Gallery Time and Space is hosting an exhibition of Kalighat Pata Chitras sourced from West Bengal from Parimal Ray's collection

Kalighat Pata Chitra refers to those paintings done by artisans around the Kalighat Temple area, Kolkata, on patas or “cloth bound tressings” used “by the British for their architectural drawings”. Though the early pata chitras used to depict themes from Indian mythology, they evolved to represent the socio-cultural landscapes of the British period.

“Kalighat Pata Chitra is possibly one of India's most successful folk art traditions. The British loved these paintings and till date they continue to remain in demand as they depict stories from the British period. Since we, at the gallery have been showcasing a lot of contemporary art, we thought we'd show Bangalore some of our traditional art,” says Jyotirmoy Bhattacharya of Gallery Time and Space, currently hosting an exhibition of Kalighat Pata Chitra paintings from Parimal Ray's collection.

Through most of the paintings depict personalities from Indian mythology – Lakshmi, Saraswati, Shiva, Karthik and many Krishna's (with Radha and his gopikas), there are a few paintings showcasing feudal life in that period. There are paintings of musicians, of “dancing girl at jamindar house”, and of a “house chariot” at which the Brahmins look on, hinting at the stark class divisions in the British periods.

There were paintings depicting women – applying tilak on their brother's forehead during the occasion of “Bhratriditya”, a Bengali festival similar to rakshabandhan, of “The Lady”, dressing up in front of the mirror and taking a nap in “Relaxing Lady”. There were also a few paintings depicting animal life like “Cat Caught the Bird”. One of the highlights of the exhibition is the painting of “Nitai and Gauranga”, devotees of the Indian god Krishna.

All the paintings are done using natural pigments resulting in mild textures and tones. But the subtlety in thought and expression add a brilliant contrast to the paintings.

Large collections of Kalighat Paintings are housed in the Victoria and Albert Museum, in London, Chester Hurwitz Collection, India Office Library, British Museum, Prague Museum and Pushkin Museum.

Kalighat Pata Chitra is on until August 16 at Gallery Time and Space, Lavelle Road. The paintings cost between Rs. 15,000 and Rs. 90,000.

Keywords: art exhibition