✍a travelogue by Gautami Biswas
govt employee & traveller
kharagpur, Despite living most of my three decades of life in Kharagpur, I had never heard of the art called Patachitra. Located barely 40 kms from our town in Pingla block of West Midnapore, is the Village named Naya, where singing painters practise the art of Patachitra painting. Patachitra or Pattachitra is a general term for traditional, cloth-based scroll painting. Patachitra artform is known for its intricate details as well as mythological narratives and folktales inscribed in it. Patachitras are a component of an ancient Bengali narrative art, originally serving as a visual device during the performance of a song.
From Kharagpur we took the NH upto chaipat, then turned left for about 16kms straight and then turned left directly reaching Naya village. If coming from Kolkata, one can come to Debra and follow the same route. The nearest railway station in Balichak from where it is half an hour ride to Naya village, where you will find the chitrakars.Though they are Muslims by faith, they make scrolls depicting the Ramayana and Mahabharata and can sing the stories for you if you request them!
A decade back the art form was dying with less than 20 artists, but now Naya is a hub of more than 300 Patachitra artists. They have now formed a collective business. They export their products to European countries as well. The art is delicate and extremely time consuming. The patua/Chitrakar community in West Bengal has come under such initiatives by the Government of West Bengal, and NGO Banglanatak.com, which has also collaborated with bodies from the European Union in the past. All the paints are natural pigments made from tree leaves and flowers. Painting an entire saree takes upto 15 days!!! It made me feel ashamed that I was so unaware of my own district’s handicraft heritage. The Bengal Patachitra makers have received the GI tag for their products. This form of art is practiced mainly in the Pingla of West Midnapore. This is also practiced in some districts of Orissa and they have their separate GI Tag.
Apart from the traditional long scrolls, the Chitrakars have diversified their products according to market demand. We saw Kettle, Electric Lanters, Coffee mugs, Sarees, Kutis, Tops, Smaller scrolls with exquisite design on them.
The prices of these items can range from INR 50 to NR 20000 if you are buying directly from the artists.
Bengal Patachitra has received the Geographical Indications (GI) tag in 2018. In 2010-11 the Chitrataru, the artists’ society of Pingla obtained Craftmark for Bengal Patachitra. Craftmark is a labelling scheme that certifies authentic handmade crafts made directly by artisans in a socially responsible manner.