The Kalighat pats were not just the product of a
particular era, they constituted the mirror of the times. The influence
of the Kalighat pats has been quite considerable on modern Bengali Art.
Since 1820 Kalighat pats existed. Much later came colourful lithography
and naturally coloured wood works which were inspired by the Kalighat
Pat. These pats, wood craft and the lithographs depicted the social life
during those days.
The satiric representation of Bengal's social set up
on the pats were a visual treatment.
It was popular among the common folks
but not regarded as good by the elites. There was a class of artists seeking
their fortunes in Calcutta- the Patuas, patidars or chitrakars from rural
Bengal, Midnapur.They chose
to settle around the Kali temple on the banks of the Adi Ganga rather
than run after the favours of the foreign Nawabs in Calcutta. Inspite
of their best efforts to stay away from the Europeans, the Kalighat artists
could not entirely steer clear of the winds of the times. The rural
pats underwent a change under the impact of the urban environment
and the tensions of a new era slowly dawning. These handiworks
of the patuas nurtured in the environment of the city, has signs of the
As William Archer stated
-the bengali patua used the water colours then easily available in the
-They did not paint in the background, to save time and maybe to let the
picture come out from the canvas. The kalighat
pats were generally executed on paper cut to the size of 7 inches by 11
inches. This was the size the general buyers found most convenient and
the artists needed as many buyers as they could. They used shading in the manner to emphasis the volume of the picture.
The themes of Kalighat
and intricately designed pats are displayed
in the European museums. Some
Kalighat Pats depict housewives protecting themselves with broom sticks,
some are seen playing behala, bina and tabla,
are seen dressing themselves up. Religious and mythological themes predominated.
There were some pictures of birds and beasts.There
were some historical figures like Lakshmibai, Rani
of Jhansi, Shyamakanta fighting with a tiger, a Bengali woman flying up in the sky
in a baloon, the Elokeshi- Mohanta affair or the great Tarakeshwar scandal.
The babus and the
bibis,the ladies of the town, the dancing girls, the
loving couples.The Kalighat pats were not just the product of a
particular era, they constituted the mirror of the times. The Kalighat Pats
would immediately bring to the mind a host of similar images from Hutom Pyanchar Naksha, Naba Babu Bilas Naba Bibi Bilas, Apnar
Mukh Apuni Dekho etc.
demand of Pats______________________
Patuas designed not only to educate the masses but also to earn their
living. The common people were happy with the Kalighat Pats. A coloured
pat cost one anna or one-sixteenth of a rupee in those days. The Kalighat
paintings soon reached a level of popularity that put extra pressure
on the artists who found it difficult to cope with the demand. To raise
their productivity they took to lithography. In lithography the outline
painting is printed in a faint impression and is then coloured. The influence of the Kalighat pats has been quite considerable on modern
Making_________________________________ Pat making is
still prevalent though there is a considerable decline in its productivity.
Pat making was generally a team work. The head of the Patuas started with
a pat and did the detailing. It was then completed by his helpers. Vegetable
colours and water colours were used. One made of paper and another
made of clay. The clay
pats were specially of Gods and Goddesses or men and women. These
clay pats were then burnt. They were then painted white with Ghusum soil.
Ghusum soil is the soil found in the ponds. Ghusum soil mixed
with the gum of marmelos were applied on the
patand then boiled tamarind
seeds were used to varnish the clay pats for a further shine. The paper
pats were based on ancient scriptures. According to the length of the
stories the pats were shaped. Paper pats are made of Tulot paper (cotton
pulp). These pats can be seen in many museums. The present day pats are
made on art paper and vegetable colours are used to colour it. After the
painting, thin strips of cloth are pasted behind these art papers. Brushes
are made of goat's hair.
Yellow colour- Extracted from turmeric.
Red- Catechu (Extract from an Indian plant) and beetle leaf
Green- Water cress (Hilincha)
Purple-Pui, a creeper used as a pot herb -the fruit or seed is crushed
to get the colour.
White- Ghusum (pond) soil.
Blue- Nilmoni fruit
Brown- Morum soil
Saffron- Fire brick
Black- Burnt coconut shell soot.
The handicraft which was once so popular among the mass had lost its glory
and was confined to museums. The artists of Kalighat returned to Midnapur
from where they availed. But the lost glory of Bengal is seen evolving
again in the land of Midnapur where artists and their works are in great
Most of their works are exported in many countries.