nazariya Archives - NAZARIYA

India is a country with very rich history and much richer heritage. Various art forms are part of the Indian heritage. The Arabic Calligraphy forms an integral part of this heritage. Some art forms were brought and developed in India and some of them were born in India.

The early Arabic traders introduced the Arabic Calligraphy art in India around the 7th century. Spirituality was the core purpose of the existence of this art. This art was initiated to preserve the scripts of the Holy Quran. It is a simple yet an artistic illustration of Arabic fonts from the Holy Quran.

The Arabic Calligraphy designs were developed during the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate in India. Hence, this art emerged as a mainstream art. Qutubuddin Aibak, who ruled Delhi, decorated and covered Qutub Minar with intricate carvings, designs, and verses of Quran. The Humayun’s tomb in Delhi and the Mughal coins showcase this monumental heritage. The Arabic Calligraphy art form majorly flourished in the Mughals reign. This is also the Mughal art form.

Hence, the Muslim rule in India established a diverse culture along with the fresh ink of Arabic Calligraphy styles or designs or paintings to last persistently. The Arabic Calligraphy history is the virtue of the religious and spiritual aspects of life.

In conclusion, the calligraphy design is a precious art since the artists practicing this art are rare. These artists are losing their demand and respect in the society. Therefore, Nazariya has joined hands with these artists and has taken a pledge to give them the true value for their talent.

Finally, this Eid, admire their work by getting one of their masterpieces home. Get a customized manuscript for yourself by these wonderful artisans and wish your loved ones Eid in the most artistic way. Let us explore more about the Arabic Calligraphy paintings in the Images given below.

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Research, Conceptualization & Written by Kaavya Lakshman

Jambili Athon, is the pride of the Karbi tribe. It is an exquisite traditional craft made from the Bengwoi ke-er wood. Jambili Athon is the most honored woodcraft and a symbol among the Karbis. It is a cultural identity of the Karbi tribes of Northeast India. Like every other tribe or religion, the people of the Karbi tribe or religion hold their culture and beliefs very dear.

The cultural festival Chomkan exhibits this craft. Art and craft occupy a prominent place in the socio-cultural life of the Karbis. Jambili Athon honors the life of the deceased. It covers the philosophy of life and death, social institutions, and religious practices of the people.

Hence, Jambili Athon stands as a sacred symbol during the crowning ceremony of the social chief Lindokpo. It is also presented to honor the great people. Further, Jambili Athon is often used in logos of many institutions and organizations in Karbi. It is also used as designs on textiles. A miniature Jambili Athon is usually kept as an artifact in almost every household. The skilled craftsmen called baroi practice this craft.

Jambili Athon is a craft with a central axis and a whorl of four branches. The central axis is above the four lateral branches. The apex of the central axis consists of a local bird known as Vojaru. The apices of lateral branches are fixed with another local bird called Vorale. Voleng cherat yet another local bird is perched on the main axis, just below each lateral branch. The other four branches host smaller birds. Jambili Athon is heavily ornamented with intricate carvings and beautiful beads.

The Karbis regard Vojaru as the king of the birds. Vojaru is always followed by other birds traditionally referred as atoi-ani (followers). Therefore, Vojaru is the Karbi king and a leader who protects his people symbolized by smaller birds. These smaller birds are compared to faithful ministers and soldiers. The 5 branches of Jambili Athon represent the peaceful co-existence among themselves in their independent places. Vojaru understand the language of all the birds and can foretell danger. Voleng cherat collects food and does not leave his master.

You can see the Jambili Athon craft in the Recreation Park and Samson Sing Engti Park in Diphu town of Assam.
To conclude, the woodcraft reflects the social pattern of the community of the Karbi tribe. The symbolic assemblage of the different birds depicts the unity of the tribe. It also resembles the closeness to nature through the choice of specialized wood.

Hence, Jambili Athon is a repository of information for the Karbi tribe. You can see the essence of these people is captured within the space of the wood and firmly fixed in the ground. This is for the future generations to not only see, but learn. Over the period of time the majority of the tribal culture is lost in the chaos of modernity.




Content research and written by Prasanna Balakrishna

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Bommalattam art, a performing art of puppet show or puppet dance is one of the oldest art forms in South India. Bommalattam puppetry was originated in Tamil Nadu state. Tamil Nadu is a birthplace of various arts, entertainments, and dances. The puppet show is performed in temples during various festivals. The performances last for a week or ten days, usually continuing overnight.

