Patua Painting: Tale of the Lion and his Ministers

in Image Gallery
Published on: 17 August 2018

M.D. Muthukumaraswamy

M.D. Muthukumaraswamy is a Tamil writer, Director of National Folklore Support Centre, Chennai, and a Consultant at Sahapedia.


The narrative scroll paintings of West Bengal known as the Patua paintings are drawn either on scrolls made of paper or cloth. The Chitrakars sing the narration as they unfold their scroll paintings in the street corners. These narrative scroll paintings of West Bengal delineate not only mythological and historical stories but also contemporary news and events. Here, Ranjith Chitrakar and Sahajan Chitrakar narrate the story of how animals came to be living in separate abodes inside a forest in this story. Like Pattachitra of Odisha, Patua painting also effectively uses borders to frame its scenes in the story, but, unlike Pattachitra, Patua paintings do not rely on the realistic portrayal of characters and events. Among the story elements of emotion, characterisation, event, action, and drama, Patua paintings prominently use intense conflicts as the focus of the narration. Often the scrolls are meaningless without the accompanying singing. Ranjith Chitrakar and Shajan Chitrakar use various sizes of paper to narrate their tale. Their narration in pictures may appear to be abrupt but they demand the coming together of the words and visuals in the performative context. Moreover, the Chitrakars often improvise their stories according to the audiences they address and the paintings remain visual aids to  the vivacity of the words.