A vintage cigarette advert with Goddess Kālī

via the Metropolitan Museum of Art

This advertisement featuring Goddess Kālī as the ferocious slayer of demons (ca 1885–95), was targeted to the Hindu community in Bengal during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The image is originally a lithograph printed at the Calcutta Art Studio in Kolkata, and appeared in various versions of advertisements for Kali Cigarettes – Visudh Swadeshi Cigarettes from East India Cigarette Manufacturing Company, Kolkata till as late as the 1920s.

A translation of part of the Bengali text in the panel below, promoting the purchase of swadeśi products, reads as follows:

“If you care to improve the manufacture of national products, if the welfare of the nation’s poor laborers is your concern, if you have a sense of good and bad, then O Hindu brothers, smoke these Kali cigarettes.”

The image attained iconic status in part because of its wide distribution and use to advertise cigarettes. The advert was issued by the East India Cigarette Manufacturing Company, based in Calcutta, which was an Indo-Turkish joint venture and was the largest non-British tobacco company in India at the time (not to be confused with the East India Company).


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