1.Pat and Patua important audio-visual mediums 2.Gazir Gan, Pat, puthi Pat 3.Manasa Mangal ritual 4. A tradition which ridicules the clash of civilisations 5. Civilisations are built on the exchange and encounter of different cultural traditions 6.Save 'Patachitra''scroll painting- Our National Heritage 7. Save Traditional Bengali Dolls Our National Heritage
"Many years ago I collected different types of quilts, dolls , 'Patachitra' 'scroll painting , Pat Patua, Gazir Pat - scroll pictures of Gazi, Monosa , pupet, alpana etc from different villages of Bengal. Friends advised me to make an exhibition. Gaba da displayed the items beautifully at the roof of Rabinra Nath Tagore's Jorashako House. Rabinranath Tagore carefully observed all the items and Abinranath Tagore was overwhelmed with the exhibition. Rabinranath Tagore said that I want to keep an exhibition of folk culture at Santiniketan. My collection began to increase day by day and I did have any space to keep the collection. I asked again Rabinranath Tagore to receive the collection for Santiniketan. He said he would ask Nandolal Basu to collect the items. But Nandolal Basu did not show any interest!
Rabinra Nath Tagores comments on folk culture and painting was published in the news papers. I have made several exhibitions at Calcutta University (Department of Archeology), Institute Hall. During summer vacation I left the collection in a box at Azinra Nath Tagore's house but when I came back from Faridpur, my box was no more there (1932). Today I still remember those unforgetable treasures of bengali folk culture.
Jasim Uddin, Thakur Barir Anginay, At Tagore's Premise, 1963
Many and diverse the colour of the cows,
But white the colour that all milk shows.
Through all the world, a Mother's name
A Mother's song is found the same.
From Field of the Embroidered Quilt
About 40 years ago I have collected this song from our neighbouring village Shibrampur, Faridpur, E. Bengal.
This was the introductory (Bandana) Gazi song of the village singer's group.
I have collected more than 10 thousands old folk songs of Bengal. But I think this is one of my best collected songs.
I am proud of my simple village folk who advocates for universal humanity, unity, brotherhood and love for all nation of the world.
I thank Voice of America, Washington DC, USA, for broadcasting this song for their introductory Bengali programm.
Jasim Uddin, (VOA, Broadcast on January 1, 1958, 8.30 PM)
There is a very deep cultural link the Indo-Gangetic civilisation, such as that of terra-cotta, cloth and natural fibre like jute, "shola" and beetle nut bark fibre, which are on the verge of extinction. These items go back to as much as 12 centuries. The Moenjodaro link which is visible in our terracotta dolls and toys go back to 3,000 years. Not only has that history been forgotten but the realisation that they are diminishing is that within two decades they'll be there no more. "One craft in particular which has suffered as recently as in 15 years is the type of painted scroll called 'Ghazir pott'. Ghazi is a 'pir' recognized both by the Hindus and Muslims, by the woodcutters, honey gatherers, fishermen and boatmen in the Sundarbans. They invoke the Ghazi pir, the tiger personality who protects the people who enter the jungle."
In Bengali, "Pat" means "scroll" and "Patua" or "Chitrakar" means "Painter". The origin of the painted scrolls is very ancient. We could find some in the Pharaohs' graves in Egypt. In India the first description of these painted scrolls can be found in a sacred text dated 200 B.C.
Pata art is of two kinds - art on broad sheet of folded cloth and eye-art on short piece of fabric. The fabric in fact makes the base for pat art. Clay, cow-dung and some sticky elements are skillfully sprouted on the fabric. When dried, the fabric becomes tough but mellow enough for sustaining the stroke of the artist's brushes. Pata artists draw on it religious motifs, such as gods and goddesses, Puranic stories, slokas, etc. The pictures illustrate the religious and spiritual symbols the folk society likes. Kailas, Brndaban, Oudh and other holy places of the Hindus usually appeared in the pata art. This art form flourished particularly during the Buddhist period in Bengal. The pata art carried the life sketch of the Buddha and of his sayings and anecdotes. The Buddhist monks traded on pata arts very extensively. From the eighth century onward, the pata tradition was taken over by the Hindus. Yadu, Yama, chandi, ten incarnates, deeds of Rama, loves of Krsna, Gazi etc became the themes of Hindu pata art.
A narrative type of folk painting is still being practised by a particular chitrakar (Painter) community in West Bengal (India) and in Bangladesh. Its origin is unknown. The origin of the chitrakar community too remains a matter of speculation
The style too is handed down the generations. Patua, Patidar, Pata are the names by which a chitrakar is commonly known. He is a poet-painter-singer. He rhymes a narration around an episode of some Hindu mythology that imparts a moral lesson. He paints the sequences in a series of rectangular frames in vertical format as a scroll painting. To the clientele, he unfurls the scroll frame by frame as his narration set to tune proceeds. The moral lesson makes listeners aware of the vices and virtues of life.
The training in the handed down style includes memorisation of set patterns, lines, colours, and the poses and postures of the trends left by the forefathers. Despite some limitations, the style shows unique formal simplification and superb colour orchestration. It features all the traditional qualities of Bengal folk art. This art is addressed to a culturally homogeneous public that is accustomed to the images. It is painted on paper or on starched cloth.
Nowadays, this art form is still used mainly in the West Bengal, Bihar states and Bangladesh. The main centres of pata art were Dhaka, Noakhali, Mymensingh and Rajshahi in Bangladesh, and Birbhum, Bankura, Nadia, Murshidabad, Hughli and Midnapur in West Bengal. In West Bengal, the painters are also singers. The scrolls are done with sheets of paper sewn together and sometimes stuck on canvas. Their width can go from 4 to 14 inches and their length, seldom below 3 feet can exceed 15 feet. A piece of bamboo, sometimes carved, is placed on each extremity of the scroll and is used to roll and unroll the painting which is done with vegetal colours : charcoal or burnt rice for the black, betel for the red, a fruit from the Nilmoni tree for the blue colour, etc... In order to fix the colours, they add a tree resin which they first melted.
The story is shown in sequence, like a story board or a comic strip. Seldom are the scrolls with text.
The Patua is a kind of minstrel. He goes from village to village, with a bag containing several scrolls. He gathers together the villagers around him and unrolls his paintings never showing more than 2 or 3 images at a time, and he sings the painted story. Then the villagers give him some rice and rupees. This way the Patua earns his life.
Painted scrolls have been used in Bengal in eastern India for centuries as a means of telling religious stories and also of informing people about important current events. Although today even the smallest village is likely to have access to televised news, this tradition continues in the villages of West Bengal not far from Kolkata.
Major events, whether local or global, become subjects for painted scrolls - recent examples have been the Asian tsunami, the Gujarati earthquake, and the assassination of Indira Gandhi, as well as broader subjects such as birth control and the spread of AIDS. The scrolls, a long strip of paper backed with cloth and painted in registers are carried from village to village by their painters and are unrolled before an audience, to the accompaniment of songs which tell the story of the events depicted.
The attacks on New York on September 11th 2001 quickly became the subject of scroll paintings. This one, acquired from the artist, Madhu Chitrakar, in 2005, was painted in the village of West Medinipur in West Bengal in about 2004. Painted scroll depicting the September 11 attacks on New York
The 'Ghazir pot' is a series of folk stories told by the village men of the bravery of this man who protected them from tigers. Ghazi, she said, is sacred to the Hindus too as they have a similar personality whom they called 'Shatta pir' but he rides a leopard while Ghazi rides a tiger and both carry symbols in their hands."
One important reason for the diminishing of crafts is that the metropolis dwellers are not paying according to the demand of the producers. When the villagers are putting the products into the market the price is cut to half and bargaining goes on. The elite are least bothered while the middle class like the items and wish to use them at home but unless one is a connoisseur of art the people of the upper echelons of society have forgotten village crafts altogether
"People are ready to pay a high price for painting but they are not ready to pay for a craft that has taken six months whereas the painting may have been done in three days. When a woman has worked on her handicraft on an authentic design for half a year she has the right to ask for more.
