Excerpts from January 2013 report
In the month of January,2013 I went to Jamshedpur and Amadubi Village, Dhalbhumgarh, Jharkhand to do my fieldwork. Then in the morning of 3rd Jan have visited local archive Kalamandir Library and Tribal Culture Centre, Jamshedpur. In kalamandir I met Mr. Amitabha Ghosh who delivered me a good lecture on Paitkar Painting as well as about the community of Paitkar artists. I visited ‘Biponi’,a centre of tribal handicraft by Kalamandir where different kind of Paitkar paintings are available. In the evening I met my informant Mr. Dharmendra Mishra, the senior reporter of ‘SANMARG’ and Dr. Ratan Mahato, the senior reporter of Dhaldhumgarh Block.
On 4th Jan I visited Amadubi Village and interviewed Paitkar artist Mr. Bhootnath Gayen. On 5th Jan, I met my collaborator Mr. Anil Chitrakar. I collected some data from Anil Chitrakar which will be helpful for my project. On 6th Jan I did some library work in Kalamandir Library.
Excerpts from February 2013 report
The Paitkar painting contains a robust sensuality and is practiced in the Eastern part of India, mainly Bengal and the border area of Bengal and Jharkhand. The form of Paitkar painting has a direct co-relation with rock art, which shows a sequential development according to the lifestyle of the group. The Paitkar artist has a strong awareness of their surroundings and this is reflected in the contemporary images. They use to paint the social issues and stories to create awareness among the people.
The Paitkar artists prefer simple outlines and representational lines to paint. To eliminate shading the artists are gives attention on simplification of volume and colours.
Paitkar painting may be considered as the variable of Pata painting. Pata painting or Pata chitra was term used for long scroll painting. This scroll painting has a vertical format. Pata painting is one of the earliest folk painting of India. The communities who paint Pata chitras are known as Patua in West Bengal. They are also known locally as Patidat, Patekar or Paitkar.
Jadu patua is a group of Patua painting which is also known as Paitkar painting. This form of painting is practiced in Jharkhand and the border area of West Bengal. In Santhal tribe Jadu Patua or Paitkar painting is considered to have the capacity to send the wandering souls of the dead to heaven and thus help to free them of all pain. There is one theme of Paitkar painting which is called as Chakshudan . The artists go to the house where death has occurred and they carry the painting with them where the iris of the eye is missing. They show the painting to the family of the dead person and explain that their dear one is not able to see as his eye is missing. Quickly he agrees to paint the eye of the dead after the relatives give a substantial token in the form of money and other articles. After this Chakshudan ,it is believed that the eyesight of the wandering soul is returned and is at peace.
My first research question is focused on the text of Paitkar painting. And during fieldwork in January and February, I got more information in this context. The medium they used to paint this painting is water based colour derived from nature. The artist uses certain leaves, coloured stone and soil to prepare colour. The soil and colour stone are available by the riverside. But it is tiresome to find them. They also create colour from certain leaf and fruits. For this preparation they have to boil this leafs and fruits and filter the conconction. And for making this liquid thicker, the artist boils it again. From the basic primary colours i.e. Red, Yellow and Blue, the artist creates more colours.
The earlier Paitkar painting was dominated by Olive green, Deep brown and black. Later the shift was made to using other colours like- Indigo, Ochre yellow etc. When they paint some religious story or epic story they use Red.
The surface they used to paint Paitkar is the bulk of palm tree. But now-a-days artists use paper and cloth as it is convenient.
About the content of Paitkar I found some variables. The artist used to depict different type of subjects in their painting. The earlier Paitkar was familiar with the understanding of bad dreams. The Paitkar artist used to terrify the family member of the client by saying that he saw a dream about the soul of the client and that the deceased soul wanted money from the family. Sometimes the artist may draw a chicken or goat or some other things in the painting and then clients’ family would what was drawn. Sometimes the artist draws the used items of the deceased and the family would give them to the artist.
