Patuas- The carriers of the Indian court paintings
Patuas, popularly known as Chitrakars in Bengal, are perhaps the most undermined skilled individuals in the field of art.
Pattachitra means Chitra (Painting) on the Patta (cloth). The most known attribute of a Patua is his or her skill to depict intricate Hindu mythological sagas on yards of fabrics which are made as scrolls and rolled up. The painting is then summed up with poem and music composed by the Chitrakars themselves. They travel with their scrolls to various towns and villages to recite their depiction and most importantly to earn their humble livelihood.
A blurb on the history of Bengal Pattachitra dating back to the Mughal Era
The craft of Mughal painting started to lose its significance at the time of disintegration of the Mughal Empire in the 18th Century. The Mughal artists then took refuge in various Indian courts, one of them being the Bengal Subah (Province), a region under the Mughal empire. The art form received patronage from the Nawabs of Bengal in Murshidabad, the capital of Bengal Subah then. The artists infused the style of miniature paintings with the indigenous styles of various Indian courts. In effect of which, the paintings showcased a fusion of Hinduism & Islam and the depictions were bolder compared to the miniature paintings of the Mughals.
The depiction of the two significant religions in the paintings shows the level of parity and acceptance rendered by our ancestors. The craft under went very many evolution to capture the sensibilities of the Mughals, the Marathas, the British Raj and the present day and age. The artists draw relatively smaller sized paintings these days to cater to the smaller spaces in the Urban set up unlike the expanse in which people lived in the bygone era.
Artists who we have collaborated with and their clan, follow Islam. Their depictions are only Hindu mythological figures. There are mild reflection of Islamic styles seen in the get up of a figure like the crown of a goddess or a goddess without the round vermilion on her forehead etc. Their knowledge about Hindu Mythology would perhaps be much superior than individuals who follow Hinduism.
Their religious neutrality moved us immensely and we saw it as an opportunity and a privilege to bring value additions in their livelihood and help them to continue to be the receptacle of this lost & struggling culture.
Blog Reference & disclaimer: Travel diaries & Google – The references from various sources which include our travel to the artist villages, have made us come to a reasonable presumption that Patuas could be the lineage of the Mughal artists from the 18th century who later disbursed to various Indian courts in search of their livelihood.
Radha- Madhav artist – Rehman Chitrkar.
Mughal miniature painting image – Google images.