Bommalattam was also used during the freedom struggle to promote nationalistic zeal.


The puppets are made of cloth, wood, leather, or other materials. The strings or wires are used to control the puppets. The hands and legs of the puppets are tied to the strings. Highly skilled and experienced puppetries stand behind a screen and move the puppets. Hence, the audience cannot see these puppeteers.

There are five to eight members in the puppet show troupe. A single puppeteer presents the entire puppet show. An assistant hands the artist the right puppet and musicians repeat the songs after their leader.

The Bommalattam finger puppet dance begins with the homage to God and continues with humorous stories. The buffoon is an extremely hilarious character displaying fun and frolic.

The Bommalattam puppetry in India is closely associated with religious and ceremonial events such as temple festivals. The individuals sponsor the puppet shows for the fulfillment of vows, thanksgiving for marriages and childbirth, or the welfare of the community. In earlier days, the puppet dance in Tamil Nadu was used to narrate religious stories, especially ethical stories. In addition to it, people believed it is auspicious to host a puppet show to shrug off evil spirits from their villages.


This art is famous for its traditional tales of Valli Kalyanam (Valli’s marriage), Sita Kalyanam (Sita’s wedding), Harichandra, Lava Kusa, Nallatangal Kathai and Markandeyan Kathai (Markandeyan’s story). The traditional puppet show ideas are used these days to spread modern messages of creating awareness for family planning and AIDS.

The puppet show is also performed in a tent and a fee is charged for the same. This art is facing extinction because of lack of patronage.


Great performers, epic reciters, storytellers, picture-showman, and clowns were popular since the 10th century A.D. after the breakdown of classical tradition. Bommalattam puppetry history dates back to India’s medieval period and puppets were used to portray gods and heroes.

Large crowds gather to watch the bommalattam finger puppet dance. The puppeteers were always present in village markets and fairs on the occasions of civic and religious functions and also for the important household events.

Bommalattam (string puppet shows) and Thol Bommalattam (shadow puppet show) are two forms of traditional puppet shows practiced in Tamil Nadu. Bommalattam puppet dance combines the techniques of both rod puppets and string puppets.

The strings used for the show are tied to an iron ring, which the puppeteer wears like a crown. A few puppets have jointed arms and hands that are controlled by rods. The wooden Bommalattam puppets are the largest, heaviest, and most articulate of all the traditional Indian marionettes. A puppet may be as big as 4.5 feet in height and weighs up to ten kilograms.

The Thol Bommalattam puppet show uses leather shadow puppets. These are flat figures pressed against the screen with a bright light shining from behind. The puppets create silhouettes or colorful shadows for the viewers in front of the screen.


Apart from the individual puppeteers, there are also many institutions involved in the promotion of Bommalattam. Some of them follow:

The Tamil Nadu Traditional, Cultural & Educational Charitable Trust endeavors to popularize the art of Tamil Nadu among students and youth. Tamil Nadu folk arts such Mayil Attam, BommalattamKummi, Kai Silambu Attam, and others are especially valued and protected.

The Government of India offers the Scheme for Scholarships to Young Artistes in Different Cultural Fields, which includes Tholu Bommalattam of Tamil Nadu.

Mahatma Gandhi University offers core courses on the folk and ritual traditions of Tamil Nadu.

The Centre for Cultural Resources and Training conducts a variety of training programs for school teachers, teacher trainers, and educational administrators so that students may know the importance of the culture of our country.

Modern students are interested in learning the art of Bommalattam and some of them have even performed during their annual day functions. It is hoped that this art will flourish again in the hands of the upcoming generation.

Research, Conceptualization & Written by Kaavya Lakshman

Kerala, God’s own country is a marvel in itself. One such art form that leaves an indelible impression on the minds is ‘Koodiyattam’ (Kuttiyatam) an art form of Kerala. Koodiyattam is a Sanskrit theatre tradition of Kerala. It is more than two hundred years old and is a precursor of the enchanting dance form of Kerala, Kathakali.

 Koodiyattam is an intangible oral art form accompanied by tangible musical instruments, elaborate costumes, dramatic make-up, and jewelry. These tangible aspects of this oral tradition bring out the myriad moods that transport the connoisseurs of art to a world of pure delight.

