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Patua art: The sacramental scroll paintings

Updated: Jul 15, 2022

If you love Indian folk art, you must've probably heard about Madhubani, Warli, or Gond. These are some of the most popular types of folk.

However, Indian traditional art is not restricted to these three genres; it is as varied as ours.

Patua art

Each location has its own style of art, and each style is equally remarkable.

Patua art is one such form.

Patua is a famous traditional painting style from West Bengal.

Traditionally, this type of painting is done on a piece of fabric or a piece of cloth called pati or patta.

Patua painters are an artisan group that travels from village to village singing traditional songs and unrolling scrolls known as patua in front of their audiences.

The Patachitra or patua

These classical paintings are extraordinary storytelling scrolls based on sacred themes.

The Patachitra or patua scrolls may depict stories from famous Hindu epics such as the Ramayana and Sufi traditions that are also recited frame by frame.

The Patuas are an artisan group from West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Odisha in India and parts of Bangladesh.

Patua is an abbreviation of the Bengali term Pota, which means engraver.

They are also commonly referred to as Chitrakars, which means "scroll painter."

Scroll paintings were historically used to help convey stories.

The artists would travel from one village to another and narrate stories using the scroll in exchange for food or money.

Chitrakars, which means "scroll painter."

Patua artists have traditionally used a brush made of bamboo sticks and goat hair.

Herbs and plants were used to create the colors.

Aside from the classic themes, the scrolls now represent current events, history, and other subjects.

Painters utilize vegetable colors on paper that have been glued using vegetable gum.

The paintings are stitched together, and cloth from old discarded saris are attached to the back to support the scrolls.

The scrolls may show a scene or panel from a much bigger tale, animal pictures, or scenes from the artist's imagination.

The Chitrakars work in the traditional manner of traveling minstrels, a medieval practice in which a singer from an artisanal family sings about events or myths for the public with the accompaniment of a lengthy, narrative scroll or in remote communities.

The Patachitra or patua

The full-sized scrolls are always complemented by smaller works depicting individual individuals from mythology, allowing the possibility to sell to the domestic, pedestrian market.

Some of the most well-known drawings and paintings of nineteenth-century Bengal are the Kalighat Pats, which were made by village-based clay modelers and painters who lived near Kolkata's famous Kali Temple of Kalighat.

The Chitrakars' work is increasingly being collected by their audience as well as other buyers and collectors who are drawn to its unique creativity, and brightness.

Today, these painters display their work at museums, craft fairs, and local art festivals.

With the advancement of technology and globalization, there has also been a movement in the subjects explored by artists.

The Patachitra or patua

Previously, they would focus on stories derived from ancient writings, but now numerous artists in the group draw inspiration from politics, social issues, world events, and so on.

This innovation extends not just to the subjects but also to the mediums chosen to display their work.

Apart from handmade paper, other materials on which the craft is being performed include wood, cloth, terracotta, and clay.

Patua art may not be as well-known as different types of folk art, but with its vibrant colors and intriguing subjects, it deserves to be. Hopefully, e-commerce and social media can revitalize it. In the meantime, let us do everything we can to promote and maintain this kind of art.

The Patachitra or patua

Author: Akash R. Ekka

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