The reason why our standard has fallen is because the rural artisans have difficulty in marketing their products. I have sometimes gone to a source, following a 15 year-old documentation, and then discovered that in Rajshahi where 'Shokh hari' was being done village-wise is now confined to a few solitary houses. Similarly the makers of blanket from lamb's wool cease to function as before and take up other means of income generating sources. I found only an old widow still pursuing that craft." Chandan said that the entire Bangladeshi scenario is the same. He said that the folk art craftsmen have abandoned their old skilled work due to lack of demand in the market and plastic for instance has replaced clay. The only exception, he pointed out, was Naogaon where nine instead of four families are following a 'sholar' craft making birds and other items since the last 15 years. Even there is a problem as the craftsmen got the material for nothing but now the landlord are charging them a fee for the raw material, Chandan said (Daily Star, October10, 2004).
Ghazir Pott - Oldest Audio-Visual Medium
Gazir Pat Pats (Sanskrit Patta) means picture is an ancient folk tradition. Dr. D. P. Ghosh (1980) describes , " Two thousand and five hundred years ago, scroll-painting or panel painting was widely used in many parts of India as mass media for enjoyment, general education and religious practices." Ram pats or Ghazi pats (picture) used by Hindu and Muslims. Pats are held very vertically and painted from top to bottom were shown scene after scene from the epilical stories.pats were produced for educative and religious purposes. They are used as accessories of balled singer.. Patua is a composer, artist and singer. Evidences of this has been cited through the last two thousand and five hundreds years that Pat and Patua were important audio-visual mediums in educating the masses almost corresponding to the gallery lectures of modern museums.Gazi Pats Ballad:
Jamdud kaludt at
The right and left
The friend of the Jam raja (king)
Sits in the midst
Gazi says: Chase them away
With Gazi's name.
Shambhu Acharya can trace his interest in arts and crafts back to nine generations (450 years). His family did paintings of not only Gazir Pot (scrolls illustrating the myth of the Muslim saint Gazi) but Mahabharata, Ramayana, Behula- Lokhindor Kahini, Sri Krishna and Muharram Pot (based on the life of Hussain and Hassan). A pat, Shongho explains, is a story, and a potobhumi is a series of stories that revolve around a hero. Shambhu does stories of both Hindus and Muslims. Gazi, he says, the subject of many of his paintings was a powerful Muslim general with a metaphysical force, who tamed wild animals, and has a following among the gypsies. He is specially associated with the tiger and is often presented as riding a tiger. He was revered by both Hindus and Muslims and had an assistant called Kalu. Shongho has done 27 panel paintings with Gazi as his subject. He makes his canvases by layering markin cloth with brick powder, tamarind juice and egg yolk. He has also used various oxides and black soot.
Today he has 24 panels on the subject of the freedom struggle and hopes to exhibit these in Dhaka. He has brought in the freedom effort of the Bangalis during the British rule and later during the time of the Pakistani supremacy. He has brought in Titumir, Pritilata, Surjo Sen and Dudu Mia. He has depicted Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Bongobondu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The Language Movement of 1952 has not been left out. Each panel, 5ft by2 ft, has taken him 12 days. The delineation has followed the folk style that one found in the Gazir pot collection, that had been exhibited in 2003 at Chitrak.
Some of the work has been done outdoors and some inside the house. He did the base with a piece of tied up cloth dipped in colours. Next with brushes he added the fine lines in black, red and other colours. Apart from ambitious subjects, he has also dealt with the conventional topics of fishermen, farmers and women dressing and doing their hair. The conventional folk forms have been incorporated and these have his distinctive style. He did try oil colours but he did not feel comfortable with this medium.
He had no problems in selling his paintings as he had the support of Ramendu Majumdar of ad firm Expressions and he had access to Chitrak gallery. This presentation of folk stories with paint on cloth is unique. Shambhu's parents used to make traditional statues out of clay and Shambhu had studied them. "However, the work of my parents followed the Hindu custom while I wanted to bring in subjects that would interest the Muslims as well," Shambhu says. With the presentation of the subject of the freedom fighters, Shambu hopes to continue with the preservation of traditional art in Bangladesh (Fayza Haq, February 10, 2005). .
2.Gazir Gan, Pat, Puthi Pat
Today, many of us are ignorant of Gazir Gaan, Gazir Yatra, Gazir Pat, Puthi Pat, Kiccha-Kahini jari and so on and on. Saymon Zakaria has been travelling to different parts of Bangladesh to find out and let others know of what remains of the indigenous cultural performances, which still survive like the flickering light of a burnt away candle.
Gazir Pat- Scroll Painting - Method
Gazir Pat a form of scroll painting; an important genre of folk art, practised by patuyas (painters) in rural areas and depicting various incidents in the life of Gazi Pir. Until the recent past, the narration of the story of Gazi Pir with the help of a Gazir pat was a popular form of entertainment in rural areas, especially in greater Dhaka, Mymensingh, Sylhet, Comilla, Noakhali, Faridpur, Jessore, Khulna and Rajshahi. Those who took part in the performance were members of the bedey community and Muslim by faith. Besides Gazir pat, there were other scrolls depicting well-known stories such as Manasa Pat (based on the goddess manasa), Ramayana Pat (based on ramachandra), Krishna Pat (based on Lord krishna) etc. The asutosh museum of indian art (Kolkata, India), Gurusaday Dutt Museum (Kolkata, India) and the Museum
Gazir pat is usually 4'8" long and 1'10" wide and made of thick cotton fabric. The entire scroll is divided into 25 panels. Of these, the central panel is about12" high and 20.25" wide. There are four rows of panels above and three rows below the central panel. The bottom row contains three panels, each of which is5.25" high and 6.25" wide. The central panel depicts Gazi Pir seated on a tiger, flanked by Manik Pir and Kalu. The central panel of the second row shows Pir Gazi's son, Fakir, playing a nakara. The central panel of the third row shows Gazi's sister, Laksmi, with her carrier owl. The right panel of the second row shows the goddess Ganga riding a crocodile. In the bottom row, Yamadut and Kaladut, the messengers of Yama, are shown in the left and right panels. The central panel shows Yama's mother punishing the transgressor by cooking his head in a pot. As Gazi Pir is believed to have the power to control animals, a Gazir pat also depicts a number of tigers.
Red and blue are the two pigments mainly used. There are slight variations of colour, with crimson and pink from red, and grey and sky-blue from blue. Every figure is flat and two-dimensional. In order to bring in variety, various abstract designs (such as diagonal, vertical and horizontal lines, and small circles) are often used. The figures lack grace and softness. Some of the forms (such as trees, the Gazi's mace, the tasbih, (the Muslim rosary), birds, deer, hookahs etc, are extremely stylised. The figures of Gazi, Kalu, Manik Pir, Yama's messengers, etc appear rigid and lifeless. There is no attempt at realism. The traditional method of painting Gazir pat begins with the preparation of size from tamarind seeds and wood-apple. The tamarind seeds are first roasted and left to soak overnight in water. In the morning the seeds are peeled, and the white kernels are ground and boiled with water into a paste. The paste is then sieved through a gamchha (indigenous towel). The tamarind size thus obtained is then mixed with fine brick powder. In order to prepare wood-apple size, a few green wood-apples are cut up and left to soak overnight in water. The resultant liquid is strained in the morning, and the size is ready to use.
A Gazir pat is generally painted on coarse cotton cloth. The piece on which the painting is to be executed is spread on a mat in the sun. A single coat of the mixture of tamarind size and brick powder is then applied on the side to be painted, either by hand or with a brush made of jute fibre. After it has dried, two coats of size are applied on the other side of the cloth, which is then left to dry. On the side to be painted, another coat of a mixture of tamarind size and chalk powder is applied. When the cloth is dry, it is divided into panels with the help of a mixture prepared with wood-apple size and chalk powder. When the prepared cloth is dry, the patuya starts painting the figures.
The pigments were originally obtained from various natural sources: black was obtained by holding an earthen plate over a burning torch, white from conch shells, red from sindur (vermilion powder), yellow from turmeric, dull yellow from gopimati (a type of yellowish clay), blue from indigo. The patuya would make the brush himself with sheep or goat hair. Some of these techniques are still used today. However, the patuya usually buys paints and brushes from the market.
