Handmade Patachitra: An Ancient Tradition

Among various folk-arts of India, Patachitra (scroll paintings) of Bengal is unique because it is a medium of both visual as well as oral communication. Patachitras portray religious deities, nature, society and culture in their paintings and the stories in the paintings are narrated by the painters (Patuas) in the song form and hence help preserve valuable information about social and religious traditions, and details of socio-political conditions.

The three original formats of painting a patachitra from Purulia, Bankura, Birbhum and West Mednipur are-

  1. Jadano pat or the scroll- showing episode sequences in a vertically placed manner- all illuminated along the picture frame one above the other- with commonly ten to fifteen frames in all.
  2. Arelatai pat- here the picture frames are horizontal in nature- bound in two ends by two wooden sticks to enable the patua to unroll the pat as he gradually displayed it in front of an audience. This contained primarily six to eight frames.
  3. Choukosh pat or the square pat is a single sheet of rectangular paper which is commonly used to eulogise a deity or an incident

After the drawing is complete, the songs are created to suit the visuals. Primarily, this only included vocals, but later on simple instruments like percussion, e.g. the dugdugi or wind instruments like the flute or even the harmonium were added.

Traditional Patachitra depicted stories from

  1. Various Indian mythologies like Ramayana, Bhagvat Gita and Mahabharata
  2. Indian religious texts like Puranas
  3. Local folktales, including Oral Traditions of communities
  4. Various Hindu and Muslim saints who were locally famous
  5. Different historical incidents of local significance (e.g. death sentence of various revolutionaries under British India

Overtime, Patuas evolved and adopted stories from various international and local historical incidents and more recently have depicted stories of current interest including. September 9/11 attacks in USA, global-warming, deforestation, AIDS and HIV, etc.

Originally, paper and cloth and sometimes palm-leaf manuscripts were used to paint the scrolls, however, in recent years, this has been substituted completely by the use of paper. The brushes are still made from the whiskers of the tail of squirrels and mongoose, which are tied with thin strips of bamboo to give the shape of a paint-brush. Patachitras use natural colors but acrylic colors are increasingly common. Traditional natural colors are

  • White color or ink is made from ‘Khari mati’ or ‘Kaat Khari’ which is a type of soil. Sometimes, white ink is also made by grinding conch shells, which is a very complicated process. It is also made from ‘Ghusom mati’ or a type of white colored soil found after digging the ground to the depth of around 20 feet.
  • The black color is collected from the soot of a lantern or a mud pot used for cooking rice.
  • The yellow color is made from turmeric paste.
  • The red color is made from Hibiscus, beetle leaves, tobacco and also from fruit capsules of Jaffran or Latkon tree.
  • The saffron color is also derieved from Latkon tree.
  • They also get the pure red pigment by different layered filtering of soil known as ‘Geri matti’. They use the essence of leaves from a creeper called ‘Dolichos Lablab’, which is a kind of kidney bean.
  • They get the orange from Palash or Kimsuk Flower (Butea Monosper).
  • The violet is extracted from the sap of Pooin fruits (Basella Alba) and the
  • Pink by blending red and white pigments.
  • The resin is derived from the seeds of the wood apple which is also used as a coloring agent.

Inspite of a long and glorious history, Patuas and their patachitra like many other folk arts are struggling to survive in the modern times. Younger generation is losing interest in the art form that has been handed over from generation to generation. Surviving artists are catering to consumerism and creating pictures that do not represent true tradition of Patachitra which uniquely combines both the visual and oral traditions. Interestingly, spread of Internet and ecommerce sites selling Patachitra have increased the awareness and may lead to the revival of this glorious tradition. Several Patachitra and accompanying songs can be found on youtube. Click on the following links to listen to beautiful songs by Patuas

Patachitra: Swarna Chitrakar

Patua: Swarna Chitrakar

Our e-commerce site http://www.yourhandmadeitems.com is offering a platform to the artists like Patuas to display and sell their handmade Patachitra to anyone with internet access and appreciation of this art form. Support us in our endeavors and buy and support the artists

