Tribal arts tour of India - Pattachitra, Kalighat

Tribal Arts Tour of India - Pattachitra, Kalighat

Today we will be visiting 2 interestingly different art forms coming from East India. One is Kalighat paintings from West Bengal and another one is Pattachitra from Odisha. Kalighat Painting is a contemporary take on folk art while Pattachitras are an ancient artform of Odisha.

State - Odisha
Tribal art - Pattachitra (In Sanskrit, Patta means cloth & Chitra means picture)
Situated at - Puri, Raghurajpur, Paralakhemundi, Chikiti and Sonepur in Odisha
Material used - Cloth, chalk, gum and tamarind seeds to give leather like finish to cloths, Paints made from earth, vegetables and stone

The traditions of pattachitra paintings are more than thousand years old, originally created for ritual use and as souvenirs for pilgrims to Puri as well as other temples in Odisha. They mostly depict mythological, religious stories and folklore. The theme generally revolves around Lord Jagannath, Radhe Krishna, temple activities, the ten incarnations of Vishnu, Ramayana, Mahabharata, etc.
Image credit: Pattachitra by Nauka Raas from
The Pattachitra style is a mix of both folk and classical elements but leaning more towards folk forms. The dress style is inspired by Mughal influences. All of the poses have been confined to a few well-defined postures. The lines are bold and clean and angular and sharp. Generally, there are no landscapes, perspectives, and distant views. All the incidents are seen in close juxtaposition. The background on which the figures are represented, is delineated with decorations of flowers and foliage and is mostly painted in red colour. All the paintings are given decorative borders. 

Artists are known as Chitrakars.

State - West Bengal
Folk art - Kalighat
Situated at - Kalighat, Kolkata
Material used - Paper , Cloth, Naturally made colours

Kalighat paintings are highly stylised and dramatic. They are characterised by voluptuous figures of both men and women and an earthy satirical style. The artists were rarely educated, and usually came from a lineage of artisans.
Typical Kalighat painting
Image credit: THL India
It developed during the nineteenth century when Calcutta became prosperous by the entry of the East India Company. Many houses including Tagores saw sudden increase in wealth. Many of these nouveau rich families were not particularly from upper caste backgrounds. So the orthodox looked down upon them and their obvious excessive consumption. To the common people the babus, as they were called, were equally objects of fun and sources of income. Thus the 'babu culture' portrayed in the Kalighat patas often shows inversions of the social order (wives beating husbands or leading them about in the guise of pet goats or dogs, maidservants wearing shoes, sahibs in undignified postures, domestic contretemps, and the like.) They also showed European innovations (babus wearing European clothes, smoking pipes, reading at desks, etc.). The object of this is only partly satirical; it also expresses the wonder that ordinary Bengalis felt on exposure to these new and curious ways and objects. The art form is urban and largely secular. Although gods and goddesses are often depicted, they appear in the de-romanticised way as humans do. 

I deliberately put these 2 art forms together to demonstrate the fluidity and flexibility of the folk art forms. One is devotional in nature whereas another one is satirical. Isn't it interesting how different narratives give birth to different art forms. 
Info credit: Wikipedia
Start your own tribal art collection with pieces here

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