Earthy Colours, Canvas and a Story

Giving Hyderabadis a taste of an art form that dates back to 2500 years – Patachitra, is Ranjit Chitrakar, who, along with his sons will be conducting a month-long workshop at Our Sacred Space

Published: 07th November 2014 06:12 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th November 2014 06:12 AM   |  A+A-


HYDERABAD: Seated amidst his canvasses, and flaunting a warm toothless smile is Ranjit Chitrakar, who has come all the way from West Bengal to give Hyderabadis a taste of Patachitra -- an art form that has a history dating back to 2500 years.

Narrating the story of Patachitra, in a thick Bengali-accented Hindi, the 57-year-old man shares that this is the only thing that his family knows of.

“It has been seven generations now starting with my great grand parents. My children and their children also know how to do this,” he says, pointing at the long canvasses which are art papers sewn together.

The paintings are intricate, elaborate and detailed in bold colours, each one telling a story.  “These are not just paintings,” informs Sahajan Chitrakar, Ranjit’s son rolling out the longest painting among the lot that they brought to the city.

“This one is 40-feet long and narrates the complete story of Ramayana. We call it Sampoorn Ramayan,” he says.

Apart from this the collection also includes stories of Mahabharata, famous fairy tales, folk tales, and a number of social issues too.

“We sit down and start drawing on chart paper. Every one in the family joins in and that’s how we all finish them,” explains Sahajan. Once they sketch the outline of the story on the chart paper they start filling colours – which is  another interesting aspect of Patachitra.

“All the colours that we use are natural, mostly vegetable and flower extracts. It takes six to seven days to get these colours, which are then put under the sun to dry. This takes another two to three days,” he further explains.

There are seven basic colours which are extracted from different fruits, flowers and roots. But the most fascinating process is how they extract black and white.

“We collect the soot that is let out when we light lamps at home. That is mixed with water and is then laid out under the sun to dry. That’s how we get the colour black. And white is obtained from digging deeper layers of the earth. We dig to a certain level where the mud is white. This is again mixed with water dried under the sun,” elaborates Sahajan’s brother Saramuddin Chitrakar.

Yellow comes from dried haldi, green from broad beans, blue from blue pea flower, which is colloquially called aparajitha flower, red from betel leaves and pink from one of the green leafy vegetables that is used to make Puisaag. “If these colours are put directly on the paper, they ward off. We mix them with sticky juice that comes out of Bel fruits. This helps retain the colours on the canvas. The paper is then attached to cloth pieces,” he informs.

These paintings back home are hung along the walls. “Our latest incorporation is putting this art on Tshirts but they are done with fabric paints. They cost `500,” informs Ranjit, showing bold designs on coloured T shirts. 

They also include small sized paintings that come in the size of greeting cards too. All of the paintings are up for sale starting from `150 and go up to `1,90,000. People, who sign up for the workshop, will get a glimpse of everything from making natural colours to creating a piece. This apart from listening to Ranjit Chitrakar telling you stories on the canvas that comes in a soothing tune coupled with his rustic voice. 

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