Ref: Intangible Heritage Transformations- Patachitra of Bengal exploring Modern New Media; Dr. Lopamudra Maitra Bajpai; International Journal of History and Cultural Studies (IJHCS) Volume 1, Issue 1, PP 1-13



Hand Made Dokra Art: An Ancient Tradition

Numerous e-commerce websites have come up promoting handmade items like jewellery, traditional art forms, sculpture, housewares, and accessories. As a result, handmade goods can now be sold to anyone, anywhere and can improve the lives of the individuals who make them.

One such ancient art form from India that has benefitted from renewed interest in traditional handmade items is the Dokra Art. Below is an excerpt from an article on this beautiful art form.

India is well known worldwide for its metal casting skills, especially through the ‘Chola bronze’ and ‘Dhokra iron’ art castings that are produced even today by thousands of artisans spread all over the country. Metal casting has been mentioned in ancient Sanskrit texts such as Shilpashastra and Yantra Sarvasva and detailed in mediaeval texts such as Shilparatna and Manasara. The major application was in creating the idols used for worship; and very strict rules were laid down to achieve perfection in terms of talmana (proportions), mudra (stance) and bhava (expression). Other products included lamps, doors, frames, bells, cooking utensils, agricultural implements and weapons.

Earliest evidence of castings was found in the excavations of Indus Valley (3000-4000 BC) including the 11 cm high bronze dancing girl, cast ornaments, figurines and other items of copper, gold, silver and lead, besides kilns for smelting copper ingots and casting tools. The earliest iron castings emerged in India around 2000 BC, and its use in pillars, arrows, hooks, nails, bowls, daggers, etc. is confirmed by excavations in Delhi, Roopar, Nashik and many other places. Large scale state-owned mints and jewellery units have been mentioned in Kautilya’s Arthashastra (about 500 BC), including the processes of metal extraction and alloying. The Ras Ratnakar written by Nagarjuna in 50 BC mentions the distillation of zinc and its casting, proved through recent excavations in Zawar, Rajasthan. The Nataraja and Vishnu statues of Chola dynasty (900-1200 AD) stand testimony to the fine practice of intricate castings in mediaeval India. Most of these were made in Pancha Dhatu – usually an alloy of copper, zinc, tin (or lead), gold and silver, using the Madhuchista Vidhana or lost wax casting process.

The ancient lost wax process is still practiced in many districts all over India, such as in Bankura (West Bengal), Mayurbhanj, Puri and Cuttack (Orissa), Tirupathi (AP), Thanjavur and Salem (Tamil Nadu), Mannar (Kerala), Mysore, Gulbarga and Belgaum (Karnataka), Kolhapur and Nashik (Maharashtra), Bastar (Chattisgarh), Aligarh and Moradabad (UP) and Mandi (HP). Similar practice is also found in Nepal, Thailand and beyond. Some of the clusters have more than a hundred units, such as in Swamimalai in Thanjavur district.


From: Metal Casting: Back to Future by B. Ravi and G.L. Datta, Proceedings of the 52nd Indian Foundry Congress, Hyderabad, February 2004


Changing the way handmade items are produced, recognized and consumed

http://www.yourhandmadeitems.com, an ecommerce storefront, pledges to change the way art and craft is bought and sold in India

Mudassir from Kashmir talks passionately about his NGO that sells beautiful saris, scarves, handbags made by women in Kashmir. Barun Dey from West Bengal talks of his Balucharis saree famous for ‘Palllus’ that are like story books depicting scenes from mythological stories as well as plants, animals and other intricate designs. Mansur also from West Bengal spends weeks making Dhokra sculpture and art form handed down from one generation to another within his family. These and many more are the stories we heard from proud artists displaying their crafts at various handicraft exhibitions in and around Delhi over last few months. But we also heard something else- a desire for more recognition, dreams of reaching a wider audience and a chance to have a financially comfortable life.

