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The name “kalighat pata” is applied to a class of paintings and drawings on paper produced by a group of artists called ‘patuas’ in the neighbourhood of the famous Kali Temple ...
The name “kalighat pata” is applied to a class of paintings and drawings on paper produced by a group of artists called ‘patuas’ in the neighbourhood of the famous Kali Temple at Kalighat in Calcutta in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Colonial rule had destroyed the equilibrium of Bengal village life. Wandering scroll painters from the districts of Murshidabad, Birbhum, Hoogly, etc settled down near the Kalighat temple to paint their depictions of gods and goddesses as well as scenes from contemporary life and times, often with a dose of wry humour. The Patuas reflected in their paintings the incoherence of urban life, both of the English people and of the Calcutta babus, the style deriving inspiration from folk dolls and statuettes.
Kalighat “pats” soon developed into an industry, turning out a great number of pictures to meet the popular demand of pilgrims and other visitors to the city. Their themes included popular Hindu deities, incarnations and saints, epic and Puranic anecdotes, historical events, incidents of daily life, social skits and different species of Indian fauna.
In recent times, one artist belonging to a family of patuas, Bhaskar Chitrakar of Kalighat, is reviving this style. Inspired by his grandfather, he has decided to create paintings in the same tradition.
These works are part of his “Babu-Bibi” series, where the artist has replicated old works done during the period of British Raj. The Kalighat artists would sit along the roadside creating satirical paintings of the high-class, moneyed Bengali babus, who tried to ape the leisured lifestyle of their British masters, spending hours preening and pampering themselves and their spouses.
In this patachitra, Bhaskar has given his “Babu-Bibi” a contemporary context.