The tradition of Gazir pat can be traced back to the 7th century, if not earlier. The panels on Yama's messengers and his mother appear to be linked to the ancient Yama-pat (performance with scroll painting of Yama). It is also possible that the scroll paintings of Bangladesh are linked to the traditional pictorial art of continental India of the pre-Buddhist and pre-Ajanta epochs, and of Tibet, Nepal, China and Japan of later times. [Shahnaz Husne Jahan]
The scroll paintings of Gazir pat (pat meaning cloth), present the valour of legendary figure Gazi Pir, who was respected and worshiped as a warrior-saint, writes Robab Rosan Although worshipping the images of Gazir Pir is not mentioned in history, according to some scholars, the Muslim saint Gazi, might have appeared around the 15th century and seemed to be related to the rise of Sufism in Bengal. Islam Gazi, a Muslim general, served Sultan Barbak (1459-74) in Delhi and conquered Orissa and Kamrup (now Assam). Towards the end of the 16th century, Shaikh Faizullah praised the valour and spiritual qualities of this general in his verse Gazi Bijoy, the victory of Gazi.
There are some influences of Khijir Pir or Khawaj Khijir, a Muslim holly man considered as the protector of water, found in the story of Gazi Pir. To the worshipers of Gazi, this warrior-saint protected his devotees from attacks of wild animals and demons in the forests. In Bangladesh, particularly, in the regions of the Sundarban, the story and images of Gazi Pir had earned much popularity among the forest dwellers, like woodcutters, beekeepers and others. These communities still believe in the supernatural powers of the Pir and utter his name when they venture in to the forest.
In the plains, Gazi is worshiped as the protector against demons and harmful deities and saves them from all sorts of dangers. The villagers usually call the gayens or folksingers, who know the story of Gazi Pir to sing the saint’s praise. The travelling storytellers, mostly belonging to the bede (gypsy) community, use a Gazir pat and pointing at the images on the pat, they narrate the power and prowess of the Pir in their singing verses. The devotees also hang the scroll paintings of Gazi in their houses to protect them from the influences of evil power.
The singers’ preaching created a demand for the pats among the devotees, irrespective of caste, creed and community and the pats had gained a huge popularity in the rural areas across the country, in the early years. Traditionally, the singers were Muslims while the patuas belonged to the Hindu religion. Sadly, at present, this combined form of art, paintings on pats and rendering of Gazir praise, has lost its purpose as a savoir from evil.
Gazir pat, though being considered as a nearly extinct art form, is gaining new ground. There were many patuas — hereditary painters of pats —who once existed in many regions of Bangladesh; now the number has drastically reduced. Until the recent past, the narration of the story of Gazi Pir with the help of a Gazir pat was a popular form of entertainment in rural areas, especially in greater Dhaka, Mymensingh, Sylhet, Comilla, Noakhali, Faridpur, Jessore, Khulna and Rajshahi.
Gazir pat has specific images painted on a single canvas which have remained unchanged through the centuries. These images have been honoured as sacred symbols of good omen. There are twenty seven panels in a traditional Gazir pat, which measures 60 inches X 22 inches. The ankaiya (painter) follows the traditional styles in depicting the images. In the twenty-seven panels, the ankiya draws the images of a shimul tree; a cow; drum to depict triumph of Kalu Gazi; sawdagar or merchant; a deer being slaughtered; Asha or hope, the symbol of Gazi; Kahelia; Andura and Khandura; tiger; umbrella in the hand of Gazi’s disciple; Suk and Sari birds sitting on the umbrella; Lakhmi; charka, the spinning wheel; two witches; goala or milkman; mother of the goala; a cow and a tiger; an old woman beautifying herself; Baksila; Ganga; Jamdut; Kaldut; mother of Jam raja; and in the centre Gazi riding on a tiger. The singer or singers narrate sometimes the night long story, pointing at the characters, which appear in the twenty seven panels of the pat.
Red and blue are the two pigments mainly used in the pats. There are slight variations of colour, with crimson and pink from red, and grey and sky-blue from blue. Every figure is flat and two-dimensional. In order to bring in variety, various abstract designs (such as diagonal, vertical and horizontal lines and small circles) are often used. Trees, Gazi’s mace, the tasbih or prayer beads, birds, deer, hookahs etc, are extremely stylised. The figures of Gazi, his disciples Kalu and Manik Pir, Jama’s (the Hindu god of death) messengers, etc appear rigid and lifeless. Though there is no attempt at realism in the images of Gazir pats, the sort of painting has a time value as primitive work.
Among the adi patchitras or ancient paintings besides the Gazir pat, we also come across in history the Mahabharata pat, Ramayana pat, Muharram pat, Jam pat, Chaitanya pat, Manasa pat, Laxmi pat and others. Among the modern pats, one can see saheb pats, cinema pats and grameen pats.
Holding on to the tradition of painting Gazir pat with resilience is Shambhu Acharya of Munshiganj. His is the ninth generation of ankaiya. Shambhu, born in 28 Poush, 1362 BS (1956) at Kalendipara, Rikabibazar, Munsiganj, has learnt the art of Gazirpat from his father Sudhish Chandra Acharya. There may be other ankaiyas in other parts of Bangladesh pursuing this particular form of painting, but Shambhu has the privilege of claiming to have come from an unbroken line of patuas.
During 1980s, noted folk art researcher, Dr Tofael Ahmed saw a Gazir pat in the Ashutosh Musem in West Bengal, and read in the information that, that particular pat was the only existing pat in Bangladesh and West Bengal. After coming back to Bangladesh, Dr Ahmed started looking for Gazir pat in the rural areas. After visiting many places, Dr Ahmed, accompanied by Dr Hamida Hossain and artist Kalidas Karmakar, came to the village of Hajipur in Narshindi. There they met a huge group of bedes.
While talking about Gazir pat, with the bedes, singer Konai Mia, showed a Gazir pat rolled up in the boat. The owner of the pat, Durjan Ali, another bede singer, was not present at that time.
The team was overwhelmed with joy as they discovered a pat which would be an important link in the history of folk art in Bangladesh. When Durjan Ali came back he told them that he had bought the pat from a patuya, named Sudhish Achariya in Bikrampur (now Munsiganj) twenty years ago, in the 60’s.
Once he got the address of Sudhish, Dr Ahmed rushed to Munsiganj in search of the Acaharya and fortunately met Sudhish. But at the time the demand for pat had decreased and Sudhish had become more involved in making pratimas. Dr Ahmed pursued Sudhish to go back to painting Gazir pat, as this art was on the way of extinction.
Shambhu in his early life had learnt the art by watching his father work. But as the demand of Gazir pat fell and it became difficult to survive by selling pats. So he started earning a living by painting images of gods and goddess on the walls of Hindu temple. Shambhu even had a shop named Shilpalaya, where he used to paint signboards and banners to make ends meet.
Since his early life, Shambhu has been involved in depicting Gazir pats as a part of his familial tradition. ‘I used to help my father. At first he told me to put colours on the figures,’ said Shambhu. Shambhu used to draw different types of images on the walls of houses of his neighbours in his early life. They used to scold him, but sometimes appreciate him. Seeing his interest in paintings his father, Sudhish involved his son in this field and gave him lessons on this traditional work, which he had inherited from his ancestors. Besides depicting Gazir pats, Shambhu’s father also used to make pratimas, images of the gods and goddesses. Shambhu’s father used to use gamchha as the canvas of the pats and used brushes, made of goat hair. He himself used to make the brushes. Today Shambhu uses markin cloth as the canvas for the pats. He uses brick powder, sindur, synthetic indigo, black soot collected from the flame of oil lamps; for the canvas, powder from tamarind seeds, egg yolk, gopi mati, and different kinds of oxides.
Shambhu's present“To all the pats I have added Muktijodha pat, which tells the history of Bangladesh beginning with the battle of Plassey in 1757, the arrivals of the British and ending with our Independence in 1971, I am very happy with this huge achievement, even though the general public is yet to see it. Dr. Enamul Haq has done the geeti kabya for this pat,” he says.
