The intriguing tale of the Patta Chitra Patuas of Bengal and other matters

Art history/ Historiography

The intriguing tale of the Patta Chitra Patuas of Bengal and other matters

Sethi, Ritu

The Poetics and Politics of Indian Folk and Tribal Art

Issue #004, Summer, 2020                                                                       ISSN: 2581- 9410

  The Patta Chitra Patuas of Bengal continue to paint their scrolls, compose poetry and sing their tales to audiences while many similar traditions have quietly vanished or are endangered. In their increasingly complex theatre of operations, the Patuas are in an inexorable mediation with change, their artistic inheritance continually negotiating between tradition and modernity and between the sacred and the secular. In the spectrum of spaces and avenues of potential growth paths the Patuas proverbial adaptability to changing times and audiences has held them in good stead. NEGOTIATING THE SACRED AND THE SECULAR This ability to react and respond to their environment, adapting to their audiences need for the never-ending creation of stories by painting and reciting on themes of interest has its basis in their historical past. Unlike the other narrative picture storytelling traditions like the Garoda, Kaavad, the Mata-ni-Pachedi whose stories were related by clan-priests to the community they served, the Patuas’ audiences were the villagers across the interiors of Bengal—different castes, different communities. From the evidence of old scrolls it might be deduced that their subject themes extended from the Hindu Puranas, the
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