Koodiyattam is traditionally performed in the temple theatres of Kerala known as Koothambalams. The Koodiyattam artists perform acts from great epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. They also perform plays written by great Sanskrit dramatists like Kalidasa and Bhasa. This Kerala dance form is so elaborate and intricate that to even enact a few verses from a play can take hours and the entire performance can last for days.

Hence, this art form of festivals, paintings, percussion instruments, and music leaves an everlasting spell on every art aficionado. Also, it has been recognized by UNESCO as the ‘Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”.

Koodiyattam Performance

Koodiyattam means performing together. The actors perform in unison with the musicians. They play various instruments like Mizhavu, Edakka (Idakka), Thimila, Kuzhithalam, Kurumkuzhal and Sankhu. The actors meticulously make use of eyes, facial expressions, and mudras (hand gestures). These expressions are accompanied with ragas and vedic chants. They recreate a pristine ambience that takes one to a different realm of creativity and mysticism. 

The Chakyars (a caste among the Hindus) play the role of the male characters. The Nangyars (women from the Nambiar community) play the role of the female characters. The entire Sanskrit drama act is explained by the vidushaka (jester) in Malayalam language. The vidhushaka makes the entire act lively and humorous.

The various musical instruments that add to the rhythmic beauty of this art form are:

Mizhavu is the most prominent percussion instrument used in Koodiyattam. This instrument is considered deva vadyam (divine instrument or instrument of gods). It resembles a pot shaped drum and is made of either copper or clay. Its narrow mouth is covered with a parchment. This instrument is played with hands.

Edakka (Idakka) is also a deva vadyam and is a drum. It is shaped like an hour glass. It is part of the Panchavadyam (literally five instruments), which is an instrumental music art form of Kerala. Idakka is played with the help of a thin stick. This thin stick is made out of tamarind wood. This instrument is considered sacred and is never kept on the ground.

Timila is an important percussion instrument and resembles an elongated hour glass. The body of Timila is made out of the wood of the jackfruit tree. The structure of this instrument resembles a fish (Timi). This instrument is mentioned in Silappadikaram, a great classic in Tamil literature.

Madhalam is another percussion instrument widely used in temple rituals of Kerala. Its original name is ‘Mardala’ and it has been mentioned in the great epic, Mahabharata. It is made out of the wood of jackfruit tree. This instrument is tied around the waist and played with hands. It is an important part of Panchavadyam and is also used while performing Kathakali.

Kurumkuzhal is a wind instrument. It resembles Shehnai and is also referred as ‘mukha veena’. This wind instrument provides a melodious stroke to the ritualistic temple art form.

Kuzhithalam and Sankhu
Kuzhithalam is the miniature form of a cymbal with a deep inward hollow. It is usually played by a Nangiar woman who is called Nagyaramma (a woman from the Nambiar community of Kerala). Kuzhithalam provides rhythm to the entire ritualistic discourse. Sankhu (Conch shell) is a wind instrument, Sushira Vadya is an indispensable part of almost all temple rituals in India.

Koodiyattam Costumes and Make-Up
Koodiyattam is known for its elaborate headdresses, intricate costumes, and make-up. These costumes mostly feature bright colors like red, white, and black. The vidushaka or jester is dressed differently. He is provided a small head gear and special make-up so that he stands out among the rest of the artists. Various patterns and color schemes used by Chuttikkaran (make-up artist) symbolize varied moods, emotions and gunas (attributes) of the character. For instance, green color symbolises sattivika nature. The red color symbolizes majestic nature (emotions like ambition and violence) and black represents tamasic nature. The colors painted on the faces of artists are made up of locally available materials like vegetables dyes, powdered rice, turmeric, saffron, leaves of Acacia, and gingelly oil.

Content Research, Conceptualization & Written by Kaavya Lakshman


The word Padayani originated from the word ‘Pada’, which means ‘army’ or ‘warrior’.

This is the traditional folk dance of Kerala which is a beautiful amalgamation of music, dance, theatre, satire, facial masks and paintings. It is a Dravidian form of worship that existed before the advent of Brahmanism. The ancient ritual is performed in Bhagavati temples, dedicated to goddess Bhadrakali. The performance takes place from mid December to mid May.

Temples : The Padayani festival takes place in central Travancore, comprising the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala.

Temples which still practice Padayani are Thazhoor Bhagavathy Temple and Kadammanitta Temple.

