The Simplest Ways to Make the Best of The Aboriginal Art-Attack, Visiting Naya Pingla, Where the Colour Speaks


How often do we get the chance to admire arts? Even if we do, that is either within the four walls or in news. Welcome to Pingla- West Bengal’s hidden open-air Art Museum. Get a glimpse of Holi on the papers in this lesser-known village in the West Midnapore district of West Bengal. The colors play havoc all around the village. It is in the very existence of the village. The Soul. Each house is a canvas here and the people, the Painters.


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    The traditional art of Patachitra (Painted Scrolls) is not only the language of the artisans but also their sole identity. Even more fascinating being how the art molded and emerged out to be an epitome of secular culture.

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    Pat (pronounced pot) depicts a canvas on which illustrations are made. @DoiBedouin
    Pat (pronounced pot) depicts a canvas on which illustrations are made.

    How to Reach Pingla?


    The village is a forty-five-minute drive from the Balichak station. Balichak is easily accessible. Any train from Howrah Junction going southwards would cross it.  Aboard a train from Howrah Junction to Kharagpur Junction and get down at Balichak. Shared trekkers, bus and e-vehicle (toto) are always available to Pingla. One may reserve or hire a usual trip. Reserve charges are based on bargaining skills (ours took 300 for a round trip) whereas the trekker charge is 12/- per person. 


    The route is not recommended for solo women travelers. The road to the village from the station is a bit too long and without lights. So if you visit in the daytime it would not be a problem. But it is better to avoid in the evening or at night. Starting off in the morning is best.


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    The road is long, and curves through lush green paddy fields. Every few turns have these gigantic transmission towers in between. So before you start in to gain on the Indian village sceneries, the transmission lines would tower over you.

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    winding through the initial busy state highway, then turning to the village road, snaking through lush green meadows; the greenery was disrupted only by the transmission towers in between. @DoiBedouin
    Winding through the initial busy state highway, then turning to the village road, snaking through lush green meadows; the greenery was disrupted only by the transmission towers in between.

    Getting into the Village Locality

    Our vehicle halted in front of a cemented narrow road which led to the houses of the artisans. We were welcomed by two kids, smiling and fascinated by the camera around my neck. They giggled and showed us the directions. Hardly any paces more, a gentle lady took us to their home. Each home functions as a workshop for the villagers. Even as we entered a house, we saw the ladies deeply absorbed in painting a sketch on the paper. On the other end of the room, a teenaged girl was adding the finishing touches to the illustrations on the jute jewelry boxes. They showed us a good many other works while we clicked the photos.

     The walls of the houses were painted and filled with illustrations @DoiBedouin
     The walls of the houses were painted and filled with illustrations

    I was amazed by the wonderful artwork in this village. It's a village comprising no fewer than seventy-six families, carrying over the art form over seven generations. Even small children are engaged in painting and their creations is noticeably creditable. 

    Moving further into the village, and every wall speaks a story. The mud walls of the kachha houses are literally frescoes talking to you. The themes ranged from scenes from Hindu religious texts to animal motifs. So folks here is your insta-worthy plug-in. We were invited to another house, to have a look through their art-attacked products. This time, the polite lady shared with us the history of the Patachitra, while showcasing the crafts. She also sang us the “Machher Biye” while showing us the Patachitra. I noticed that, as she sang, she opened the scroll and rolled up the part she had already finished explaining.

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    Machher Biye is basically a song about the marriage of two small fishes. The painting shows two small fishes in a palanquin, held by many other big fishes. Some of the fishes offer to be the bride's nose ring, while the others wanted to be her anklet. All fishes are invited except for ' Boyal'. Why? Because it eats up smaller fishes. Everything happens to be going well over good food and good laugh. Now that “Boyal” is not invited, it turns up infuriated, and eats up many small fishes. Every fishes and not a few, come and keep begging to not to eat the couple. Boyal agrees to do so on condition that he has to be invited and fed like others. Only then he would consider releasing the couple and family.

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    What is Patachitra and Its Significance- The Scroll Which Speaks


    The word ‘Pata’ is derived from the Sanskrit word Patta which means “a piece of cloth”. Pat (pronounced pot) depicts a canvas on which illustrations are made. The artists are traditionally known as Patuas or Chitrakars meaning illustrators. Since the art-form is the very life of the village, the artisans have adopted the surname of Chitrakar so as to respect their work and thus depicting their passion and tradition as their identity. 


    The word ‘Pata’ is derived from the Sanskrit word Patta which means “a piece of cloth”. 


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    Every year, in November, a Patachitra Mela or fair known as Pot Maya is held. The villagers engage in a more gorgeous way of showcasing their rich tradition singing their ideas through colourful images and soulful tunes.


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    The Patuas have their own songs written by them. These songs are known as Poter Gaan.

