Chitrakathi- story of a dying craft


chitrakathi introChitrakathi is an ancient folk tradition and a unique style of painting, dating back to the 17th century. It is practiced in Pinguli, a small village in the district of Sindhudurg, in the Indian State of Maharashtra.

chitrakathi artist“Chitra” means picture and “katha” means story. Together, the term “Chitrakathi” was originally used to describe storytellers who narrated stories using visual aids accompanied by music. Broadly, Chitrakatha is identified in three forms, leather puppet shows, stringed wooden puppets and picture stories. Only the latter, Picture Stories, narrated using a series of paintings, are now identified as Chitrakathi.

History and Origin:

Chitrakathi Art has been a long standing tradition of tribal life and is an almost extinct art form practiced by the Thakar tribal community of Maharashtra. The Chitrakathi artists are a community of migrating storytellers found all over Maharashtra, some parts of Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. chitrakathi ramayan

It also known as Paithani art and is used to narrate stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. This ancient art form was a hugely popular source of entertainment among village crowds in Maharashtra. The signature musical accompaniment was usually given by Veena, with Duduk and Taal as supporting instruments.


chitrakathi prepChitrakathi artwork is created as a series of single sheets of paintings. All paintings belonging to one story are kept in a bundle called “Pothi”, which is set of pictures containing 30 to 50 pages arranged in chronological order. These pages are unbound like the pages of ancient Indian epics. Some Pothis date back to around 300 years whereas some, more recent, are 50 to 60 years old.

The themes of Chitrakathi paintings include stories on local versions of Ramayana, Mahabharata, various folk tales and stories from the Puranas. The paintings are usually created on paper or canvas sheets, with brushes and natural, hand-made water colors. The use of brownish tones of stone colors gives an exceptional effect to the artwork. Figures in paintings are generally stylized portrayed using bold colors and expressive strokes.

Conserving Chitrakathi:


Even though Chitrakathi was a popular recreational source among the older tribal generations, very few performers of this art are present today in Maharashtra. With the increasing urbanization and changing lifestyle of rural people, traditional art forms do not get a sufficient audience. Chitrakathi outdoorsIMG-20180409-WA0008

The Thakar tribe, who kept the Chitrakathi tradition alive for centuries, is finding it difficult to carry on in the absence of patronage. Earlier, one artist would keep about 40 to 50 Pothis but today, unfortunately, only 15 to 20 Pothis are found to be in good condition.

The government of Maharashtra state and other cultural organizations from the central government are coming forward to extend a helping hand. Several workshops, seminars, and orientation training programs are being organized to make it popular. Scholarship programs and financial assistance is being extended for those who want to be torchbearers of the tradition.

With the help of the government, non-government organizations and educational institutes Chitrakathi is sure to continue with full-fledged glory in the coming decades.

Featured Artisans:

chitrakathi gangavaneIn the year 2006, Shri Parshuram Gangavane took upon himself a task of revitalizing this 400 year old Chitrakathi art at both domestic and international levels. With this goal in mind, he founded the TAKA museum & art gallery, which showcases Thakar Tribal folk Arts of Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra.

He has also carried out many Workshops, Exhibitions & Presentation programs across India. Under his guidance, his sons, Eknath & Chetan Gangavane, are also contributing towards the development of Chitrakathi Paintings and to preserve the Ancient art form of Pinguli. More than 1000 students & Research Scholars have been taught so far by him and his two sons.Chitrakathi museum1

He founded Vishram Thakar Adivasi Kala Aangan Charitable Trust in 2007, with a vision of conserving age old Thakar Tribal and Folk art and spreading it to various parts of the country and overseas. Through this trust, he accepts donations from Samaritans all over the world, who would like to lend a hand, in helping him carry out this wonderful work. The trust also helps him conducts various training classes for schools, colleges and for art lovers too.

Parshuram Gangavane received an award from the Maharashtra state government in 2009 for the preservation of folk arts.

The Gangavane family has also initiated a homestay scheme, a project undertaken by the social tourism organization Culture Aangan.

chitrakathi performance

Madhubani Paintings By Swati Solke

images9-500x500.jpgMadhubani paintings originated in a small village, Maithili, in the Madhubani district of the Bihar state of India, hence this form of art is also known as Mithila Art. It is traditionally practiced by the women of the Mithila region communities of India and Nepal. The themes of Madhubani paintings cover a host of celebratory occasions such as festivals, births and marriages. The artwork is characterized by its eye-catching patterns created using natural dyes and pigments and usually painted with finger, twigs, brushes, matchsticks etc.

History and Origin:

Madhubani paintings originated as a folk art around 2500 years ago but are still very much in vogue owing to its highly relevant themes to the modern times. In addition to reflecting the era of origin as well as the years that followed, Madhubani paintings have also been part of forest saving crusades and current women’s issues.Madhubani_main.jpg

It’s a form of wall and floor art created by women in their freshly plastered homes to mark special occasions. The paintings depict man’s relationship with nature, spiritual scenes from ancient mythology and holy plants like Tulsi. The painting skills are passed on from generation to generation mostly by women in the family.  Institutions spread across Mithila region, Kalakriti in Darbhanga, Vaidehi in Madhubani, Benipatti in Madhubani district and Gram Vikas Parishad in Ranti are some of the major centers of Madhubani painting which have kept this ancient art form alive.


