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.
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.
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.