Yourhandmadeitems an ecommerce storefront, is bridging the gap between the reality and the dreams of artist all over India. Conceptualized in January of 2015 and launched in July 2015, the goal of the site is to leverage promises of internet and offer talented artists an access to wider market and broader customer base. We at www.yourhandmadeitems.com believe that artists thrive when they can connect, collaborate, and chat with people who share their passion. We also believe that the world of art should not be limited to expensive studios or few handicraft fairs. Anyone who has ever created a thing of beauty should have a platform available 24/7 to share their work with the world, gain exposure but more importantly be able to sell their work to people who share similar passion. Our mantra is passion-to-exposure-to-fame-to-money.

Good intentions are easy but implementation is hard. A primary challenge we and artisans soon realized is the limited accessibility to internet and language barriers. We remember talking to an artisan making beautiful Dhokra art who had to travel 12 miles to district office to upload pictures of his artwork and open an e-shop on our site. Many of the artists we talk to can’t understand English and hence were unable to use our site effectively. To solve this problem we have initiated an innovative approach that combines the old style personal connection with the new world of internet technology. We connect with artist, get their personal stories (published at www.yourhandmadeitems.wordpress.com) and then help them with uploading their art and craft on our site. In addition, we offer marketing support, increase awareness of the various art form, provide artists inputs about the market trend and an opportunity for them to connect with their peers and customers.

We are off to a great start with many artists listing their beautiful handmade items on our platform. Dhokra art, Baluchari sari, Madhubani paintings, carved wood items, metal murals and handmade jewellery sets are just few of the items already listed on the site. In addition to traditional arts, we are encouraging painters, photographers, and dress designers to use our platform to display and sell their art. One such artist on our site is engineer by training and says “My paintings mainly include figurative & abstract reflections of most of the positive emotions that exist in universe and become an inevitable part of our day to day life.”

Our goal is to reach out to artists in every corner of our beautiful country and help them take advantage of the amazing opportunities that the internet has to offer. Our promise of fair recognition, fair trade, and fair access to the market will revolutionize the marketplace for the handmade items.

Desirables: Wine bottle holder and Mortar-Pestle

Sheesham wood, also known as Indian Rosewood has a beautiful irregular and distinctive grain structure. Wood is strong and durable and can be easily polished for beautiful look. Sheesham is frequently used to make beautiful and strong furniture and decorative pieces.

Wine bottle holder

Beautifully designed out of Sheesham wood by artists in Saharanpur district in U.P (INDIA), this piece is ideal for proudly displaying your expensive wine bottle.

Don’t drink wine-no problems- use it as a decoration piece.

Mortar and Pestle

Another unique piece made of Sheesham wood with in-laid decorative design. With its beautiful design, this will hardly be used for grinding spices, instead it will find prime spot in somebody’s living room.

Buy one at http://www.yourhandmadeitems.com.

Panch Dhatu or Panch Loha

Shilpa shastras, an ancient Sanskrit text that describe arts, crafts, and their design rules, principles and standards, define Panch Dhatu as an alloy of gold, silver, copper, iron and lead as the major constituent. Instead of lead, some use tin or zinc. Because of the cost, gold and silver are now omitted from the manufacture of general-purpose craft items.

It is widely believed that wearing jewellery made of Panch Loha / Panch Dhatu brings balance in life, self-confidence, good health, fortune, prosperity, and peace of mind. In Tibet, Bali (Indonesia) and Nepal, a small piece of Panch Dhatu is ritually buried beneath building foundation to bring stability and good fortune

Buy one at www.yourhandmadeitems.com and bring good fortune to your life!

Know your artists: Mudassir from Kashmir

We work hard at YHMI (www.yourhandmadeitems.com) everyday with the hope of helping artists across the country reach a broader audience. Hence, the story of Mudassir who was at IHGF-2015 fair recently in Delhi touched us deeply. He works for an NGO from Kashmir involved in women empowerment.