Interaction with Mr. Amitabha Ghosh
During my first field visit, I interviewed the Chairperson of Kalamandir, Mr. Amitabh Ghosh. According to him the earlier Paitkar painting was used to decipher bad dreams. The forms are elongated like primitive art. The painted face came much later in the mid 20th century.. So, we trace the painting through the ages. The birds and snakes are depicted in each painting..
Mr. Ghosh also mentioned that the Paitkar artists are not cultivators and want fallow or unused land for making colour. This type of land is in a huge cavity , full of snakes. So preparing colours is very risky. That’s why they worship the snake goddess Manasa and paint the story of Manasa in Paitkar.
Interaction with my collaborator artist Anil Chitrakar
My collaborator artist Anil Chitrakar is a senior of Paitkar artist community. I got a lot of information of technical details of this particular painting after interacting with him. He uses certain leafs and soil to prepare colour. Preparing colour from soil takes more than one month. Some stones are used to make colour which is available by the riverside.
Excerpts from March 2013 report
Paitkar painting are mostly associated with Hindu epics. The stories are from of Ramayana, Mahabharata, Manasa song (Manasa pada), Kali song (Kali Pada). Ramayana story focuses on the character drawing Rama, Sita and Mandudari. They recount the story about the deeds of gods and goddesses, such as Shiva or Durga, from Hindu mythology; or the local deities, such as the snake goddess Manasa. Particularly popular Paitkar are Yama patas, in which the god of death punishes sinners. Unlike Hindu gods and goddess, the deities of Santhal (a tribe of Jharkhand) i.e., Pilsuram and Pilsuburi are also painted. Thus, it can be seen that Paitkar art has been dynamic, changing to meet the needs and interests of the community.
A different form of art is also practiced by Paitkar artists. The leave of taal (fan-palm) tree is used as surface to draw this type painting. But it is not similar to Paitkar painting totally. Another scroll painting named Jadu patua similar to Paitkar is practised in Dumka district nearby. The style of Paitkar painting is derived from Pandulipi which is earlier used by kings to send a message to other kings. Pandulipi is scroll in nature. Traditionally, Paitkars are men. Women have always assisted with the preparation of dye and colours, but now they are also recognized as talented artists and performers in their own right.
This fieldwork has provided the information about religious links to Paitkar and has helped to look at the religious connection to the rural life of Jharkhand.
First, the Paitkar generally reflects the socio religious life of Jharkhand. The area Amadubi and nearby places in Jharkhand are inhabited by a number of snakes. Even the painters who are in search of dye and natural colour get scared to take it out in between the stones. Most of the colours are picked from natural stones. The snake deity Manasa is believed to be protector from snake bites as well as bringing prosperity to the family.
Anil Chitrakar sang and explained a musical pitch. The songs are in bengali and used an Ektara (one string musical instrument) and Dotara ( two string musical instrument). I have collected the written version of some of those songs.
Ramayan story is depicted drawing the characters of Rama, Sita and Mandudari. They use the hair of squirrel which acts like a fine quality 1-.00 numbered brush etc. A Different art form on the leave of taal (fan-palm ) tree is used as a base to line or drawings.
Another scroll painting named Jadu patua similar to Paitkar is practised in Dumka district nearby. Paitkar is also called pat chitra because it contains songs with verse.
Pat chitra-Pada chitra-Padya chitra. Padya or Pada means a verse of two rhyming line. The songs are Manasa songs, Nouka Vilash, Karam gaan, grama song etc. The subject in the Paitkar also varies like Folk dances, religious story, hunting scene etc.
Excerpts from April 2013 report
The activities undertaken during this field visit were:
- Technique and treatment of Paitkar.
- Daily life and social life of the artist.
- Video and audio recording.
I stayed at the Chitrakar’s for a few days. During these days we walked around in the village and saw the Paitkar was the only source of income for them. On the other hand, it was quite surprising that the new generation is not interested in continuing with the art. Scarcity of water and lack of communication has made their life stressful. During this field visit I focused on my research query about technique and treatment of Paitkar.