The Padayani festival at the Palli Bhagavati temple at Neelemperoor in Kottayam district is a spectacular event. Large swan effigies called ‘Annam Kettu’ are taken out, adding more charm to the festival. Fireworks and traditional orchestra are other features of the festival.

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Story / Legend

“According to mythology, this ritualistic dance commemorates the dance performed by Lord Shiva and the other Gods to appease Goddess Durga, whose anger could not be quenched even after annihilating the demon, Darika” (cited from

Origin of Padayani

Earlier this elaborate and expensive event was carried out to heal the illnesses not amenable to medical modalities of intervention. In the form of psychic or spiritual healing, it was solely designed, controlled and performed by a section of the Thinta endogenous group of Kaniyar community (The traditional professional Hindu astrologers of Kerala), as a method of exorcism This folk art has become a divine ritual tradition in association with festival occasions of Bhagavathy (Bhadrakaali) temples of Kerala(cited from


Padayani- The Ritual

In the olden days the Padayani performance lasted for nearly two weeks, but over time it has been shortened to a day. Kolam Tullal is the major portion of the performance. Kolam is the masque prepared by drawing images on the leaves. The Kolams are made of the green of the lath itself (kamukin pacha), kari (carbon), manjalpodi and sindooram. The dancer wears the kolam, and performs the ritual dance expressing his devotion.

The significance of the kolam is the representation of spiritual forces and divine characters. The face masks and headgear of the characters depicted are both spectacular and terrifying, a typical element of Kerala art. The paints used are natural and of vivid colors.

The characters include : Ganapathi Kolam, Yakshi Kolam, Bhairavi Kolam, Gandharvan Kolam, and Mukilan Kolam.

Kolam thullal takes place on the same day as the Kappoli. The main instruments used during the performance are the thappu, chenda and kaimani. Padayani songs are quite simple to understand for those who speak Malayalam, thereby engaging the entire community.

The members participating in the ritual performance undergo rigorous, traditional physical training and discipline. This consists of a special diet regimen for physical and spiritual cleansing.

Popular elements of the dance :

Kalan Kolam : It is the most popular part of the Padayani ritual. This dance form narrates the of a boy begging for his life to Lord Siva when ‘Death’ comes to his sixteenth birthday.

Bhairavi Kolam : It is the dance dedicated to the worship of the goddess Bhairavi. The kolam (masque) used for this performance is the biggest, and is headed by more than one person due to its massive size and heavy weight.

Vinodam : Satire is an essential part of Padayani. This is performed to make fun of the petty vanities of people as well as target areas for social reform.


Significance of Padayani in the society : Padayani is not just an art form, it is a community gathering to ensure the physical and mental well being of the entire village. It is a set of rituals that transcends the boundaries of caste and religion, generating a sense of unity.

Image Source: Pathan Amrita News


Content Research by Shivanki

The historical blend of both modern and ancient is creative best is best identified with Togalu Gombeyaata, a puppet show unique to the state of Karnataka, India. ‘ Togalu Gombeyaata’ in kannada translates to ‘a play of leather dolls’ is a beautiful puppetry art in India. The art form uses shadow puppet to convey the story ideas.

This leather art form has an interesting blend of shadow puppetry techniques and music which makes it livable in theatres. The leather puppets used in Togalu Gombeyaata are goat hide and deer skin.

These leather puppets on a string are unique and have a characteristic of transparency that absorbs colours , such as vegetable dyes of red, blue, green and black adding life to this art of storytelling. For puppets representing human and animal figures, the head and limbs are joined in such a way that they can be moved easily.The maximum size of the puppet is 4 x 3 feet and the minimum is 6 x 3 inches.

The puppeteers or the puppet master of the small leather puppet theatre performers use Kannada language and in a box stage manipulator sits behind the screen, raise the puppets held in their hands. During the performance men, women, children, the whole community of the artiste, take part. The puppet shows in this particular art form traces it’s origin to Rashtrakutas, Pallavas, Kadambas, Chalukyas, Hoysalas and Kothapur kingdoms in south.

In Karnataka there are two major varieties in the leather puppet shows, depending on the size of the puppets. The two types of puppets are as follows:

Chikka Togalu Gombeyaata

The small puppets players have their own mobile stage measures 9 feet and 5 feet.

