Every Wall is a Canvas in the Artist Village of Naya in West Bengal

Painting the town red, and yellow, and green. | By Ranjabati Das  
The rural storytellers of Naya village have revived the art of pata chitra through the annual Pot Maya festival. Photo: Kaushik Ghara
The rural storytellers of Naya village have revived the art of pata chitra through the annual Pot Maya festival. Photo: Kaushik Ghara

Patuas are traditional artisans from West Bengal who paint scrolls or pata chitra depicting folk and mythological tales, which are accompanied with narrative songs called pater gaan. As painters unfurl a scroll, they sing a story to the audience. To witness this old art form, visit Naya village (125 km/3 hours from Kolkata) between Fri 11 Nov – Sun 13 Nov 2016 when the Pot Maya festival is scheduled to take place.

The village comes alive during the annual celebration, which began in 2010 as a way to save this indigenous art form. The mud walls of the artists’ homes are filled with colourful murals depicting fishes, elephants, crocodiles, gods, and goddesses. Scrolls are hung on ropes in the courtyards, and the village is adorned with flowers. Naya is transformed into a cultural hub where visitors can learn about the craft, listen to the storytellers, and participate in workshops on painting.

During the festival demonstrations on colour extraction from natural sources such as marigold, saffron, runner beans, and turmeric are held. The colours are mixed with the gum of the Bengal quince flower (bael) to make paint.

Traditionally, these scrolls were centred on Hindu and Islamic lore, but today artisans also use this art to comment on social issues. This year the festival will showcase modern paintings with stories like that of the Titanic, and scrolls dating back hundreds of years. Scrolls cost from ₹100 to ₹1 lakh. There will also be other stalls selling saris, tees, and bric-a-brac like coasters and lamps adorned with pata chitra.

Appeared in the October 2013 issue as “Painting the Town Red”.

The Guide

Getting there From Kolkata, drive to Debra along NH6, turn left to Balichak, and continue towards Mundamari crossing. Take a left to Pingla, keeping an eye out for the Pingla Police Station (1.5 km/10-minute walk from Naya). There are daily trains from Kolkata to Balichak (1.5-2 hours) on the Kharagpur line. Naya is 26 km/45 minutes from Balichak. 

Stay Visitors can stay in tents and homestays hosted by locals (₹500 per head per day, including meals) and watch performances by chhau folk dancers and Baul singers from the neighbouring villages of Purulia and Nadia.

Contact Moumita Kunda 08420106396, Nirmalya Roy 09903038904

Website www.toureast.in

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