Skip to main content

Pata scroll illustrating the Indian career of the botanist William Roxburgh

Identifier: Coll-1851

Content Description

A traditional, cloth-based scroll painting, illustrating the life of botanist William Roxburgh, created by Gurupada Chitrakar in 2010 in West Bengal. It is a water-based paint on paper, mounted on cotton. Created using paint made with vegetable dyes, these scrolls are made by sewing together individual panels of paper. Fabric, often from old saris, is glued to the back to strengthen the scroll.
Painted scrolls such as this, known as patas, are used as visual props in traditional storytelling performances which are often sung. This pata tells the story of William Roxburgh (1751-1815), the Scottish Superintendent of the Calcutta Botanical Garden. Under his tenure as superintendent, the 300 plants in the Garden multiplied to 3,500, and the Botanical Garden became India’s centre for acclimatizing plants, with donations from Europe, China, North America and the West Indies. He is remembered today as the father of Indian botany for his work in identification, classification and preservation of Indian plants. One of the scenes of the pata represents him sitting under the Great Banyan Tree in the Garden, where it is said he liked to contemplate life while the Hooghly river flowed by.
The lyrics that tell the story of this scroll have also been created by Gurupada Chitrakar. The DVD accompanying the scroll shows the artist reciting the pata in the Temperate Palm House of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. The lyrics have been translated into English by Bashabi Fraser and can be found in the book Scots Beneath the Banyan Tree: Stories from Bengal.


  • 2010


Conditions Governing Access

Open to bone fide researchers. Please contact the repository in advance.
The scroll needs to be handled with care, and a DVD player is needed to watch the content of the DVD.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright remains with the creators of the material.

Biographical / Historical

Gurupada Chitrakar is a patua, also known as chitrakar (‘image-maker’), based in the State of West Bengal, East India. His scrolls and paintings come from the distinct patachitra scroll tradition in West Bengal. The Patuas are a group of itinerant artists specializing in the painting of narrative scrolls and performing with lyrics and tune they compose themselves. Usual themes include stories from Hindu epics and Sufi traditions. They are primarily self-taught – or, more precisely, taught within the lineage of family tradition.
Younger patuas have incorporated contemporary events and issues into their art, which has contributed to the expansion of their domestic and international market. Gurupada Chitrakar's work includes patas on the French Revolution, on the dropping of the Atom Bomb on Hiroshima, and on the 9/11 attacks.


1 linear metre : 1 scroll of approximately 4 metres when flat

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated in October 2017 by Henry Noltie. Accession no SC-Acc-2017-0214.

Separated Materials

A printed book has been separated from the scroll and given its own shelfmark (RB.S.3987): Fraser, B., and Chitrakar, G., Scots Beneath the Banyan Tree: Stories from Bengal (Edinburgh: Owl & Lion, 2010).


The scroll is approximately four-metre long when flat.

Processing Information

Catalogued by Aline Brodin in December 2017.
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379