With commercialism stinging everyone, Shambhu is content with less, “If I think of money than I will have to think of other things. My work is my aradhana, my religion. I am not keen on acquiring worldly possessions, and I don't want any publicity. I want to go slow but steadily. I want to make sure that I don't lose my head and do bad work,” he said.
For the love of artChakraborty feels that this art form needs to be popularised, solely because for the generation next.
“Shambhu's childhood, his influences, his desires, are quite different from his children's. It was bound to be so, because life is no longer easy and simple. Life now has so much to offer, there are so many options to choose from. Society today is so different from Shambhu's time, it's easy to be derailed. You need to earn some money to live a minimum comfortable life and if this oldest popular folk art doesn't bring in the bare necessities then it will be hard to keep it alive. An artist should be able to concentrate to do his work and not think of utility bills. In order to keep this tradition alive you need to popularise it, you need to have genuine patrons,” Chakraborty says passionately.
Till date Shambhu is the last patua, and whether his son and daughters, though already showing signs of being patuas, would keep the tradition alive is a hope against hope. However in this regards we would like to be optimistic as Shambhu and help his children to remain attracted to the profession of their nine generations.
Shambhu Acharya is a simple man who loves his roots and his simple, unglamorous life. He is afraid to dream big, yet not afraid to climb great heights through his work.
The Fokre Paala of the Gazir Gaan (The Ascetical Drama of the Gazi Song) Dudhshar, a village in Shailkupa thana in Jhenaidaha district. There resides Rowshan Ali Jowardar, one of the lead singers or narrators (Gayen) of the Gazir Gaan (Gazi's song). The all time involvement with his performance keeps this man away from his home most of the time. In his absence, I get the address of Bhola, the leader of the troupe who resided in Bhatoi Bazar and succeed to meet him.
Gazir Gan songs to a legendary saint popularly known as Gazi Pir. Gazi songs were particularly popular in the districts of faridpur, noakhali, chittagong and sylhet. They were performed for boons received or wished for, such as for a child, after a cure, for the fertility of the soil, for the well-being of cattle, for success in business, etc. Gazi songs would be presented while unfurling a scroll depicting different events in the life of Gazi Pir. On the scroll would also be depicted the field of Karbala, the Ka'aba, Hindu temples, etc. Sometimes these paintings were also done on earthenware pots.
The Gazir Gaan singers and the instrumentalists took their seats facing north on the square shaped mat. Then commenced the starting ritual. As the lead singer implanted the symbolic icon, Gazir Asha (Hope of Gazi) north of the audience, music played on. Among the musical instruments were flutes, harmonium, juri or Mandira (a small hollow pair of cymbals) and the dhol (instrument of percussion which is not so much in width as a drum but longer in size). After the group instrumental, the lead singer presented a devotional song with his troupe accompanying him in stages.If you come, Oh Merciful to rescue the destitute / (Merciful) Please take and make me cross
(I) do not offer my prayers, nor do I fast / Please have mercy and make me cross
(I) coming into this world / about you I have forgotten/ under the spell of infatuation . . .
Each individual has the knowledge of good or bad and for the singers and the spectators or the audience of Gazir Gaan, the performance is as recreational as it is of devotion. Some show their devotion by praying, some by worshiping (Puja), some by offering a particular sacrifice to the deity on fulfillment of a prayer (Manot) and some may look for some other way to express their devotion. Gazir Gaan, whatsoever includes humour or even obscenity, ultimately it is something of sheer devotion.There are altogether 7 Paalas (episodes) in the Gazir Gaan performance:
1. Marriage 2. Didar Badshah 3. Dharma Badshah 4. Erong Badshah 5. Taijel Badshah 6. Tara Dakait 7. Jamal Badshah
But the performance commences with the “Fokre Paala" depicting the story behind Gazi and Kalu's becoming ascetics after which continues seven episodes. Gazi is very serious and sincere in his work, while the character of his brother Kalu is more comical and he is the one who creates the humour through his role. Through his jeers and meaningless dialogue and activities he very skillfully takes the audience into the embedded sorrow and depth of the story. Here are some quotes from the "Fokre Paala". After the dance performed by the "Chukris", the lead singer stands up and delivers some introducing words in his local accent.
After the introductory words of the narrator, starts the instrumental and then the Dhua or starting chorus of the narrative passes from the lead singer to his members of the chorus.
Singer starts the main narration of the Fokre Paala of Gazi and Kalu and at the beginning he requests Kalu earnestly to become Gazi's companion in his quest of becoming an ascetic leaving behind the earthly pleasures and luxury. As this song ends Kalu comes up and takes part in dialogue (in verse and prose)based drama with the lead singer. The statements and their replies are rather nonsense, comic in nature and sometimes with the use of indecent words.
Gazi's knowledge and asks questions related to Sufi mysticism. Gazi answers satisfactorily and at one stage Kalu points out the asha of the Gazi. [The asha is one of the most holy ritual accessories that play an important role in the performance of the miracles of the saints (Pirs). It indicates the symbolic representation of a saint's supernatural power. During the Gazir Gaan performance, the asha is implanted in the ground and is not used in the performance. Other ritual accessories are used in Gazir Gaan and the offerings made to the saints in the performance are usually taken by the lead-narrator or singer himself on behalf of the saint.
At the end of the performance of each episode of the Gazir Gaan, the narrator asks the crowd which episode would they like to watch. The troupe performs accordingly because it is the mood of the crowd that matters to really feel the beat of the performance (Saymon Zakaria, August 30, 2004). .
Among the indigenous Bangalee art forms, pata-chitra or scroll paintings stand apart in their choice of subjects, vibrant colours, unique lines and style of presentation. Painters of this form are called patua. An exhibition of traditional pata-chitra by three patuas, Dukhushyam (Osman) Chitrakar, Rabbani Chitrakar and Rahim Chitrakar, is being held at DOTS Contemporary Arts Centre on Tejgaon-Gulshan Link Road. (Daily Star, April 9, 2006).
The term Pata is derived from the Sanskrit word Patto, meaning cloth. In ancient times, before paper was introduced, artistes used to paint on thick cotton fabric. Usually mythical or religious stories were the themes. However, in time contemporary issues, animals and more found their place on these painting. "Pata-chitra is perhaps the oldest art form in the Indian subcontinent and the tradition continues to this date. In fact, the art form can be traced all the way back to sixth BCE."
Besides being visual delights, the scroll paintings are also used in pat gaan or patua gaan. Through the medium of scroll painting, a choir narrates a story. Most of the paintings in the exhibition illustrate myths, episodes from the Purana, Ramayana; some feature animals and imaginary monsters. The paintings have several sections so as to maintain a sequence. In the first segment the main characters, usually Gods and Goddesses, are portrayed boldly. A painting featuring Raashleela of Radha-Krishna is stunning. Snake-like creatures with three heads on another one are interesting. Another painting shows three gruesome rakhkhoshi (females monsters) in their "full glory" -- teeth shaped like carrots sticking out, talons sharper than an eagle's -- staring back at the viewer as if to warn them to keep a safe distance.
Goddess Durga is the subject of several scrolls. One of the paintings show the Goddess smiting the beast Mahishashur. Vibrant colours -- yellow, indigo, bottle green, khaki, crimson and dark brown -- create a dazzling effect. Four Gods and Goddessess -- Ganesh, Karthik, Lakshmi and Saraswati -- ornate the corners of the painting. The story of Goddess Kali stamping on God Shiva is the subject on a scroll. The Goddess is bare, as she is portrayed traditionally and painted in deep purple. In episodes from the Ramayana, Rama and Sita are seen getting married in the first segment. Other scenes featured are Lakshman cutting the nose of the monster, Suparnekha and Sita abducted and imprisoned by Ravana. An interesting scroll shows fish carrying other fish in paalkis.
Bangladesh is home to long and rich folk tradition. Dr. D. P. Ghosh (1980) says, "two thousand and five hundred years ago, scroll painting or panel painting was widely used in this country." The art of Bangladesh influenced the art of the Far-East, especially the art of Java. In Bangladesh, folk painting is a part of vast folk culture, developed from time immemorial (Prof. R. Alam,2001).
