually, Pather Panchali is more about Durga than Apu. Durga is an adorable girl. She shares the fruit from the neighbour‘s orchard with Aunt Indir with whom she feels some natural affinity. Durga must endure the humiliation of being the ̳poor girl‘ in the neighbourhood and longs for the opportunities that her friends enjoy. She steals a beaded necklace from one girl who is unwilling to let her string any of the beads for which she is punished. Here it can be noted that Durga, being a girl child, is expected to play her ̳feminine‘ role in the traditional Hindu society. However, she enjoys a little more freedom at home probably because her father is away.

Towards the end of the second part of the novel, the readers are told that Durga died of heart break. Actually, during the monsoon, Durga dances playfully and joyously about in the rain, getting herself soaked and catching the cold. She develops a fever and is unable to shake it leading to malaria. Her father was not present there to look after her. Her mother takes every care of her daughter and finally she recovers from malaria. But afterwards, she suddenly dies due to the heart break. Her death was a terrible blow for all her family members. When Harihar, her father returns home after a long time, he is shocked to know about Durga‘s death. He feels that he has lost much more than he has earned during his absence from home. A big piece of the heart is torn out of his family. And therefore, he decides to pack up their meagre belongings and begin a new life in the city of Banaras, where he may be able to find work. As they pack, Apu finds the necklace that Durga had earlier stolen (though she had denied it) and throws it into a pond as if to preserve Durga‘s memory from any belated taint. The algae on the pond‘s surface briefly spreads as the necklace passes through, then closes up as though it had just swallowed the necklace and, symbolically, Durga‘s life.

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