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Patua: The Artistry of Narrative Scrolls



  Apr 19, 2024

Patua: The Artistry of Narrative Scrolls



What is Patua Art?

Patua art is a traditional form of scroll painting from the region of present-day West Bengal, India, and Bangladesh. It involves both the creation of painted scrolls, known as patas, and a performance element where stories are sung or narrated as the scroll is unrolled.

Who are the Patuas?

 The term 'Patua' has three connotations:

● It refers to a community or caste, traditionally from East India and Bangladesh, whose hereditary occupation is making these artworks.

● It denotes the individual artisans who paint or display the scrolls.

● It signifies the folk tradition of storytelling accompanied by scroll paintings in Bengal.

What themes are depicted in Patua paintings?

Patua paintings cover a wide range of themes, often drawing from religious texts like the Ramayana and Mahabharata, local myths such as stories of Radha and Krishna, and social messages. Modern Patua artists have also started incorporating contemporary issues like family planning, literacy, and environmental conservation.

How old is the Patua tradition?

While the exact origins of the Patua tradition are hard to trace, it is believed to date back to at least the tenth or eleventh centuries. The tradition was already established by then, even though the oldest surviving scrolls date from the eighteenth century.

How has the Patua tradition evolved?

Originally, Patua artists used natural pigments on dried leaves. Over time, they shifted to cloth canvases. The art form was primarily passed down through generations within families. In the twentieth century, notable figures like Gurusaday Dutt helped popularize Patua art through public exhibitions and writings. In recent decades, the tradition has adapted to include more contemporary themes and mediums, transitioning from solely a performance art to a visual folk art more accessible to a broader audience.

What is the relationship between Patua art and other regional art forms?

Patua art has influenced and been influenced by other regional art forms. For instance, Kalighat paintings, which developed in Kolkata, share stylistic elements with Patua art. In Odisha, the patachitra art form at the Jagannath Temple also shows a blend of bardic oral traditions and visual storytelling similar to Patua.

This FAQ provides a brief overview of the rich and complex tradition of Patua art, showcasing its historical depth and evolving nature in the cultural tapestry of India.



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