The patuas are artisans, who are now principally engaged in decorating pottery which is also a dying craft. Now a days we do not find any Patua in one time famous Patua colonies of Bengal.
In Bengali Chal Chitra (inverted shaped roof like design) are employed on the clay images. Chal Chitra are done by the village folk artists. This has become a dying art.
Ghat means water pitcher in Bangla. Manasa is the snake goddess. These ghats are made from clay on the potter's whell and then dried and burnt. All the Ghatsare absolutely folk in nature and primary colours are bold draughtsmanship are employed. The style of painting has affinity with ancient Egyptian and Minoan painting, especially in the depiction of eyes.
Potchitro or story telling through depicting images on canvas has always been a traditional form of art and entertainment. The trail goes a long way back to the Middle Ages when story telling was an important form of entertainment in Bengal. Poets told tales of gods, saints and the virtuous, of kings and queens, through their writings. Artists portrayed these verses through colours and motifs. The age-old folk art survived centuries to tell the tale. It still continues to entertain the art enthusiasts.
The exhibition displays 45 pieces of Raghunath's work depicting everyday life of the rural people and the popular motifs of Bengal. Raghunath Chakravarty does not have any academic training. He did however found inspiration from his mother and later on from renowned potchitro artist Shambhu Acharya. The stroke of the brush came to him naturally.
“I learned from my mother. She used to paint potchitro and decorate the house with alpona whenever there was an occasion”, he said. “From then on I had colours in my mind. I just started to compose in my head and started with a brush one day”, he added.
Raghunath however personalised the art. From religious stories he moved on to everyday life of the rural people. From traditional practice of story telling on clay pots he moved to canvas. “I find it more attractive the lives of the ordinary folks, everyday struggle, the beauty of the rural landscape”, said Raghunath. Raghunath's favourite theme is the eternal love between mother and child. In his work the theme keep coming back along with boat race, the weavers and the carpenters at work, rural wife's cooking preparation, the bangles seller lady, women fetching water, ethnic women at work and many more (S. Parveen, October 24, 2007).
The old folklore tells the story of Gazi Pir, a mythical warrior saint who battled demons, confronted the god of death, and worked miracles like restoring dead trees to full bloom, and getting dried-up cows to milk again. These and more such fantastic and colourful fables and legends have been immortalised through pat gaans and patchitra.
Patachitra is one of the earliest forms of popular art in Bangladesh. Dating from the 12th century, and existing even today these pats or scroll paintings narrated stories based on religious or moral themes for the entertainment of the village folks. Painting of Shambhu
Shambhu is the son of Sudhir Acharya of Kalindipara area of Munshiganj district. Sudhir Acharya, who has been holding out the 400 plus year family tradition of painting on scrolls died in 1989 leaving the big responsibility of carrying out this underrated but rare form of art to Shambhu. While his forefathers died almost unrecognised by the mainstream, Shambhu received some exposure, thanks to a handful of art-lovers who promoted him. His art works made it to the Spitz Gallery in London on July 11, 1999 at the Bangladesh Festival
The tales of Ramayana, Mahabharata, Muharram, Rass lilla, Monosha Mongol, Sri Krishna and Gazi pir usually being the subject matter of these folk paintings that narrate their stories frame by frame. The patuas or pat artists supplemented their illustrations with pat gaans or music ballads. Needless to say, Bangladesh with all its colours and vivacity is the place of this indigenous art form; at least we can safely claim this because the earliest sample of pat preserved in the Ashutosh Museum in Calcutta, which is over a hundred year old has its roots stuck deep in a quiet village in Bikrampur
3. Manasa Mangal ritual
Manasa Mangal, (Bipradas Pipalai 1545 AD) a medieval Bengali classic about the serpent-goddess Manasa. These stories related to mythology are the main elemnets of the Pat-chitra culture.
Patuas, like the kumars, started out in the village tradition as painters of scrolls or pats telling the popular mangal stories of the gods and goddesses. For generations these scroll painters or patuas have gone from village to village with their scrolls or pat singing stories in return for money or food. Many come from the different villages of Bengal. The pats or scrolls are made of sheets of paper of equal or different sizes which are sown together and painted with ordinary poster paints. Originally they would have been painted on cloth and used to tell religious stories such as the medieval mangal poems. Today they may be used to comment on social and political issues such as the evils of cinema or the promotion of literacy.
Mangal kavyas are auspicious poems dedicated to rural deities and appear as a distinctive feature of medieval Bengali literature. Mangals can still be heard today in rural areas of West Bengal often during the festivals of the deities they celebrate, for example Manasa puja in the rainy season during July-August when the danger of snake bite is at its peak. Interestingly, it is the mangal stories connected with this particular art form that provide us with some of the earliest clues about the worship of clay images in Bengal.
The two most famous poems in this respect are the Chandi Mangal and the Manasa Mangal. In the Chandi Mangal of the Bengali poet Mukundarama Chakravarti (16th c), known as Kavikankana, the village goddess Chandi takes on the form of the Puranic deity Mahisasuramarddini (Durga) before the startled eyes of the hunter Kalketu and his wife.
Chandika took the form of Mahisasuramarddini In eight directions the Ashtanayikas shone forth
Her right foot rested on the back of a lion
Her left foot on the back of the demon Mahisha
With her left hand she held Mahisha's hair
With her right hand she placed her trident in his chest
On her left side shone her matted locks
Her headress encompassed the whole circle of the sky
Bracletes and armlets adorned her ten arms
In this form she receives puja from the whole world
A noose, a goad, bell, mace and bow
These five weapons gleam in her five left hands
A sword, discus, trident, spear and brightly-shining arrows
In her right hands gleam these weapons
To her left is Karttikeya, to her right Ganesa
Above, Shiva rides on the head of a bull
To her right is Laksmi, to the left Sarasvati
Facing her, deities sing various hymns
Her limbs outshine molten gold
The colour of her three eyes outcolours blue lotuses
And her face outshines the autumnal moon.
What this mangal poem hints at is that the style of Durga images seen today in the clay images of Bengal was already popular in the 16th c. Durga is popularised as the beleagured wife of the farmer god Shiva. She may be the mighty awe-inspiring goddess who kills demons, but she is also the compassionate mother or Ma and the devoted daughter who returns home during the autumnal festival of Durgotsava. Throughout mangal literature, the village deities are shown as very accessible figures who communicate freely with mortals and share their griefs and delights.
Tha main part of the mangal concerns the fate of Lakhindar and his bride Behula. Manasa warns that Lakhindar will die on their wedding night. So Chando has an iron room built to keep out any snakes that might kill his only son. However, Manasa persuades the architect to leave a gap big enough for one of her deadliest snakes to squeeze through at night and bite Lakhindar as he sleeps. Behula wakes up too late to help her newly-wed husband.
In this pat the snake goddess Manasa sends a poisonous snake to kill the hero Lakhindar while his wife Behula looks on helplessly. The iron room made to protect them on their wedding night proves useless.
The distraught Behula scolds Chando for his quarrel with Manasa and returns her wedding gifts. Instead of cremating her husband's body and scattering his ashes in the river as is the Hindu custom, she sets off downriver in a desperate bid to persuade to gods to revive her husband so that she avoids the fate of being made a young widow
Manasa pat shows how Behula sets off downriver on a raft made of banana bark carrying her husband's corpse on her lap hoping to persuade the gods to revive Lakhindar. On the way she meets the fisherman Goda who taunts her but Behula replies that she worships only the mother Manasa and she floats off again downstream. Further on, she visits the city of the gods where she meets the gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva who are impressed by her skills as a dancer and washerwoman to the gods. Shiva decides to persuade Manasa to revive Lakhindar and his six brothers in return for persuading Chando to worship the snake goddess.
The Snake Litanies
About ten kilometers to the south of Rangpur, in the village of Fatehpur the widows have a tradition of singing these songs about Manasa, or snakes. It is said that not everybody can appreciate this art. After receiving the letter from my friend Nurunnabi Shanto, I got the strong desire to go and see this performance by the widows. I was particularly excited because I had never before seen women perform this Manasa Mangal ritual. And yet, Manasa naturally seems like a woman's territory. But in the performances that I had seen before, there were no actual women. The female roles were played by men. So why were the women of Rangpur an exception? A hundred possible explanations came to my mind; I couldn't decide. I couldn't wait to visit Fatehpur village. But the first thing on my pre-set itinerary was visiting Pirojpur, Bagerhat. My Rangpur trip then, had to come later.