Roadways to Amadubi:
The distance of Amadubi is from National Highway 33 towards Routara is 7km, Ranchi via Bundu is 170 km, Jameshedpur is 65km, Dhalbhumgarh is 7km, Ghatsila is 20km, Chakulia is 25km.
The Paitkars’ official caste designation (or hereditary occupation) is Chitrakar or Picture Maker. The term Paitkar and “Chitrakar” are interchangeable, though the artists generally use “Chitrakar“ as their surname even though they are not related to one another.
The technique of Paitkar–
The Paitkar artists use a natural gum with the colours to make it permanent and give more glaze. This natural gum is collected from bel (wood apple) fruit and the resin of neem tree. For colours they collect some kind of coloured stone, soil, vegetable and leaf. Then they grind it with water on a plain stone surface. When the mixture is completed they remove the dust from it with a strainer and boil it to make it thicker. After that they use the gum on it. The Paitkar artists use the shell of coconut to store the prepared colours.
Description of the painting-
These four photographs are the splitting up of one Paitkar Painting. In this particular painting the painter narrates the story of Paitkar artists. The performance of Paitkar artists and the process of performing is the central theme .
The painting is divided into six parts. In first frame we see some Paitkar artists prepare the painting and together they are moving out to the village to perform with their painting. This is their mode for survival. There are three Paitkar artists walking to the village and the first one is carrying a traditional Drum, the second one carrying the Paitkar painting and the third holding a cymbal. There is a village frame in the painting where a farmer also noticeable.
In the second frame we see that one Paitkar artist is showing his painting to king and the others are performing with song. The painting which they are showing to king is about Hindu Goddess Durga.
In third one the artists are begging into the villager’s house. This time the Paitkar painter depicts the story of Goddess Kali. Behind him another two Paitkar artists are performing drum, cymbal and singing as well. The villagers are offering food and something to the artists.
In the fourth part artists are singing and performing with Paitkar and this time the artists paint the Goddess Manasa. And the woman of the house and her son give some food and other stuff to the artists.In the fifth frame again the artists are viewing about the epic Mahabharata. And in last one the artists are doing some ritual activity with the painting.
The text of the Paitkar comprises the form, the content and the technique.
Some of the colours used in Paitkar and their sources are
white – lime powder, yellow – stone or soil, black – lampblack, burnt rice, ashes from kerosene lamp ,red – stone or soil, blue – indigo, green – broad bean leaves.
They collect all these colours from the stones by the bank of river. The other secondary colours are prepared from this basic collection of colours by mixing them. Sometimes the artists leave their paper as ‘paper white’ or blank to specify the white colour instead of using any other white paint. Black colour is made up from the smoke of kerosene lamp. Kerosene lamp creates black smoke and Paitkar artist store the clinker or carbon residue from the black smoke and then mix it with the natural gum and water. Now-a-days artists are using commercial poster colour which is convenient for them.
The Paitkar artists make the brushes from the hair of squirrel and goat. The hairs are tightened by thread on a bamboo stick.
Now-a-days the artists paint on paper. They choose the rough side of the paper. They make the paintings into parts and then sew them together. Once the pieces of paper or the frame have been assembled, the artist rolls the paper to conform to the proper shape. Most Paitkars use pencil to outline the forms of the characters and images. The individual frames are demarcated with decorative borders which disguise the seams between frames. Usually the dark outlines are added at the end of the painting process. Cloth is adhered to the back to strengthen the seams. Often old saris are used as the backing and the patterns of the fabric add visual depth to the Paitkar’s presentation.
Except the Paitkar painting the Amadubi village’s artists make another traditional painting. It’s a kind of traditional etching process where artists used to incise the subject on the dry leaf of Fan-Palm tree through a needle. Sometimes the artists draw the subject matter with charcoal and pencil and then carve out the entire line with a needle. After carving the outline the artists put the colour on it and rub it wih cloth. In this process outlines are filled up with the colours. It is again rubbed with wet cloth to clean up the plain surface of the painting.
While explaining the paitkar, its technique and other necessary information regarding songs and stories he did not accept the Chakshudan which has never been practiced by him even though this is remarked as one of the important features in books and other secondary sources.