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The Travel Chronicles of Two Bedouins

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Know Your West Bengal

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The Aboriginal Art-Attack, Visiting Naya Pingla, where the Colour Speaks



Get a glimpse of Holi on the papers in this lesser known village in the West Midnapore district of West Bengal. The colours play havoc all around and in the very existence of the village. The traditional art of Patachitra (Painted Scrolls) is the not only the language of the artisans but also their sole identity. Even more fascinating being how the art moulded and emerged out to be an epitome of secular culture.

To cut down the monotony of a Sunday afternoon, two girls hit the road to visit a simple village, known to be a hub of art, carried on by the generations. The road trip (ensued by a train journey from Kharagpur Junction) kick-started with a cup of tea; a forty-five-minute drive from the Balichak station, 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. Our vehicle halted in front of a cemented narrow road which led to the houses of the artisans.

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

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 has adopted the surname of Chitrakar so as to respect their workand thus depicting their passion and tradition as their identity. It is to be mentioned here that a Patachitra Mela or fair is held every year in the month of November during which the villagers engage in a more gorgeous way of showcasing their work.
 
The word ‘Pata’ is derived from the Sanskrit word Patta which means “a piece of cloth”. 

Getting down from our vehicle we were welcomed by two kids, smiling and fascinated by the camera around my neck; they giggled and showed us the directions. Few steps ahead, a gentle lady took us to their home. Each home function as a workshop for the villagers. Entering the home, we saw the womenfolk of the house deeply absorbed in their work, painting an illustration on the paper. On the other end of the room, a teenaged girl was adding the finishing touches to the illustrations on the jewellery box. They showcased the various works while we clicked the photos.


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

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 latex of ‘bel’ so as to achieve a permanent pigment.

Eco-friendly Colours @DoiBedouin
Eco-friendly Colours

Moving further into the village, we interacted with other artisans. The walls of the houses were painted and filled with illustrations. So folks, here is your insta-worthy spot. We were invited into 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.

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


The Scroll which Speaks- On a piece of cloth was painted series of illustrations emerging from ancient Hindu myths which when shown was always accompanied with 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 literatures i.e. puranas. The style of painting followed the pattern of the paintings of Mohenjodaro and Harappa. So basically it could called the lineage of the aboriginal canvases.

The illustrations on the mini canvases evolved from just the folklores. Besides the ancient traditional paintings, they added the modern social issues, be it the terrorist attacks of 9-11 or the natural calamities like tsunami. Nevertheless, their brush strokes still speak of their efforts. They have widened the form of canvases too- which literally varied from the clothed scrolls to the daily wearable cloths, usable umbrellas, jewelleries, etc. The cost of the paintings too vary accordingly. 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.
  
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 cloths, usable umbrellas, jewelleries.

How to reach there:

Aboard a train from Howrah junction to Kharagpur Junction and get down at Balichak, wherefrom trekkers, bus and e-vehicle (toto) are available to Pingla. One may reserve or hire a usual trip. Reserve charges are based on bargaining skills whereas the trekker charge is 12/- per person. The route is not recommended for solo women travellers.
The other bedouin in this weekend trip was Maitri from Footsteps.

Where to stay:

The villagers are generous enough to let you stay for a night. However one might have a stay at hotels at Kharagpur.

Have a look into other indigenous art-forms here.

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4 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!

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

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

    ReplyDelete


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