Behula is the heroine in the Bangla epic of Manasamangal. Manasamangal was written between the thirteenth and eighteenth centuries. Though its religious purpose is that to glorify the Hindu goddess of Manasa, it is more well known for depicting the love story of Behula and her husband Lakhindar. Lakhindar's father angers Manasa, who causes Lakhindar to be bitten by a snake on his wedding night, though he and Behula are enclosed in an iron made house. Behula sails alone with her husband's dead body on a boat. She finally appeases the goddess and brings Lakhindar back to life. Behula continues to fascinate the Bengali mind, both in Bangladesh and West Bengal. She is often seen as the archetypal Bengali woman, full of love and courage.
In Hinduism, Manasa is a naga and goddess of fertility. She is popularly known as the goddess of wish fulfilment and one who protects against snakebite. She is also associated with the earth and higher knowledge. Though she is venerated mostly in eastern India.
She is probably a pre-Aryan goddess but this tale is of more recent vintage and comes from Bengal where she is most revered and tells how she gained recognition for herself as a potent member of the Hindu pantheon.
When Manasa approached Chand, he refused to worship her. This infuriated Manasa, and she killed all his sons. After this event, Chand's wife Sonika gave birth to their seventh son Lakhinder (also referred as Bala). Manasa's wrath had not been pacified even by the time when Lakhinder's marriage to Bihula was fixed.
She vowed to kill him on the Suhaag Raat (The night after wedding, when bride and groom sleep together for the first time). To counter the threat, Chand planned to construct an iron room for Lakhinder's Suhaag Raat. However, Manasa threatened the blacksmith as well, and asked him to keep a small pinhole in the room. As nobody noticed this hole, In the night, Manasa sent a very thin snake to enter the room through the pinhole. Once inside the room, this snake turned into a Cobra and bit Lakhinder, killing him instantaneously. Bihula overcame grief and built a boat to go to Heaven to present this injustice to gods. Lakhinder was then revived by the gods. During the return from Heaven, Bihula managed to persuade Chand to worship Manasa. Chanda grudgingly agreed to worship her with his left hand. To this day, Manasa is the only Hindu goddess worshipped by the left hand. In the Anga region, she is also known as Bishahari and worshipped to prevent snake-bite related deaths. The boat created by Bihula was made up of jute straws (Manjusha) and paper. This led to development of Manjusha art, which is now on verge of extinction.
Royani:Royani is the music of Manasas. It is the music of Behula.” At Meeradi's words I come back to the topic of Manasa, she seemed to make perfect sense. Of course, the songs were about the two women- Manasa and Behula. Both of these women have had to overcome many obstacles to be well respected in society. Men do not understand the pain and anguish these women have had to go through. One woman has many forms-the mother, the daughter, the sister.The whole performance was about the self-image and self-perception of these women. In that way, the show was kind of autobiographical.
The whole performance is about singing and dancing. And throughout the performance the women of the whole village tirelessly performed the whole night, but in a manner as mundane as their lives. There were no frills. It seemed as though the show was inseparable from their lives- it was nothing special. For these women, performing is not much different from doing everyday chores like cooking. They all routinely get up to make rafts out of tree trunks as if they have done this many times before. Behula and Lakhshmindar get up on the raft and sail off. Lakhshimdar had been bitten, and bite victims must be put on a raft and sent away. Behula accompanied him as a perfectly virtuous wife. At this point in the performance, we feel the pain of Behula. The story of Behula is well known in Bangladesh. But this performance opens ones eyes to other things. Other sociocultural aspects come through in the way the performance unfolds, that one cannot understand from just casually hearing about the story. My experience at Rangpur was unique. The evening did shed light on the lives of these women, what songs mean to them and their lives (Simon Zakaria, Daily Star, July 21, 2007).
...The Bridal Chamber of Behula is stand in the south 2 k.m. from Mohaastan garh, Rangpur, Bangladesh.
4. A tradition which ridicules the clash of civilisations
The Legend of Gazi
Gazi Pir was a Muslim saint who is said to have spread the Islamic religion in Bengal. According to local myth, he could control dangerous animals and make them harmless and gentle. He is shown riding a fearsome Bengal tiger while holding a poisonous snake in his hand without coming to any danger. He also battled with the crocodiles who were a constant threat to the people of the area called the Sunderbans, the watery jungle where the river Ganges meets the sea. Through his influence over all of these animals, he is said to have made it possible for people to live and farm in that jungle and people still pray to him to protect them while they go about their daily chores.
When we talk about patchitra, first of all, the images of Kalighater pats come in our mind. This genre of painting developed in the nineteenth century which flourished in the market places around the Kalighat Mandir on the bank of the Ganges in Kolkata. But according some historians, older than the Kalighater pat were Gazir pats which most probably emerged around the 16th century. Unlike the Kalighater pat, the uniqueness of Gazir pat is of profound importance and influence in the history of painting and literature in Bengal both in subject and form. The scroll paintings of Gazir pat (pat meaning cloth), present the valour of legendary figure Gazi Pir, who was respected and worshiped as a warrior-saint.
Gazir Pir is not mentioned in history, according to some scholars, the Muslim saint Gazi, might have appeared around the 15th century and seemed to be related to the rise of Sufism in Bengal. Islam Gazi, a Muslim general, served Sultan Barbak (1459-74) in Delhi and conquered Orissa and Kamrup (now Assam). Towards the end of the 16th century, Shaikh Faizullah praised the valour and spiritual qualities of this general in his verse Gazi Bijoy, the victory of Gazi.
To the worshipers of Gazi, this warrior-saint protected his devotees from attacks of wild animals and demons in the forests. In Bangladesh, particularly, in the regions of the Sundarban, the story and images of Gazi Pir had earned much popularity among the forest dwellers, like woodcutters, beekeepers and others. These communities still believe in the supernatural powers of the Pir and utter his name when they venture in to the forest.
Gazi is worshiped as the protector against demons and harmful deities
In the plains, Gazi is worshiped as the protector against demons and harmful deities and saves them from all sorts of dangers. The villagers usually call the gayens or folksingers, who know the story of Gazi Pir to sing the saint? praise
The singers·preaching created a demand for the pats among the devotees, irrespective of caste, creed and community and the pats had gained a huge popularity in the rural areas across the country, in the early years. Traditionally, the singers were Muslims while the patuas belonged to the Hindu religion. Sadly, at present, this combined form of art, paintings on pats and rendering of Gazir praise, has lost its purpose as a savoir from evil.
Until the recent past, the narration of the story of Gazi Pir with the help of a Gazir pat was a popular form of entertainment in rural areas, especially in greater Dhaka, Mymensingh, Sylhet, Comilla, Noakhali, Faridpur, Jessore, Khulna and Rajshahi.
Gazir pat has specific images painted on a single canvas which have remained unchanged through the centuries. These images have been honoured as sacred symbols of good omen. There are twenty seven panels in a traditional Gazir pat, which measures 60 inches X 22 inches. The ankaiya (painter) follows the traditional styles in depicting the images. In the twenty-seven panels, the ankiya draws the images of a shimul tree; a cow; drum to depict triumph of Kalu Gazi; sawdagar or merchant; a deer being slaughtered; Asha or hope, the symbol of Gazi; Kahelia; Andura and Khandura; tiger; umbrella in the hand of Gazi disciple; Suk and Sari birds sitting on the umbrella; Lakhmi; charka, the spinning wheel; two witches; goala or milkman; mother of the goala; a cow and a tiger; an old woman beautifying herself; Baksila; Ganga; Jamdut; Kaldut; mother of Jam raja; and in the centre Gazi riding on a tiger. The singer or singers narrate sometimes the night long story, pointing at the characters, which appear in the twenty seven panels of the pat.
