Art history/ Historiography, Crafts, Handlooms, Art

Resurrection: The Kalighat Art of Bengal

Sethi, Dr. Ritu

The Patua artists and storytellers were the precursors of cinema and television in Bengal.  Wandering from place to place with their painted linear Pattachitra scrolls they regaled their audiences with stories, slowly un-scrolling theirpats. Stories of gods and goddesses, myths, folklore and legends provided entertainment, the Patuas communicating and interpreting the stories while in addition carrying tales of faraway events and momentous occurrences to their audiences. In the early years of the 19th century looking for new opportunities some members of the Patua community settled in the vicinity of the Kalighat temple in southern Calcutta. Then as now this most renowned of all Hindu religious sites in Bengal was a great marketplace for traders, artists and craftsperson’s selling votive objects and mementos for the pilgrims to take home as souvenirs. The paintings of the Patuas at Kalighat were different from their scrolls as they now served a very different audience - that of pilgrims to the temple, eager for keepsakes at a low price. The Patuas broke from their tradition by selling their paintings, changing the format to that of a chaukash rectangular pat which depicted individual scenes and figures. These were executed on mill-made paper usually in a size of 45 cms. Given the crush of the large numbers of transient temple visitors  themade-to-order painting  were executed with great speed at prices that suited  the buyer’s pocket. Painted in water-colors the background was usually blank with the figures more often tha...
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