Weaving a tapestry of art and song!

Patachitra is a traditional performance art from Eastern India that traces its origins to the 13th century. This is an art form that marries art to song. The artists or the Patuas, or the Patidars, would travel from village to village, unfurling their Patachitras to the songs they sung. The scrolls would be an illustration of their songs and the stories they told within them, anything from folktales to episodes about social awareness.

The Patuas were both entertainers and teachers, even a child could follow their stories and subsequently learn the moral ground between good and bad. They were beloved wherever they went and their art was a witness to the stories of the times, past and present. To keep their art alive and relevant, their themes would change with the times.

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Naya, a village in West Bengal’s Paschim Midnapore district is unlike any other little village you’ve heard of. Over 250 Patuas call Naya their home. They are a community of not just artists but performers, lyricists, singers, painters all rolled into one. They are the last inextinguishable light of this art.

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Customarily the tradition was passed from father to son, but now more and more Patua women are following the tradition. Messages against female infanticide, to spread awareness against AIDS, child trafficking and many more social causes are taken up by them and transformed into a beautiful Patachitra. Naya is also famous for being the recipient of several President’s Awards for the Patachitras the artisans have produced.

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Every year the artisan community at Naya hold a three day ‘Pot Maya’ festival to celebrate the art of Patachitra. The villagers paint their mud walls with their art and spruce up their surroundings to welcome the horde of curious visitors. Scrolls from the past centuries along with scrolls inspired by modern events and personalities, like Mother Theresa, are exhibited. Workshops are conducted to spread the art and performances to showcase their skill.

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