India declared independence on August 15, 1947, ending nearly 200 years of British rule. It is a day set aside to commemorate the tremendous sacrifices made by thousands of men and women in the struggle for our country’s liberty. Kalighat paintings were frequent and prominent throughout the British Raj’s reign. During this time, If you didn’t know the Swadeshi movement embraced indigenousness as a financial weapon against British authority and to promote the notion of independence. 

Kalighat paintings in India highlighted two moments of nationalism in two classes and two folk art styles. The first is a continual practice of defending one’s cultural identity through mockery and satire of an imagined national upper class as opposed to engaging in a discussion with the British by adopting a lifestyle similar to theirs. Rooftop will explore the many themes and tones of patriotism in Kalighat paintings, as well as how several painters interpreted these events via their paintings.

Image credits: Skillshare (1); Amazon (2)

The Symbolism Of Kalighat Paintings On Independence Day

Did you know artists who lived on the outskirts of Calcutta established Kalighat Patachitra? As a practised style of art around 1830. The emergence of this type of work is associated with the artists’ physical migration to Kalighat as a result of stylistic development. We were curious as to what the major topics of Kalighat art were and we found out that It revolves around religious figures and scenes from sacred scriptures, ranging from the deities Lakshmi and Durga to characters of the epic Ramayana. However, the British, having entrenched themselves politically in the nation, began to show an interest in art, literature, and music. They established institutes that provided Indian artists with academic instruction in the European style.

The Calcutta School of Art was one such institution, attracting traditional artists known as patuas to the city.  Initially, these painters congregated around the Kalighat temple, where there was a need for devotional work. They gradually began to learn from different tactics and learned that they may assist them to enhance their revenue. They began to experiment with new kinds of art, and the Kalighat painting was formed.

Image credits: (1); Mojarto (2)

Representation Of Kalighat Paintings

The “Occidental school” of Kalighat painting comprised paintings. They represented regular people going about their daily lives. Even highlighted the changes that were happening in Kolkata at the time. The artworks addressed societal ills such as crime or expressed support for the Indian independence cause by depicting figures such as Tipu Sultan and Rani Lakshmibai. Both of whom were venerated for fighting the British. Kalighat paintings were frequently the result of a collaborative effort by a group of painters, generally from the same family. While some members crushed substances to make handmade dyes, others sketched the figures’ outlines. Either filled in the colours, or put the finishing touches in the shape of motifs and backdrop decorations. 

Artists Using Kalighat Paintings

Image credits: Pixels; Artmajeur

Jamini Roy

Jamini Roy was a painter from India. The government of India awarded Roy Padma Bhusan in 1954. Roy is still regarded as one of the most notable students of Abanindranath Tagore, another renowned Indian artist and educator.

Kalam Patua

Kalam Patua is a modern practitioner of Kalighat painting. He was born within the Patua group of scroll painters and storytellers and later taught himself the Kalighat style, which relies on West Bengal scroll painting customs and Indian miniature painting. i

Gautam Mukerjee

Gautam Mukherjee grew up in a three-century-old ancestral house in Kolkata. Since his boyhood, this house and his family values have had a profound influence on the artist, which is frequently represented in his works. Gautam’s interest in art began at an early age when he assisted in the painting and decoration of the annual Durga Pooja pandals in his community. The “Kalighat Potchitra” captivated him.

fun fact

As you can see, Indian art has a lengthy history and has survived our country’s challenges. Kalighat was one style of art that depicted these difficulties.

Follow Rooftop and the online workshops to know more about such exclusive content regarding Indian art culture and its interesting details. Follow us on Instagram @rooftop_app for all the latest updates and download the Rooftop app available for both iOS and Android devices.