paintings are the traditional forms of Indian
paintings dating back to an era referred to
as 'timeless'. These paintings generally are
inherently linked with the cultural settings
which they come from as well as the regional
Derived from the Sanskrit words patta
(a piece of cloth), chitra (painting
or picture), Patachitra
is a folk art form drawn on a piece of silk,
cotton or any other fabric, portraying traditional
motifs and imageries of religion and society.
Art work drawn on a piece of silk or cotton
or any other fabric portraying traditional
motifs of religion and society is called ‘pata’
art. As an art form ‘pata’
may be traced back to ancient times.
Though considerably weakened under the impact
of modernity, this art from is still practiced
by untrained artists and still in great demand.
As a folk art it reflects an important aspect
of Bengal’s cultural heritage.
Pata art is of two kinds —
art on a broad sheet of folded cloth and miniscule
art on a short piece of fabric. The fabric
in fact forms the base for pata art.
Clay, cowdung and some sticky elements are
skillfully added to the fabric. When dried,
the fabric becomes tough but mellow enough
to sustain the stroke of the artist’s
brush. When completely dried, the artists
draw on it religious motifs including deities
Puranic anecdotes and slokas
Several holy places of the Hindus - Kailash,
Vrindaban, Ayodhya commonly appeared in pata
art. This art form flourished in Bengal particularly
during the Buddhist period. Vignettes of the
Buddha’s life and his preachings also
find a place in the pata art. From
the 8th century onward, the pata tradition
was monopolised by the Hindus -Yadu (Krishna’s
clan), Yama (god of death), Chandi
(a manifestation of Shakti / female
power), the ten incarnations Vishnu, deeds
of Rama, love life of Krishna, became the
predominant themes of Hindu pata
The famous Kalighat pata
began principally as painting of religious
icons, to be sold to the devotees who came
to worship at the Kalighat temple, in the
heart of Kolkata. Gradually the medium shifted
from cloth to paper. The urban experience
saw recognisable living characters and stereotypes,
being inscribed on the canvas as visual images.
Caricatures that lampooned contemporary events
and social malaise took the Kalighat pata
further away from its original traditional
religious connotation and content to a much
wider, eclectic and secular expression. This
was the time when the craft blossomed into
a full-fledged art form.
The arrival of the lithograph and the printing
press pushed the Kalighat pata
into near oblivion. However, the re-discovery
and adaptation of its figurative style by
the maestro Nandalal Bose, into a new language
of painting has helped the Kalighat pata
style to leave an indelible impact on the
contemporary Indian art. The popular mytho-religious
themes are Mahishasuramardini, Kamale-Kamini,
Behula-Lakhindar, Manasa-Chandsadagor, Radha-Krishna,
Chaitanyaleela, to name a few.
celebrated Warli paintings
sprung from the life and rituals of the Warli
tribe, inhabiting the remote corners of the
Western Ghats in Maharashtra. This simple yet
vivid painting style is believed to have originated
sometime around the 10th century AD However,
considering its simplicity of form and figure,
it can be assumed to be dating back to the Neolithic
period between 2500 BC and 3000 BC.
These paintings depict diverse aspects of everyday
life, using extremely basic object forms and
just one colour – white – on a sober
mud base. Their appeal lies in their lack of
pretentiousness in conveying profound meanings
using elementary object forms. Each painting
is usually an entire scene containing various
elements of nature including people, animals,
trees, hills etc.
A painting of the Warli tribe
Also known as Mithila Art, (because
it flourishes in the Mithila region of Bihar),
Madhubani is characterized by line drawings
filled in by bright colours and contrasts or
patterns. This style of painting has been traditionally
done by the women of the region, though nowadays
men are also getting more and more involved.
These paintings are popular
because of their tribal motifs and use of bright
earthy colours. The painting work is done on
freshly plastered/mud walls. However for commercial
purposes, the work is increasingly being executed
on paper, cloth, canvas etc.
In keeping with the current
concerns regarding the environment, this style
of painting is totally eco-friendly. Wads of
cotton wrapped around a bamboo stick forms the
brush. The pigments are made out of minerals
by the artists. The colours are all natural
derivatives without even a trace of chemicals.
For instance, the colour black is obtained by
mixing soot with cow dung; yellow from turmeric
or pollen or lime and the milk of banyan
leaves; blue from indigo; red from the kusum
flower juice or red sandalwood; green from the
leaves of the wood apple tree; white from rice
powder; orange from palash flowers.
The colours are applied flat with no shading
and no empty spaces are left.
Figures from nature and mythology
are adapted to suit this style of painting.
The themes and designs revolve around Hindu
deities and entities like Krishna, Rama,
Shiva, Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, the Sun
and Moon, the tulasi plant, court scenes,
wedding scenes, social happenings etc. A number
of floral, animal and avian motifs as well as
geometrical designs are used to fill up all
the gaps. The skill is handed down from generation
to generation and hence the traditional designs
and patterns are widely maintained.