Leather puppets demonstrating the war between the PandavaArjuna and his son Babruvahana                              

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Dodda Togalu Gombeyaata

The average dimensions of the leather puppet stage 12 feet in length, 6 feet in width.

An Elephant Puppet

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A Boar Puppet

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Each variety shows several regional variations in the style of music, craftsmanship, stage technique and manipulation.

The visible portion in front where a white screen tied up. Behind the screen the manipulator sits and manipulates the epic characters from behind the screen. Behind the curtain the hands of the manipulators remain unseen. On front of the stage the puppeteers’ family or associate sits and give chorus and exchange dialogue with drum beater. In the projected light sources the leather puppets shadow appears with beautiful colour.


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A still from Ramayana in Togalu Gombeyaata

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Even as television, radio and movies remain our first choice to entertainment , this sheer execution of creativity and hard work by puppeteers fulfils one’s connect roots in easiest way possible.

Here is a sample video of spectacular art form :

Shadow puppet video clips from YouTube: 

Togalu Gombeyaata Part 1

Togalu Gombeyaata Part 2

Now that this ancient art form is no longer restricted to Dravidian states alone, do find time to catch hold of amazing performances in the nearest festival near you. Follow Nazariya to know about the upcoming performances.

Author: Noah Unathraj

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Today I would like to present you an art which has lost its prominence 4 centuries ago. Let us discover the Chenchu Music or Kinnera music instrument to know more facts. Though it has not totally perished down, it is almost on the verge of extinction. Darshanam Mogilaiah one of the very few survivors of this extricated traditional instrument brought life to this dying tradition.

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see”, said the famous French artist Edgar Degas. Yes indeed, in my perspective art is something more imaginative, profound, and absorbing to the human soul. It frees out mind and body from the busy mauhaul of everyday life. Thus, helps to look up to something which is delightful and engrossing.

India is a country with “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” concept of unity in diversity. Hence it is engulfed with many art forms and is become the hunting ground for souls of people engrossed in art.   

India has a renowned artist and the only one in the country playing the 12-step Chenchu music. He hails from Ayusaolni kunta village of the Mahabubnagar district in Telangana state. He belongs to a low esteem family. His forefathers have dedicated their lives in an urge to empower and boost up the spirits of the people to take part in freedom struggle. Hence, they promoted the freedom struggle by playing the instrument and singing patriot songs in synch.


Darshanam Mogilaiah

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The “Dakkali” tribe put in their flesh and soul for design and working of the Kinerra music instrument. They actively participated in the freedom movement. The “Dakkali” tribe is a Chenchu race breed brought up through odds and slavery of the landlords and the upper caste people. Hence, in order to revolt against this culture of slavery they invented the device to unite the people of all the lower caste. They struggled for their freedom and fought their way out.

Kinnera is a stringed instrument like a Desi Veena. It has 12 steps which is able to produce 12 different tunes with the 2 strings that are mounted on them. This tribal instrument is built in the following form:Kinnera is a stringed instrument like a Desi Veena. It has 12 steps which is able to produce 12 different tunes with the 2 strings that are mounted on them. This tribal instrument is built in the following form:

⦁  Bamboo for the neck

⦁  Dried and hollowed gourds for resonators

⦁  Human hair or animal nerves for strings

⦁  Pangolin scales for frets which are fixed using honey-wax

According to Adivasi studies, the Chenchus have lost the musical instrument half-century ago when the gourd used for resonator became extinct in this region. Chenchu music came into limelight while researching about Panduga Sayanna a Telangana fighter. The dakkali singers sang in his praise using Kinnera music instrument.  It has almost taken 3 years to trail out and explore this history through the help of Dakkali Pochaiah.   

This article was originally created for, and published on, a UNESCO supported umbrella of initiatives that makes heritage fun.
By Somok Roy


Bhaskar Chitrakar painting a traditional theme. Photo credit: Somok Roy Heritage

Characterized by fluid curves and flat bright colours, Kalighat painting occupies an important place in the history of Indian art. It was the urban and reformed version of the Midnapore school of Patachitra, a scroll painting tradition of Bengal.  Liberating itself from the confines of religious narratives, it went on to comment on the contemporary socio-political phenomena. The rustic folk simplicity was replaced by the emerging complexities of city life.