Red and blue are the two pigments mainly used in the pats. There are slight variations of colour, with crimson and pink from red, and grey and sky-blue from blue. Every figure is flat and two-dimensional. In order to bring in variety, various abstract designs (such as diagonal, vertical and horizontal lines and small circles) are often used. Trees, Gazi mace, the tasbih or prayer beads, birds, deer, hookahs etc, are extremely stylised. The figures of Gazi, his disciples Kalu and Manik Pir, Jama (the Hindu god of death) messengers, etc appear rigid and lifeless. Though there is no attempt at realism in the images of Gazir pats, the sort of painting has a time value as primitive work.
Gazir Gan songs to a legendary saint popularly known as Gazi Pir. Gazi songs were particularly popular in the districts of faridpur, noakhali, chittagong and sylhet. They were performed for boons received or wished for, such as for a child, after a cure, for the fertility of the soil, for the well-being of cattle, for success in business, etc. Gazi songs would be presented while unfurling a scroll depicting different events in the life of Gazi Pir. On the scroll would also be depicted the field of Karbala, the Ka'aba, Hindu temples, etc. Sometimes these paintings were also done on earthenware pots.
The lead singer or gain, wearing a long robe and a turban, would twirl an asa and move about in the performance area and sing. He would be accompanied by drummers, flautists and four or five dohars or choral singers, who would sing the refrain.
Gazi songs were preceded by a bandana or hymn, sung by the main singer. He would sing: 'I turn to the east in reverence to Bhanushvar (sun) whose rise brightens the world. Then I adore Gazi, the kind-hearted, who is saluted by Hindus and Mussalmans'. Then he would narrate the story of Gazi's birth, his wars with the demons and the evil spirits, as well as his rescue of a merchant at sea.
Although Gazi Pir was a Muslim, his followers included people from other religious communities as well. Many Gazi songs point out how people who did not respect him were punished. At least one song narrates how Gazi Pir saved the peasantry from the oppression of a zamindar. Another song describes how a devotee won a court case. In Gazi songs spiritual and material interests are often intertwined. The audience give money in charity in the name of Gazi Pir. This genre of songs is almost extinct in Bangladesh today. [Ashraf Siddiqui]
The tradition of Gazir pat can be traced back to the 7th century. It is also possible that the scroll paintings of Bangladesh are linked to the traditional pictorial art of continental India of the pre-Buddhist and pre-Ajanta epochs, and of Tibet, Nepal, China and Japan of later times.
5. Civilisations are built on the exchange and encounter of different cultural traditions
One of the most striking exhibits in the current British Museum exhibition Myths of Bengal is the beautiful Gazi scroll - not just for its rich colours and vivid figures, but because it illustrates the enriching coexistence of two of the world's great faiths. Images of Hindus making puja offerings are juxtaposed with those of Muslims making similar offerings at the tombs of their saints (pirs). It shows how a remarkable, syncretic culture emerged in which the tombs of many pirs became places of pilgrimage for both Hindus and Muslims.
The syncretism is also evident in the Bengali tradition of bauls, itinerant singers who came from both faiths and used the same songs, full of the yearning of the humble man for God. These songs were a great inspiration to the Bengali Hindu poet Rabindranath Tagore (whose paintings are also on show at the British Museum) and expressed the same sentiments found in both religious traditions. The national anthems of the predominantly Muslim country of Bangladesh and the predominantly Hindu country of India were both written by Tagore.
In his most recent book, Identity and Violence, Amartya Sen, a Bengali, describes how civilisations are built on the exchange and encounter of different cultural traditions. It is both an impoverishment and a deeply dangerous development to recast the identity of regions in terms of just one faith. He cites Tagore, who described his family background as a "confluence of three cultures, Hindu, Mohammedan and British".
Bengal has been one of the world's great melting pots, perhaps the place where east has met west for the longest period of settled coexistence. For more than 200 years it was at the heart of Britain's power in India, and Calcutta was the second city of the British empire. British rule brought shocking misgovernment, such as the Bengal famine of 1943 and economic exploitation, but it also brought western ideas, producing a vibrant cultural life in the 19th century.
Vestiges of the syncretism survive, despite the fact that West Bengal is now largely Hindu, and Bangladesh Muslim, but the process of erosion grinds on. In both countries, wealthier diasporas exacerbate the sharpening of antagonistic religious identities. The faith of huge numbers of Bangladeshi migrant workers now owes more to a global Islam influenced by Saudi Arabia than to Bengal's traditional Sufism. Upward social mobility in the villages of Sylhet - the region from which most British Bangladeshis come - is associated with a rejection of the folkloric piety in which even Bengal's pre-Islamic Buddhism was discernible.
Looking at the Gazi scroll, one cannot but conclude that the past offers more enlightened models of living with difference than we are achieving.
We need to be reminded - and inspired - by the history of places such as Bengal so that we can guard against the easy simplification that human beings can be parcelled into discrete civilisational categories based on faith. Some of the world's richest cultural traditions are the legacy of the interaction of several faiths (Madeleine Bunting Wednesday November 29, 2006,The Guardian) .
6.Save 'Patachitra' 'scroll painting'- Our National Heritage
'Patachitra' or 'scroll painting', one of the age-old forms of popular art, has existed in Bangladesh since the 12th century. These patas depicted scenes from religious stories and cultural myths and themes from life in rural Bangladesh. Shambhu Acharya, a 'patachitra' artist from Bikrampur has in recent years received the attention and appreciation from a few art lovers and cultural activists. Shambhu Acharya was born in 1954. His father was Patua Shudhir Chandra Acharya and mother was Kalpana Bala Acharya who herself was an Alpona painter. His family has been practising patachitra for more than 400 years. The themes of their paintings include stories of Gazir Pata Sree Krishna, Muharram, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Manasha Mangal, Rass Leela and also various others themes from our local folk culture.
He uses all local materials for his paintings. For the canvas, Shambhu uses 'markin' cloth and the age-old techniques. The cloth is first layered with mud or cowdung and dried, it's then layered again with a paste made from tamarind seeds and powder of brick and chalk. Thus, surfaces of the patachitra canvas which is called 'doli' is prepared. This canvas lasts for ages.
For making his colour he uses black ink made from the smoke of lamp flames, zinc oxide, vermilion, egg yolk, the sticky juice of wood apples, sabu dana and various kinds of earth colour such as gopi mati,tilok mati, dheu mati, ela mati and raja neel (blue).
Unfortunately this recognition has mostly been confined to only a few connoisseurs of art living in the capital city and some places abroad where he held exhibitions, while most people of his own country know very little about Shambhu Acharya and the thousands of years' old art form that his family has been practising for more than 400 years.
The earliest 'patuas' (as the artists of scroll paintings are called) usually took the themes for their paintings from the Mahabharata, Ramayana, various legends, myths and religious stories , and later expanded the range by including many popular and secular stories of the land. One of the most popular themes of the 'patachitra' was the Gazi's Pat depicting the courageous deeds and conquests of Ismail Gazi, a Muslim general who served the Sultan Barbak in the 15th century.
Patachitra, like many other popular folk art of Bengal such as pottery, the weaving of the Muslin and i, and jatra, was practised in families through generation after generation. The skills and the commitment to the art form were handed down from fathers to their sons.
Shambhu Acharya, the patua, comes from such a long line of dedicated patuas of Bikrampur. His family has been working in this art form for the last eight generations. But it's only the art of Shambhu, the 9th generation of patuas, which has recently come to the limelight. The modern urban people of today are striving to find the roots of their traditional culture. Perhaps this well help to establish the art of patachitra once again with all its glory and popularity'.
It is amazing to think how a family has been struggling to practise this art form in a place like Bikrampur for so many generations. There are many artists like Shambhu Acharya about whom very few of us know. It is our responsibility to search for and promote such talents in any field anywhere (Daily Star, September 16, 2006).
