Pattachitra of Pingla

Pattachitra or Patachitra is a general term for traditional, cloth-based scroll painting, based in the eastern Indian states of Odisha and West Bengal. Pattachitra art form is known for its intricate details as well as mythological narratives and folktales inscribed in it. Pattachitra is one of the ancient artworks of Odisha.Pattachitras are a component of an ancient Bengali narrative art, originally serving as a visual device during the performance of a song.  Wikipedia 

As I mentioned in my earlier post, my tryst with art is fairly recent but deep as well. As I am setting out to appreciate art at a deeper level so that I am able to articulate the journey of the artists and their stories and at the same time advocate their art.

I have been travelling since last six months, you can read about my journey at Columbus In Me. Recently I landed in Kolkata, and there my good friend Sudhriti, talked about a storytelling art called “Pathachitra” or “Pathachitrakatha”. The form which is unique to Bengal and Orissa.

I was intrigued, more so because I am also pursuing Diploma in Story Telling from Kathalaya. Kathalaya is an institute pioneered by Mrs. Geeta Ramanujam. The diploma program has assignments to complete and one of which is to interview an expert who specialises in unique traditional forms of storytelling.

I set out to meet the Chitrakars in Pingla on the local train from Howrah station in Kolkata. Pingla is a quaint panchayat accessed from “Balichak” railway station. Thanks to my friend, I was picked up from the station by Rahim Chitrakar and we travelled 14 km to his village on his bike. I was welcomed by his family into their humble home and big hearts. 

The lovely Environment Song

The Chitrakars, a vulnerable community of about 300 artists (in all), is spread over 4 or 5 locations in the area. The village I visited accommodated 85 families, all of whom are artists, like literally everyone in a family is an artist. That is their traditional occupation and the one they are pursuing even at present.

They believe the art form was passed on from Cane, the son of Adam, the first man, as per the old testament in Abrahamic religion. Everyone in the community is known by the surname “Chitrakar”. They follow Islam as their faith. However, their art work is significantly in adoration of the Hindu Mythology. 

Watch the Pathochitra Nagmata Performance ( Click for explanation in Hindi)

The most unique thing about this art form is that the paintings are made using natural colours ( watch the video at derived from substances available in the region. Red comes from a fruit; whose seeds release red colour. Yellow is derived from raw turmeric.  Green is from leaves of Marigold. 

While they do create individual paintings, their main forte is creating scroll paintings. These scrolls are then used as a story visual. They sing the story with apt action references. Some of the scrolls they showed me were longer than 10 feet. I was told that there is a scroll created which is 21 feet long. 

Further the paintings are created using single stroke on their paper. The painting once completed is the stuck on a saree cutting so it stays intact.

After meeting the artists of this area, spending the day with them, I felt connected to them in ways unknown. The love and the pride these artists feel in their work which makes them continue to give their heart and soul in each painting they make and motivates them to continue their struggle to make ends meet is worth appreciating and learning from.

I know I am not the first one to write about this art form. But I cannot shy away from doing my bit towards supporting these artists and this unique art form. 

Please get in touch with me if you want to support the Chitrakars of Pingla in any way possible, like inviting them to local festivals, monetary donations, buying their art, showcasing their art, setting up stalls for them. Every small bit matters.