In the early 19th Century, rural patuas (the community of Patachitra painters traditionally carried the surnames ‘Patua’ and ‘Chitrakar’) from Midnapore migrated and settled around the Kalighat temple, on the banks of Adi Ganga. Kalighat being a major pilgrimage center attracted thousands of devotees round the year.

The devotees wanted to carry something as souvenirs on their way back from this sacred place, and the locally available, cheap paper painting was the only affordable option. In the memoirs and travelogues of the European travelers, these paintings have been called ‘Bazaar paintings,’ a description that carries a sense of inferiority when compared with the Occidental standards of art.

This is primarily because the painters lacked the sense of perspective, and the linear rhythm of human figures miserably failed to impress the lovers of realism. Kalighat painters faced draconian competition from the ever-expanding market of lithographs and cheap oleographs and gradually disappeared by the 1930s.

The Midnapore roots

The medium of scroll painting has a vibrant history in this part of the continent. In an age when the society and economy were primarily agrarian, bards toured from village to village with their painted scrolls, unfolding the world of Puranic epics and folk myths to the curious audience.

These demonstrations were accompanied by narrative songs. The Cherial paintings of Andhra Pradesh, Phadpaintings of Rajasthan, and Patachitras of Bengal and Orissa are part of this vivid and arresting storytelling tradition. Patuas of Midnapore used scrolls known as ‘jorano pat,’ which were executed on cloth and could be rolled easily.

There were divisions within the patua community on the basis of the duration of tours. The ‘Duari patuas’ travelled from door to door throughout the day in nearby villages and returned home by night. The ‘Doori patuas’ travelled long distances, exhibiting their works and narrating stories.  The themes were from folk literature. Episodes from the ‘Mangal kavyas,’ creation myths, magic and cult-rituals, agrarian lives, pantheistic practices such as ‘pahar puja,’ and Hindu epics were painted and sung.

Changing times- Stylised Midnapore paintings, quite different from the traditional style. (Unfolding a Painted World: Revisiting Kalighat Paintings)

Changing times- Stylised Midnapore paintings, quite different from the traditional style.

From Midnapore to the Mecca of arts

Initially, the Kalighat school produced images of Hindu Gods and Goddesses, keeping in mind the target audience. The rolling scrolls were replaced by rectangular sheets. Cheap mill made paper was used for painting, but the painters retained the tradition of using natural colours.

The outlines were painted in black using lampblack, which was later filled in with bright flat colours. Turmeric was used for yellow, red chilies for red, indigo for blue and so on… The paintings acquired a semi-classical finesse due to the application of colloidal tin for the purpose of depicting jewellery.

Secular themes entered the painters’ world soon and Kalighat school emerged as a satirical genre, highlighting the inherent hypocrisy of the society. Their detailed observation of an evolving social class helped them to produce symbolisms in art, which could be interpreted as important sources of modern Indian history.

The flamboyant Bengali nouveau riche or the urban elite has been the favorite theme of the Kalighat painters for their ostentatious display and extravagant lifestyle. These paintings unveil the pretentious mannerisms of the nouveau riche by the use of subtle metaphors and visual allegories, which have become an integral part of the Kalighat iconography over time.

Kalighat painting is perhaps one of the best primary sources to reconstruct the social history of the19th Century ‘Babu culture’ which flourished in Calcutta. ‘Babu indulging in sensuous pleasures with courtesans’, ‘Babu sitting on a chair and piping the hookah,’ ‘cat with the marks of a saint eating fish,’ ‘horse-race,’ ‘Elokeshi-Mohanto crime case’ were some popular themes.


Babu with a concubine. Photo credit:

The painting of a young attractive lady sitting in voluptuous posture with her right hand raised above her head, holding a rose in each hand, titled ‘Golapsundari’ is an evidence of the eternal fact that the essence of Indian aesthetics flows down the ages evermore.

Gopalsundari, or the 'rose beauty'. Photo credit: Nibaran Chandra Ghosh/ Drawing Woman with roses; Kalighat painting by Nibaran Chandra Ghosh of a seated courtesan with roses. Calcutta, ca. 1900. Nibaran Chandra Ghosh Calcutta Ca. 1900 Watercolour on paper

Gopalsundari, or the ‘rose beauty’. Photo credit:

Similar ‘nayikas’ have been painted earlier by miniature painters of North India. The patuas also painted nationalist heroes like Rani Lakshmi Bai, and scenes from everyday life.

