Sunday, 20 June 2010

Kalighat Patachitras

Kalighat Parachitras are one of my favourite folk-art forms from India.
Rooted in Bengali themes, their styling and details
have inspired so many artists over the years.
Scroll painters or 'patua's originally hail from rural Bengal,
artists that breathe life into narrative scrolls in the midst of,
often, hostile life situations and rather limited resources.

Here are some Kalighat pats from an exhibition going on at Tejas Gallery in Kolkata:

''The name “kalighat pata” is applied to a class of paintings and drawings on paper produced by a group of artists called ‘patuas’ in the neighbourhood of the famous Kali Temple at Kalighat , in Calcutta in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The art activities of these ‘patuas’, which shared some common technical and stylistic characteristics, developed into an industry, turning out a great number of pictures to meet the popular demand of pilgrims and others visitors to the city. The artists selected as their themes for delineation popular Hindu deities, incarnations and saints, epic and Puranic anecdotes, historical events, incidents of daily life, social skits and different species of Indian fauna.

In recent times, one artist belonging to a family of patuas, Bhaskar Chitrakar of Kalighat, is reviving this style. Inspired by his grandfather, he has decided to create paintings in the same tradition. The artist is very young but the style is old.''

- Aban Desai, Tejas Gallery, Kolkatta

Maa Durga

The Goddess of the temple 'Maa Kali' is the subject of many of the pats.

The next painting is really close to my heart;
resembles the calendar art depictions of Goddess Lakshmi
that I referred to for my earlier Lokkhi paintings.
I am collecting this one, she will reside in one of our kitchen walls :) !!

Religious themes often inspire Kalighat paintings and
the next one is a rather cute rendition of two of Bengal's most celebrated
saint duo: Nimai-Nitai of the Vaishnava traditions of Bengal.

All of these are painted on handmade paper with vegetable dyes.
The next is another one of my favourites, little tota perched on a saadhu.
In the next painting, we have a zamindar with his professional ear-cleaner :)

The 'henpecked' husband (!); humour has always been characteristic of these paintings.

The Kalighat tigers and cat-with-prawn paintings are ever-popular and
I find them - stylistically - brilliant.
If you are in Kolkatta, do not miss this exhibition for many more
delightful kalighat pats.

[**Bhaskar Chitrakar's works are available at TEJAS Gallery, 11 Mayfair Road,

(Opp Ice Skating Rink), Kolkata 700019.


The gallery is open from 12.30 to 7.30 daily except Sundays & public holidays.**]

Here is a video that by Tara Books that showcases scroll-painting beautifully.

Tara books used scroll painters to illustrate their book on Tsunami.

That such a beautiful art is now being referred to as a dying art-form is unfortunate.
The artists in the villages struggle to hold on to their work,
often finding it difficult to afford the paper and materials required to make the scrolls.
Pat-painting has empowered, and still, is empowering many rural woman,
who continue to churn out colourful narrative pieces that
often address social issues and even help spread awareness.

I dedicate my post today to all the patuas of Bengal, past-present and future;
especially my ladies who continue to bring to us such delightful work
and sit down to paint at the end of each day of being a mother/wife/home-maker.


Sylvie said...

thanks so much Dithi for such an interesting post.
I knew,recently about the shipiro in Amazonia whose shamans sing while showing intricated paths and patterns on their embroideries.Here also the patterns of the drawings are linked precisely with a song (which comes from an alternate reality). Your post has opened for me a new door on the link between songs and art painting and drawing.

megha punater said...

these are gorgeous dithi, i love those tigers. thank you for the info .

Domestic Goddess said...

wow.....such a wonderful depiction. I was not aware of this form of Art. Actually through your blog I have known lots about your culture and heritage....and am very thankful to you for that. Keep up the good work.

GB said...

Lovely post Dhiti! There are so many art forms in India-each culture has its own story to share. Lovely. I liked the "tota" & henpecked husband paintings :)...

So is this related in any way to the scroll paintings from orissa? they have these little flaps that open. I think that was also called patta or patra paintings....the exact name escapes me right now...

Dithi said...

Sylvie: Glad you enjoyed this art form, yes the songs and the paintings combine to complete the art-form, in fact, the song is composed first and the artist sings it along as she paints each verse sequentially.

Megha: Every year at the Kolkata book fair, scroll painters come from different villages and sell their work.

Suman: Thank you, I plan to share more then.

GB: Actually, scroll-paintings or 'Patachitras' originating from different parts in and around Bengal have different styles. Yes, Orissa pats have a totally separate technique and style. I'll make a post on that sometime. They are often made of palm leaves as well.

GB said...

I thought so- I have one that was given to me by my BFF as a wedding gift- the work is so intricate and I love the way it tells a story (there are little flaps you lift up to see the next picture). Its a work of art! Looking forward to your next post.


indian yarn said...

and i read some where that most of these artists were muslims and some of them converted themselves into hindus , so that they will find customers - is this true -?

Tracer Bullet said...

loved the post and the paintings... especially liked the kali painting :)

Venus- The planet of love said...

Hi Dithi.
Your blog is extremely viabrant and I loved this post of yours.

A 'Lokhi' patachitro in the kitchen sounds so facinating and also reflects the talent at work in this space.

Looking forward to many more of your posts!


chabi said...

Thanks Deethi for presenting the amazing stories of Scroll paintings. Brilliant! Bravo! I had a picture of yesteryears potchitra image: shabby, ragged and worn out pieces of work. New brightly coloured Pota chitra (sounds as pot like caught or rot) and the artist's happy face prompts me to say «Jai Ho". Wish to see more and Thanks again for the excellent info.

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