She is the Rural Artist, doing Pat-Chitra (Scroll Painting). In this form of paintings there are series of different paintings, connected with each other, through which some story of ancient times is narrated. It is very unfortunate that today these art forms are rarely seen in the country.. The paintings of these artist are truely masterpieces.. but to our misfortune, we are unable to know and learn such wonderful art.. In my opinion something should be done to preserve and spread all such Art Forms, which forms the culture of our country.Home
7. Save Traditional Bengali Dolls- Our National Heritage
Like the rural folk-painters and potters of Bengal, Jamini Roy used cheap indigenous pigments for his art to make them within the reach of the affluent as well as the poor. Like the pata-painters of Bengal he proposed his own paintings from indigenous materials like lampblack, chawk-powder, leaves and creepers. Even today, modern paintings of Jamini Roy, executed in the ideal of folk-pata paintings and dolls, attract the connoisseur's eyes as well as the teeming multitude
A figurine of a dancing girl was discovered at Mohenjodaro. Excavations elsewhere have unearthed clay dolls, very similar to the mother goddess figures that village women form even today with a soft lump of clay. Dolls have also been unearthed at savar, mainamati, mahasthan and dinajpur in Bangladesh. Apart from human figures, animal and bird forms have also been discovered at these sites.
Clay dolls perhaps emerged from the potter's work of making images of gods and goddesses. These may be shaped by hand or made in moulds. It is easier and quicker to mould dolls. Ornamentation and costumes are drawn by means of pointed sticks. Handmade dolls are not painted, but dried in the sun and fired in kilns.
Moulds for making dolls are generally handed down, though new designs of moulds are also made. Dolls made in moulds are painted in various colours after they are fired. Common colours are white, blue, yellow, green, and black. mymensingh is famous for doll-making as are Savar, dhamrai and Rayerbazar.
Wooden dolls are also traditional and are usually made from kadam, amda, shyaoda, and shimul. Artisans shape the wood into triangular and semi-circular pieces to make the figures of women. The bodies of the dolls are painted as well as their dresses and ornaments. Colours commonly used are yellow, red, green and black. These female dolls are called 'mummy dolls' since they look like Egyptian mummies
Dolls - Our Heritage
by Abanindranath Tagore
Leader of the Revivalist Movement in the field of Modern Indian Painting in Bengal, Abanindranath Tagore is also credited with a key contribution towards ushering in the renaissance in Indian painting. Born on 7th August, 1871, at Jorasanko, at the family residence of the aristocratic Tagores, Abanindranath grew up in a family environment of multi-hued creativity, as the Tagores culturally spearheaded Calcutta in those days.
In 1907, Tagore established the Indian School of Oriental Art and founded ‘The Bengal School’, which was responsible in pioneering the Bengal Revivalist movement. Under his guidance, a new generation of painters was raised, like Nandalal Bose, Asit Halder, Kshitindranath Majumder and Jamini Roy, S.N.Gupta and a host of others. Nandalal Bose (1882-1966), one of his most outstanding students, revived the study and practice of art in India, later in life.
In his own way, Abanindranath also contributed to the Freedom struggle. Money was raised for the National Fund by singing processions who carried his painting, Bharat Mata, made into a flag. He also contributed handloom cloth from Jessore and Pabna to the swadeshi store. Abanindranath Tagore, regarded as the father of India's modern art, died in 1951
We have dolls as playthings for children; marionettes for play-acting of larger size; life -size, and sometimes larger than life, caricatures, effigies and clowns.
Toy dolls are about span high, thumb long, and smaller, down to the miniature size.
Clay, wood, pith and paper are the materials of which our dolls are made.
Toy dolls are first made in the rough by the potter or carpenter, whereupon the decorator steps in to do up the features and put in the colouring, before they finally find their way to the shops.
The making of idols for worship is much on the same lines.
The potter makes the figure according to tradition, with dress folds, ornaments, and crown, complete.
The decorator then adds the colouring of body, features and robes, the tinsel halo and other appurtenances.
In the case of the play-acting marionettes, the carpenter makes the body and limbs separately, and the play- actor loosely fastens the limbs to the body with strings, so that they may be moved as required.
The dresser follows, colouring and dressing them up, on the eve of the performance, for the parts they are intended to play.
The animals and birds that are to come on the stage are designed by the carpenter on a common pattern, and subsequently made up to suit the occasion…the addition of mane or stripes, for instance, converting the same dummy into lion or tiger.
This kind of co-operation between the several artists is made to serve all the purposes of the play.
There are mainly three kinds of dolls or toys:
Immobile-such as a figure of Ganesh, or a fat woman-figure with a stump in place of legs to be dressed up by the playing child. Partly mobile - such as palm-leaf sepoys with jointed arms and legs jerked into martial attitudes by strings attached to a bamboo spring; pith birds and fishes, dangling on strings from a supporting frame, swaying to the breeze. Toys on wheels - such as clay carts, wooden or metal horses; etc.
Whistling tin birds or squeaking celluloid babies are beyond the resources of our toy makers. Our marionettes go through their movements in obedience to the string-pulling of the play actor and do their squeaking by proxy through his assistant.
A Doll from Bengal
This is a typical wooden doll found all over Bengal. It varies in its decorations and colours in different districts but the form remains the same. This particular one was bought in Kenduli in Birbhum district. The colour of the head, arms and feet is yellow. Upper garment covering the body below the waist is blue and green. The details and decorations of the figure are drawn with black and red thick brush lines.
Mr. Nandalal Bose says it is not possible for him to say when this toy was introduced in Bengal but the back of this toy resembles the back of the stone statues of Vishnu and other gods. He also feels that they somehow look like Egyptian mummy cases. Size of the original doll: 10 inches high x 3 inches wide approx.
Our old doll types are no longer to be seen in all their variety; some have even changed their forms and decorations to suit modern taste. Some idea of the different kinds of dolls or toys that were in use may be gathered from our nursery rhymes. I give a few examples:
The Moon Doll: --"Moon on her arms, moons on her feet, a moon on her forehead doth shine." The Car of Thirteen Spires: --"O look sister, how wonderful! The confectioner over the way has made a car with thirteen spires, and a monkey holding the banner." The Nodding Old Man: --"The aged one's head nods and nods, with a myna perched on top." Gopal (Krishna): --"Who says Gopal is flat-faced I have brought clay from Sukhchar to make a straight nose for him. Who says Gopal is dark I have brought turmeric from Patna to make his complexion shine." Animals: --"The Shy Cat", "The Royal Elephant", "The Black and White Cats of Shasthi", etc. There are the Smiling Doll, the Jolly Doll, the Merry Doll, the Crying Doll, and other descriptions…the meanings of which cannot now be traced. There are the Smiling Doll, the Jolly Doll, the Merry Doll, the Crying Doll, and other descriptions…the meanings of which cannot now be traced. A Queen Doll made of fire-wood is still to be seen in Kalighat shops.
The following portion of a fairy tale gives us a picture of the making of a doll queen:
"Four companions were going from one village to another. Dusk fell while they were passing through a wood before their journey's end, and they had to stay the night under a tree. The carpenter's son took the first watch. To while away the time he cut off a branch and carved a woman doll. The decorator's son took the second watch. He shaped the eyes and nose, gave golden colour to the body and rose colour to the palms and soles, and seated the naked doll under the tree. The weaver's son took the third watch and dressed her up, veil and all. The king's son woke last, and in the fourth watch chanted a magic spell, learnt from a holy man, which gave her life; then placing her in a palanquin, he took her away with him."
Gods come on the scene, and engage in a terrific battle with demons, in the course of which the floor is strewn with headless trunks, whereupon all the dolls on the stage register different degrees of alarm; and so on…...
(Source: Visva-Bharati Quarterly, New Series, Vol. I, Part I, May-July, 1935.)
BibliographyGurusaday Dutt, Patuya Sangeet, University of Calcutta, Calcutta, 1939;
Benoy Ghosh, Traditional Arts and Crafts of West Bengal: A Sociological Survey, Papyrus, Calcutta, 1981;
Rajatananda Dasgupta, 'Bharatiya Upamahadeshe Patachitrakala', Bangladesher Lokoshilpa, ed, Syed Mahmudul Hasan, Bangladesh Folk Art and Crafts Foundation, Sonargaon. 1983;
Tofail Ahmad, 'Patuya Sudhir Acharya', Karushilpi Purashkar, Bangladesh Jatiya Karushilpa Parishad, Dhaka, 1989.
Jasim Uddin, Thakur Barir Aginay, Grantho Prakash, Kolkata, 1963
Last modified: August 4, 2014