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A 100 foot Patachitra mural with a permanence for Kolkata!

Rita Bhimani

The occasion was a Kali Puja performed by wanderlust writer-photographer Kounteya Sinha at his ancestral home in Ballygunge Phari. But the unique dimension he added in a celebratory manner was how he conceived, and had executed overnight a 100 foot by 12 foot patachitra all along the wall of a narrow lane – 4B Broad Street − that leads to his maternal house. A vibrant canvas of the best of mythological stories captured by the family of Manimala Chitrakar. What a cinch! A Muslim woman from the village of Noya, in Pingla, in Medinipur district, painting Hindu gods and goddesses. By now, the aficionados know of this village of Noya where the ancient art of patachitra continues to flourish.

But for Kounteya Sinha to bring a whole family to Kolkata, Manimala, herself and her husband, daughter, son and grand-daughter all the way from their habitat to execute the longest patachitra the city has seen, signals a clarion call to others to possibly convert walls with election graffiti into meaningful galleries which patuas from Medinipur could be called in to do, giving them a chance to be recognized and remunerated, and adding to the city’s beautification. And beatification, if you will.

This patachitra is now there for citizens, netizens and visitors to the city to behold. An unfolding of manifold tales from our myths, the stories of Behula Lakhinder, Maa Manasha, Krishna-leela, Maa Kali. And then some more, as you go into a utopian village scenario − tribals celebrating with musical instruments, and animals like tigers and elephants facing one another in happiness with a birds sitting on their heads, a large owl and a floral dado at the bottom.

No patachitra is complete without the paater gaan, the accompanying song as the scroll unfolds. In this case, at dusk, Manimala sang before the mural, a most significant set of lines − “Aamora manaab jaati, ek maayer santaan” Loosely translated, we are all one human family, the children of one mother. And she elaborated about two brothers going into two different religious callings, but co-existing in harmony.

It is their real story, of acceptance of the Muslim patuas by the rest of the religious community, once they have proved their artistic worth and gone beyond such barriers of caste and creed.

More power to wall art for the city. And to this wall of permanence which can be visited and viewed by anyone, anytime. The codicil − making more of such initiatives happen, with patuas, where people can be encouraged to participate.

(Wotweb.com had the privilege of doing some brush strokes to the mural, too!)

Pata chitrakars today, as they paint, also sing about contemporary issues and we recall one such time when Rani Chitrakar was asked to do a long scroll for Saurav Ganguly. She actually narrated a series of victory tales based on cricket!