The Chitrakars in Naya: Emotion and the Ways of Remembrance

Reeti Basu

Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University

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The Patuas are a community of painters living in the eastern part of India, West Bengal. Patuas or Chitrakars have been practicing patachitra or patashilpa for centuries. Patachitra or patashilpa is a form of scroll painting. Their diverse repertoire includes tales from Hindu mythology, tribal folklore, as well as Islamic tradition. They paint their stories on long scrolls and sing, as the scroll is unrolled frame by frame. The community of Patuas is spread over many districts of pre-partitioned Bengal: Mursidabad, Bankura, South Twenty-four-Parganas etc (including present-day Bangladesh). Today there are only a few practicing Patuas. Most of them live in the Indian districts of Medinipur and Birbhum (West Bengal). Even in Medinipur, the Patuas are giving up their art and taking to carpentry and farming. The market for pats has shrunk and the income has declined. Unlike these settlements, in the Patua para in Naya, the tradition of painting patachitra continues even today. This article will be a case study of a Patua village, called Naya, located at the western part of Medinipur, West Bengal, India.

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