Pattachitra - A painted poetry

West Bengal, a state in eastern India is famous for several of its cultural contributions. However, in its treasure trove of mesmerizing cultural heritage, carefully tucked away, is the folk art ‘Pattachitra.’ With a distinctive art style, ‘Pattachitra’ is the perfect combination of visual and audible art that results in what can only be defined as a spellbinding performance of painted poetry.

‘Pattachitra,’ a Sanskrit word, translates to images drawn on the fabric. With intricate paintings of mythological and religious themes, the artists or ‘Patuas’ use bright, bold colors to freehand paint scrolls of stories. However, the most remarkable aspect of ‘Pattachitra’ is the ‘Pater Gaan,’ the narrative song women sing while unfurling the ‘Patta.’ Each song recites the story depicted in the scroll and is an extension of the oral traditions.

‘Pattachitra’ has continued as a familial occupation as the artisans have embraced the surname ‘Chitrakar’ and reside in heritage artist villages in the Medinipur district and other areas of Bengal. The ‘Patuas’ currently working are renowned generational artists with a sea of experience under their belt and countless stories to share.

‘Patuas’ have historically portrayed unwritten and unrecorded stories that are often only alive in grandmothers’ tales, but with time have incorporated contemporary issues that reflect the socio-economic state of the world, thus acting as people’s chronicle.