The Ultimate Autumn

The legendary painter, art critic and scholar, Mukul Dey, who collected some priceless works of the Kalighat school ( a major part of it was acquired by art historian W.G Archer during 1930s, and many of these paintings are exhibited in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London) wrote in 1932 :

These pictures have now entirely vanished. The artist craftsmen are nearly all dead, and their children have taken up other business. In the place of these hand-drawn and hand-painted pictures selling at two or four pice each, garish and evil-smelling lithographs and oleographs – quite appalling in their hideousness – have come. The old art is gone forever – the pictures are now finding their last asylum in museums and art collections as things of beauty which we cannot let die.

Kalighat paintings

A contemporary take on traditional icons. Photo credit: Somok Roy Heritage

One of the last practitioners of this art to have received international recognition and critical acclaim is Kalam Patua. He reinvented the Kalighat style by painting contemporary themes and yet retaining the stylized pattern of the traditional works. His paintings are housed in galleries and museums such as the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, The Victoria and Albert Museum, London, The Museum of Sacred Art, Belgium, etc..

The alleys and by-lanes of Kalighat buzz with life from the dawn-break. But practically none of the residents and shop-owners are aware of the rich painting tradition which once flourished here. I accidentally met the only custodian of this great tradition, residing in the vicinity of the temple, Bhaskar Chitrakar, who is arduously trying to revive the art form. His unflagging efforts do not seek beneficial opportunities, but the admiration and appreciation of a true ‘rasik’.

Image 1: the canal harbor of Terracina, photo by Latina Corriere

The canal harbor of Terracina? Photo credit: Latina Corriere

It is no mystery that in today’s consuming society, the act of repairing is becoming a forgotten activity: if something breaks, we replace it.

My grandfather used to say, “We used to build things to make them last as long as possible in my day; today, everything is made for a maximum of two or three years of use.”

And he is right: I can’t remember of something that lasted longer than three years, be it cellphones, appliances, cars, computers, clothing or tools.

So I asked myself: is it the same for traditional craftsmanship and skills?

How do they fit in a society where people do not repair things any longer?

My reflection started when I was walking near the banks of the canal in Terracina, my beloved hometown. The said canal is no longer in use as a transportation link; but is mostly used as a ‘parking’ for small boats and shapes the connection between the areas of the town with modern facilities, and the harbour area.



Abandoned storage spaces. Photo credit: Giulia Falovo

In the historic harbour area of ‘la Marina’ (the maritime), the city is split in two: one side has a vibrant nightlife with restaurants, bars and clubs, while the other side has remains of old structures related to the harbor life — storage spaces, canal banks, fishermen’s shops, and a vast area where the repairing material for boats is stored, like the memory of an abandoned past.

Another abandoned space. Photo credit: Guilia

Abandoned nets in the harbour area. Photo credit: Guilia Falovo

For some, the canal banks work as a point of aggregation, where to observe the daily unrolling of the city life, while being connected to its past.

One one can found groups of retired fishermen Enjoying the view while taking advantage of the warm Italian October; selling fish, gossiping or (what attracted me there) repairing nets.

Nets are an important component of a fisherman’s activity: There could be as many as 80 different types, according to the shape, use and type of fish, and they can go up to hundreds of meters. Before mass industrialization, fishing nets were normally made up by the fishermen or their wives.

Fishing nets require constant care and maintenance; so, when I observed Arturo repairing a net in a storage space nearby the harbor, I couldn’t pass up the chance to interview him.

Arturo at work.

Arturo repairs his nets. Photo credit: Sara Ceci

Arturo is a retired fishermen who just can’t put aside the need to work. Fishing has been the way of life for him for over 40 years, he has passed the baton to his son.

“I was lucky that my son wanted to continue the family tradition,” he says. “Not many youths want this profession these days. Everyone is moving to bigger cities so this sector is slowly dying.”

The pride shines through his eyes when he talks to me about his son. He says he is trying to teach him how to repair the nets, alegit with poor results. “He doesn’t like to work in his free time: he prefers to go out with his friends,” he rues.

Fishing nets require high standards of care and maintenance, and not many are willing to learn. But when an undeterred Arturo sits by his storage room, repairing the nets of his boats, a lot of people to observe this priceless craftsmanship.

Arturo doesn’t produce any art, tool, or gastronomic masterpiece. But he is one of the custodians of a timeless activity that has contributed to enrich the city as we see it today.