Kashmir has been going through very tough times for last several decades and women have suffered the most. Mudassir works for a NGO involved in women empowerment in Kashmir. Work involves engaging women in Kashmir who have fallen into hard times to design beautiful saris, scarves, handbags etc. Women get fair wages and the buyers get to buy unique one of an item.

We wish Mudassir and his organization our best wishes for doing such a great work!

Know your artists: Pushpa Nath Jha

You will not expect an engineer with their analytical thinking to come up with such beautiful pieces of abstract art. But that’s exactly what is unique about P N Jha. An aeronautical engineer by training he spends his spare time painting his feelings on a piece of canvas. His paintings with their bright colours and fluid flow evoke optimism and beauty around us.

Rest in his own words

“I’m a Self learnt artist, presently working at Bangalore. I am passionate about doing paintings and this being my hobby since my childhood, I get all my energy & empowerment within out of my creativity. I do mainly Acrylic on canvas of Abstract/Figuratve types. My paintings mainly include figurative & abstract reflections of most of the positive emotions that exist in universe and become an inevitable part of our day to day life. And so the titles of most of my paintings hang around justifying strong belief in Happiness, love, peace, trust etc. … i.e. all sort of positive feelings as the essence of human existence and its continuous growth. As I am a working professional, completion of one painting approx. takes 3-4 sittings mainly on Sundays/holidays only.”

Encourage artists like PN Jha and go to: http://www.yourhandmadeitems.com/ where everyday artists have the opportunity to highlight their work and offer them for sale.

Angus Deaton Wins Nobel Prize in Economics

You may wonder-Why we at YHMI are interested in Noble Prize in Economics awarded to Angus Deaton?

According to Prof. Deaton ” The absence of state capacity — that is, of the services and protections that people in rich countries take for granted — is one of the major causes of poverty and deprivation around the world.”

We at YHMI believe in leveraging power of internet and offer opportunities where State can’t. We aim to provide artisans ‘Fair Access’ to the market and ‘Fair Trade’ for their art and craft.

Excerpt from Angus Deaton Essay: Why poor countries need strong government more than anything else

“Even in a middle-income country like India, public schools and public clinics face mass (unpunished) absenteeism. Private doctors give people what (they think) they want — injections, intravenous drips and antibiotics — but the state does not regulate them, and many practitioners are entirely unqualified.

Throughout the developing world, children die because they are born in the wrong place, not of exotic, incurable diseases, but of the commonplace childhood illnesses that we have known how to treat for almost a century. Without a state that is capable of delivering routine maternal and child health care, these children will continue to die.

Likewise, without government capacity, regulation and enforcement do not work properly, so businesses find it difficult to operate. Without properly functioning civil courts, there is no guarantee that innovative entrepreneurs can claim the rewards of their ideas.

The absence of state capacity — that is, of the services and protections that people in rich countries take for granted — is one of the major causes of poverty and deprivation around the world. Without effective states working with active and involved citizens, there is little chance for the growth that is needed to abolish global poverty.” (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/angus-deaton-why-poor-countries-need-strong-government-more-than-anything-else-2015-10-12)

Know your artists: Naresh Chawla for Metal Murals

Mr. Naresh Chawla is not only an accomplished artist but also a great teacher in the art of Metal Murals. He has learned and perfected the art of making colorful metal murals that involves sketching and enlarging the picture, cutting sheet metal followed by embossing, welding, grinding, buffing, chemically treating and then coloring the picture. No wonder his biggest complaint is that his people he teaches leave frequently! This art form need not only expertise but also passion and love. Enjoy these beautiful murals.

Mr. Chawla doesn’t need support due to heavy demand for his work but others do!

Support artist like Naresh Chawla and go to: http://www.yourhandmadeitems.com/ where everyday artists have the opportunity to highlight their work and offer them for sale.