Chitrakathi painting

Chitrakathi is a limited but important folk art-painting

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Chitrakathi is a limited but important folk art-painting

Chitrakathi is a limited but important folk art-painting tradition in Maharashtra. Her narration and illustration (audio-visual) are a double invention. These pictures are usually drawn on 30 × 40 cm paper. From some of the paintings available in the museums, the size of the paper, and the imprints on them, it must have been from the late eighteenth century to the nineteenth century. Natural colors being used to paint pictures. The time of the book, the color scheme, the painter and his style seem to vary from person to person. The story of Ramayana and Mahabharata is the main subject of Chitrakathi and it also depicts folk tales.

Chitrakathi is a limited but important folk art-painting
Chitrakathi is a limited but important folk art-painting

Chitrakathi at Pinguli (Dist. Sindhudurg) – A page of a traditional book: A scene from a story on self.
Chitrakathi-tradition is prominently known as Paithan and Pinguli. The paintings found at Paithan in Aurangabad district are called Paithan Chitrakathi; However, this painting tradition still exists in Pinguli (Tal. Kudal) village in Sindhudurg district. She is called Pinguli Chitrakathi. The style of pictures in the books of Paithan and Pinguli do not match with each other. In the past, there were artists in Pune, Wai, Nashik, Dhule etc. The narrators of these paintings used to travel from village to village carrying illustrated books and performing cartoons in the temple premises at night. Such events were held on nine days of Navratri and other important dates. This is also called awakening.

One lead artist and two co-stars performing the show. The main performer sits on his knees and leans on his knees to form a rectangular plank. A picture book is placed on its right side. He tells the story by placing a single picture in the book on the board and sings songs as per the need of narration. Companions play instruments like taal, huduk (damru), ektari etc. The two picture papers are glued to each other. So when the description of a picture is finished, it starts the description of the picture on the back of the paper. The description includes dialect, pure Marathi and Sanskrit words. These stories contain myths. Folk art also features touching on many contemporary subjects through mythology.

There is no reliable evidence of the creation of Paithan and Pinguli paintings as well as of the time period. Some experts believe that this style of painting may have evolved from Indian miniature tradition, local patterns and leather folk paintings from South India. The shapes in the comics appear to be drawn with crisp and rhythmic lines. The shapes look bold. Most paintings are horizontal. A major feature of pictorialism is that the details of the depiction of nature (mountains, sun, architecture, etc.) associated with the story are not usually found in these paintings. Since the narrator tells the background of the story, such details are shown with few exceptions. So the background of the picture is mostly flat. But essential images of plants, animals, etc. are depicted. Also the stripes appear to be painted using straight, curved lines on either side or below these pictures. The forehead is broad, the nose is pointed, and the ears are double curved. The face and legs are lined up while the rest of the body is lined up in front.

In this style the eye looks large and round and the whole iris. The male figures in the pictures are strong, with wide shoulders and chests, narrow waists, while the female figures are adorned with various ornaments. The method of depicting the Paithan style, showing the eye and other details, bears a resemblance to the shadow dolls of Karnataka. Generally red, pink, green, blue, yellow are the main colors used. There is an excess of red in it too. The color is flat. Occasionally, anthropomorphic garments are embellished with vertical, horizontal lines, or petals. According to the story, the body of the monster, the intriguing creature, has textures of hair and skin. Depending on the artist’s imagination and skill, the painting, imagery and color scheme change.

The Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum in Pune has a collection of paintings in Paithan style. Some paintings are stored at the British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, London. The oral tradition of this style is declining. Famous film director Mani Kaul made a short film called Chitrakathi in 1976. The area where this art was created is depicted by Mani Kaul. Painters of this style have not been recorded, except for a few recent painters; But Parashuram Gangawane and Ganapat Masage, tribal Thakar artists from Pinguli, have kept the oral tradition of Pinguli style. Parashuram Gangawane has set up a Thakar Art Museum called ‘Thakar Adivasi Kala Angan’ for the purpose of documenting and researching cartoons.

References :

  • Khopkar, Arun, Chalat-Chitravyuh , Mumbai, 2012.
  • Ranasinghe, M. Adivasi Thakar , Sindhudurg District , Mumbai, (2007).
  • Chitrakathi: folk painting of Paithan , Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum, Pune, 1996.
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