Madhubani paintings are made from a paste of powdered rice, which is used to create the outline and framework. Earlier there used to be have five distinct styles that were created by women from specific castes, i.e., Bharni, Katchni, Tantrik, Godna and Kohbar. Weddings and religious ceremonies and cultural festivals are popular scenes in these paintings.


The artwork uses two dimensional imagery and there is almost no empty space in the paintings as the gaps and borders are filled by depictions of flowers, birds, animals, the sun and moon. Even geometrical patterns are used to illustrate love, devotion and prosperity. The colors used are bright and are derived from ochre clay, lampblack, and plants such as turmeric extract for yellow, sandalwood for red and indigo for blue. The figures in the paintings are made distinctive by their prominent outlines, bulging eyes and pointed noses.

Then and Now:

Madhubani has become a global art form over the years and hence, there are no more limitations in the styles being practiced by specific castes. All five styles are created without the basis of caste system.      bbc

The painting surfaces have transitioned from walls and floors to cloth, handmade paper and canvas but the use of fingers, twigs, pen nibs and matchsticks to draw is still in continuation.

Though the skills have passed through the generations, the themes and styles have remained consistent through the ages. Nowadays artists are using this medium to empower and make women aware by portraying current issues such as education and eve-teasing. In 2012, over a 100 trees were saved from being cut down by covering them with Madhubani paintings and spreading awareness among the public about pollution and global warming. Madhubani

Madhubani artwork has moved beyond canvases onto everyday items like bags, cushion covers, crockery etc. and has found a popular international market among art lovers.

2_1508114779In April 2018, the Madhubani railway station has been given a complete makeover using traditional Mithila artwork by the local artists. Over 225 artists, a majority of them women, completed the 14,000 s. ft. wall project free of cost over a span of two months.

This is a unique and highly creative initiative by the Indian Railways and should be adopted in the rest of the country. Public places such as zoos, bus/railway stations and roadway features such as flyovers and dividers should be decorated with the relevant local art. Through this practice, the local artwork and craftsmen get a boost along with keeping our beautiful culture alive and kicking!


Gond Art By Swati Solke

IMG-20180330-WA0073A form of painting that comes from a namesake tribe of Madhya Pradesh; Gond painting derives its name from the Dravidian expression Kond, which means “the green mountain”. Gond painting signifies the tribe’s belief that viewing a good image begets good luck and reflects their perennial passion for life. This art form is also common across central Indian regions such as Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh.

History and Origin:

Gond tribes are recorded to have originated around circa. 600 A.D. and painting has been a popular art form with them since the beginning. It was predominant amongst the Pradhan Gonds, renowned for both their painting and musical skills. Gond tribe people decorated their homes with traditional motifs and used paintings as a means to record their history.

The Gond tribes believe that everything in nature is inhabited by sacred spirits. Hence, Gond people painted natural elements such as trees, animals, rivers and mountains as a sign of reverence and respect. In addition to nature, Gond paintings are inspired by Indian mythology, the daily tribal domestic scenes, abstract emotions and dreams.

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Gond paintings are known for their precision of outlines that are filled with dot and dashes, which make them look fluid and alive. Striking colors such as red, blue, white and yellow are used to impart vividness to the paintings. These paints are extracted from natural elements such as tinted soils (yellow and brown), charcoal, leaves (green), flowers (red), plant sap and cow dung.IMG-20171126-WA0037

Then and Now:

Gond paintings have transitioned over the years to canvases from walls and floors. Natural colors have been replaced by poster colors. These modern changes have resulted in the paintings being brighter and more vibrant than their ancient examples. Furthermore, use of canvases has made Gond paintings easier to transport and display.

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Featured Artisans: Choti Tekam

chotiThe survival of any form of art ultimately depends on the artisans. One such resilient, new generation Gond artist is Choti.

When the 34 year old Choti came to Bhopal after her marriage to Santosh Tekam, she was amazed to find so many artists in the city. She saw their paintings and felt that she could do it too. When Ram Singh Urveti gave her paper and colours, she didn’t hesitate for a moment, and covered the sheet with forms of deer, her favorite animal. Deer, with their dark eyes and majestic walk had always caught her imagination. Choti was thrilled with the acrylic paints which at last gave her the freedom to use the whole spectrum of colours. Her favorite colour of all was blue – “the blue that a peacock carries on its body.” She recalls with nostalgia how in her childhood, she would try to reproduce the colours she wanted for flowers and leaves which she painted on the walls of her house with a homemade brush.

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The artist in Choti Tekam is now fully awake, as she paints on canvas and paper. Each painting takes her anywhere from eight hours to a few weeks. With her encouraging husband Santosh they make a wonderful team who are balancing the tough job of producing vibrant, colourful paintings and giving good quality education to their two children aged 10 and 9.