    The colour used by the Chitrakars are herbal and thus eco-friendly. They collect and dry the colours from leaves, fruits, flowers, plants etc. For instance, they extract saffron from ‘Lotkon’ leaves, blue from Aparajita flowers, yellow from turmeric, black from charcoal, green from Seem tree, red from the mud as in terracotta. The colours are then mixed with the sap of ‘bel’ so as to achieve a permanent pigment. They look so bright and vibrant. Though, acrylic is also used for painting on clothes.

    Eco-friendly Colours @DoiBedouin
    Eco-friendly Colours

    The History

    On a piece of cloth was painted series of illustrations emerging from ancient Hindu myths which when shown was always accompanied by a song, one for each story they illustrated. Patachitra could be dated back to four thousand years and is said to be mentioned in the ancient works of literature i.e. Puranas. The style of painting followed the pattern of the paintings of Mohenjodaro and Harappa. So basically it could be the lineage of the aboriginal canvases.


    The Evolution into Modernism

    The illustrations on the mini canvases evolved from just the folklores. The Potuas or Chitrakars dyes tales from Mangalkavyas (narratives of Hindu Bengali religious Text), Hindu Epics (namely the Ramayana and the Mahabharata), and Behula Lakhhinder. Besides the customary, they added modern social issues too. Be it the terrorist attacks of 9-11 or the natural calamities like a tsunami. Nevertheless, their brushstrokes still speak of their efforts. They sing along, as they unfold the scrolls. 


    They have widened the form of canvases too- which literally varied from the clothed scrolls to the daily wearable clothes, usable umbrellas, pieces of jewelry, etc. The cost of the paintings too varies accordingly.

    They have widened the form of canvases too- which literally varied from the clothed scrolls to the daily wearable cloths, usable umbrellas, jewelleries. @DoiBedouin
    They have widened the form of canvases too- which literally varied from the clothed scrolls to the daily wearable clothes, usable umbrellas, pieces of jewelry.

    A Hidden Message in Itself- Unity in Diversity

    What captivated me more is that the artists who sang the lore from Hindu myths, are Muslims and there stands the beauty of this unique art-form, portraying a continual unadulterated harmony. Today, both men and women participate equally. They learn the art of designing and contemplating patachitra paintings from their parents and grandparents, irrespective of gender.  Numerous national awards were conferred, for their excellent workmanship.


    deeply absorbed in their work, painting an illustration on the paper @DoiBedouin
    Deeply absorbed in their work, painting an illustration on the paper

    Where to Stay

    The villagers are generous enough to let you stay for a night. During Pot Maya, one might stay in the resource center. However, one might have a stay at hotels at Kharagpur. 


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    21 comments

    1. Beautiful paintings! The colours are so vibrant. I didn't know there existed this place so near Kharagpur where they made patachitras. It's a village full of art! I'd love to visit when I'm home!

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      1. Sure. This is indeed a hidden gem in the West Midnapore district.

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    2. Inspiration for me... #destination for next road trip

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    3. It's really amazing how they make their own paints from the plants and herbs that they grow!

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    4. They are so very creative really. We have art designs simpler in here to cover some graffiti but if they will be like these.. it will be awesome-r lol

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    5. Very, very artistic. These are the type of people who should be rich, because of their talents and that they preserve the culture of a nation.

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    6. Beautiful! I love that you showcased the artisan at work, it provides readers of your blog with so much appreciation for what they actually do!

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    7. This art is absolutely breath-taking! I love the vibrant colours and attention to detail exhibited in these works.

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    8. That sounds like a great place to visit especially if you love art and is seeking inspiration. They are quite talented and I love seeing people doing amazing artworks.

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    9. I love the posts about culture and travel and explanation of things that are not in an everyday newspaper. This place is magical. The people are sharing their gift with the others through their art creation. What an expedition for your to make and see it all!

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    10. You can find art all over the village. Every house is Instagram worthy. They meticulously prepare every color from natural ingredients and take time in perfecting their paintings, amazing.

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    11. Well I will add the place to my overflowing messy bucket list and try to tik it off very soon

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    12. Wow, this was full of surprises. I never considered this area, but it honestly sounds like the perfect place for every artist. It’s so beautiful.

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    13. Wow, beautiful art that have different yet deep meanings painted in them! I would love to buy one, I wish they could ship overseas!

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    14. I have never visited the area, but the pictures are really tempting.

      Thanks for the wonderful post.

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    15. What a fun trip and just love all the artwork—so much meaning! Loved this!

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    16. twinspirational@gmail.com19 September 2019 at 13:44

      These paintings are so beautiful..! Such a great trip you had..! Thanks for sharing..

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    17. So beautiful and fun art work. I really like the bold colors used x

      Laura
      https://pinkfrenzymissl.blogspot.com/

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    18. Color is therapeutic! And you did spend your day so well, experiencing color. Those pieces of art as so good, I'd buy them as souvenirs.

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    19. Such beautiful paintings..aboriginal tribes have a very rich culture and traditions such that it shows in their paintings.

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