Patna Kalam

The Glory of Patna Kalam Painting: Lost in history

The Glory of Patna Kalam Painting: Lost in history

Patna-kalam- PatnaDiaries

It is a Prominent fact that during Mughal Era, Painting art was at its Peak. Art and craft got the most of their popularity, especially during the rule of Jehangir and Shahjahan. The era was known as the Golden Era of Painting. But After Aurangzeb come to the throne, painting art was neglected. Due to Aurangzeb’s anti-Hindu policy and dislike of art and painting, artists felt demoralized and moved out of the court of Mughals and went towards three parts of India.

One group of Painters went to Basholi, Kangra, Mandi, Kullu, Garhwal, etc. The second group went to Udaipur in Rajasthan and nearby areas. And, the third group went to Varanasi, Mathura, Murshidabad, etc.

At that time Mir Zafar was the nawab of Murshidabad, who was a great admirer of arts. The nawab gave place to the last group of artists in Baluchak on the bank of river Ganga.

But after the death of Mir Zafar, his son, Miran took over the Throne. He was not interested in art and craft. So, again the artists had to face the issue of relocation.

Then, Bihar was on the path of developing. Patna was a booming city during that period. It was the Centre of business commodities like cotton garments, sugar, indigo, opium, shora and, spices. So, the artists found this place perfect for their settlement.

These painters migrated to Patna, Bihar. And settled in the localities of Patna city like Machharhatta, Lodi Katra, Chowk,andDiwan Mohallain around 1760, and started a unique form of Painting which came to known as Patna Kalam.

The other artists moved to Danapur, Purnea, Ara, Bettiah, Darbhanga, and Gaya.

Patna Kalam Art form is a blend of Persian, Mughal, and British styles of art. In the world of painting, the word ‘Kalam’refers to a distinct style and form of art.

The colours and lines in Patna kalam were inspired by Mughal painting but their subject matter was totally different. In Mughal painting background and borders were equally important as a subject but the Patna kalam art form was inspired by the daily life of commoners. In Patna Kalam Centre of focus was Subjects, like Local festivals, ceremonies, Bazar scenes, artisans working, local rulers, and domestic activities.

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Domestic work by Women in Patna Kalam art form.

One of the most important characteristics of this art form is that they don’t paint any background or foreground or any landscape in painting. These paintings were presented by light-coloured sketches and life-like representations. It was the first time when any art form got recognition and popularity by showcasing the life of common people instead of the Royals. It was an art of commons.

The most remarkable feature that Patna Kalam art form got from British Painting was the marvellous use of shadow and lighting which can’t be seen in any other Indian art form.

The Patna Kalam Paintings are painted directly by the brush without making outlines by pencil and this technique of painting was known as ‘KajliSeahi‘.

The brushes and colours used in this art form were created by their artists only. For brushes, Artists use to boil hairs of squirrel and horse and after drying tie them to the feathers of eagle or pigeon acquiring the required thickness of brushes.

Colours used in the Patna kalam art form were mainly extracted from natural sources like minerals, flowers, fruits, the bark of trees, urine of cows.

The Patna kalam painting was mainly done on paper, mica, elephant teeth, and cotton cloths. The paper used in these art forms was generally made up of waste paper (lugdhi) or bamboo sheets. The small pieces of paper used in paintings were imported from Nepal. The paper was treated with vitriol and arrowroot which gives them shinning faces and paintings last long.

The paintings of this form are found on transparent mica which was roughened using sea froth so that the colour of water would be easily visible on them.

Patna-kalam- PatnaDiaries-muharram
The procession of Moharram painted in Patna Kalam art form on Mica.

Some paintings of this form are also seen on Silk and Taant, further polished with cornelian stone to create Portrait.

The art of finishing touch in the Patna kalam art form is wonderful. Sometimes the artists of the Patna kalam art form used just a single hair for strokes in their creations. Artists of this form used Cardamom seeds and slanting brush strokes to create the effect of lights and shadows.

After Gaining fame and glory for more than 200 years, the Patna kalam art form declined. The main facts were: –

  • Establishing of Litho press, in 1861, a British Businessman Mr Charlie D. Alley established a Litho Press in Gulzarbagh, Patna city,(Bihar’s first Litho press). It started printing copies of Patna kalam paintings to satisfy the high demand for painting in European countries. and artists were unable to compete with them.
  • The Britishers used to take this painting as a form of souvenir from India, but fewer incoming and outgoing tourists affected this.
  • And in a later period, the invention of the camera also affected the artists.

The painters that made their name in Patna Kalam’s art form are: – Sevakram, Hulas Lal, Shiva Lal, Jayram Das, Shivdayallal, Mahadeo Lal, Ishwari Prasad Verma, Sona Bibi and Daksho Bibi.

Patna-kalam- PatnaDiaries-ekka
Patnia Ekka (Horse-cart of Patna) By Shiva Lal, exhibited in Patna Museum.

The last famous painters of the Patna kalam art form who led the foundation of Patna Art School were Ishwari Prasad Verma and Radha Mohan Babu.

There are 175 paintings of the Patna Kalam that are revived and compiled into a Coffee Table Book Bihar ki Virasat: Patna Kalam.

The paintings are also available in Patna Museum, Khuda Baksh Oriental Public Library (Patna), Chaitanya Library (Gaighat, Patna), Bihar State Art Gallery, University of Architecture (Patna campus), The National Museum in Kolkata, and Victoria Palace (Kolkata). The Patna kalam art forms are also in the personal collection of royal families, art admirers, and as well as in the Victoria Albert Museum (London).

Despite Patna kalam’s uniqueness and monotonous character, it is failing to gain deserving recognition in the Indian history of art or historians aren’t paying much attention towards that, which is well deserved.


About The Author

Akanksha Mehta has done MCA and Interior designing. She loves to paint and quite interested in historical architecture, monuments, and arts. She loves exploring things and at present, she is writing articles and blogs, while doing an Internship in one of Patna’s leading websites Patnabeats“.

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