Patachitra- A Traditional Storytelling Artform

Patachitra is a unique folk tradition of visual storytelling accompanied by songs performed by the Patuas. Stories are painted on long Scrolls by the Painters known as Chitrakars (family surname) who gradually and unfurl them while narrating. Patachitra has drawn the attention and interest of artists, art connoisseurs and or researchers and has been nationally and internationally acclaimed as a very interesting style of painting. To some, Patachitra is the precursor of modern day animation. The word Pata comes from the Sanskrit word Patta that means “a piece of cloth” and Chitra refers to painting. The songs are known as Pater Gaan which is passed down to next generations. Traditionally, the Patuas would travel from village to village, singing and displaying the scrolls to earn a living.

A lady in the village displaying her work.

Image Credits: beta.outlooktraveller.comjust-backa-painters-village-in-west-bengal-1006547

Patachitra is known for its bold colours, lines and strokes. The multilayer communication in Patachitra includes strong visual and lucid audio messages which not only enliven the traditional stories but is also used to communicate the social issues. The Patachitra scrolls come in varied sizes from 1 to 1 and half feet in width an three to 25 feet in length depending on the narratives. Sometimes, the two ends are attached to two bamboo sticks.

A Traditional Scroll Painting

Image credits: http://www.folk-ark.com/blog/2015/10/12/deccan-footprints

Patas scroll painting is one of the earliest art forms in Bengal and started with the most ancient peoples of the Austro- Asiatic culture. The early reference of the people practicing with art form is found in Brahamabaivartha Purana. Patuas, according to the text, were the descendants of the supreme artist Lord Vishwakarma and his wife Ghritachi. Patuas, one living in Bengal among Austro-Asiatic people and letter known as Chitrakars.

Design from the Painting

There are many types of themes in these paintings that are mythological Patas, Historical and Contemporary Patas and Patachitra on social issues. There are three original formats generally seen among the Patachitras in Bengal. The first is Jarano or Gutano , Arelatai Pata and Chauka Pata.

A lady displaying the traditional Scroll Paintings. 

The raw materials used to make a piece of traditional Patachitra paintings are: Papers, cloths, adhesive and natural color extracted from flowers, vegetables, leaves and mud. The artists extract red color from saffron, blue from Aparajita, white from Kusum Mati, green from runner beans or brown from teak leaves. Gum from wood Apple is extracted in a coconut shell and mixed with natural colors and kept in the bright sunlight to darken.Firstly, the outlines of the painting are drawn on paper with paint and brush. Then, the line drawings are filled with colors. After that a layer of recycled soft fabric is pasted on the reverse side of the paper to make the scroll stronger. The paintings are then dried naturally.

Patachitra in its original form is painted on paper scrolls. With design interventions, in recent times in recent times the paintings are done not only for narrative purposes but also for decoration on various products. These include apparels, fashion accessories, lifestyle items, furniture, jewellery etc.


Tshirt with Patachitra Design

Image Credits: http://www.craftsnation.in/white-pata-chitra-t-shirt,5

The artists of Pingla also celebrate their annual 3 day festival” POT Maya” since 2010. The unique festival held in mid November every year. Every house in the village transforms into and art gallery. Visitors can interact with the artists, get to know about the stories behind their paintings, learn about the ways to extract natural colors and paint and collect some marvelous artworks. While in Pingla, one can visit the Common Facility Centre built with the support of West Bengal Khadi and Village Industries Board, which houses the award winning artifacts from the hub and know more about the craft Patachitra. Let give history a bright future.

People from abroad visiting the village to see the paintings at POT MAYA festival.

 

Content and Image credits: www.banglanataka.com

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