Chitrakathi Painting of Karnataka: The Hidden Treasure


Image Courtesy – Sahapedia

The state of Karnataka is always revered when it comes to linguistic diversity, art and varied culture that makes it more united and deeply beautiful. The Art of Karnataka is renowned all around the world for its minute detailing and unmatchable precision. Such forms of art are nicely preserved in the best ways possible. This blog is centered at one such form of art which is known as Chitrakathi which has a historic background that needs attention in the present era. The Chitrakathi art originated in the little village called Pinguli in the district of Sindhudurg, Maharashtra.

Years ago, the Chitrakathi tradition of storytelling attracted a huge number of local people in regions. This also included the border of Maharashtra and Karnataka, as well as parts of Andhra Pradesh.

To understand the significance of this artistic heritage that has been part of our culture since ancient times, we must delve deeper into its world.

History of Chitrakathi Art

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The word ‘Chitra’ literally means pictures whereas ‘katha’ refers to a form of a story. Chitrakathi art involves the oral narration of tales, while simultaneously, the images of the scenes are shown in hand-painted pictures. This sort of performance is common in various parts of the country in the form of large painted panels and long scrolls.

Chitrakathi art depicted historic, mystical, and religious events in fine details in the form of small images. Today, it only exists in some parts of the states due to the commitment and loyalty of the people towards their heritage practice.

Features of Traditional Chitrakathi Paintings

Traditional Chitrakathi Paintings
Image Courtesy – Sahapedia

Natural colors derived from organic sources are used to paint on handmade papers. The size of the paper was based on the visual preferences of the village audience, and was, thus, standardized. The artists use a bundle or ‘pothi’ comprising 50 paintings to narrate the tale. Religious stories from mythology as well as tales from the epics, like Mahabharata and Ramayana, are depicted. Bold brush strokes, that resemble the art on the Leather Shadow puppets of Telangana, dominate the canvas of Chitrakathi art.

The Sutradhar, or the narrator of the tales, utilize these pictures according to their relevance. These performances form an extravaganza of attractive music and songs. First, these songs are written and set according to the narrative. Then, the paintings are made to support the tale of the performance. The orchestra of Tuntuna, string instrument Vina, and percussion instrument Huduk combine the harmony of Chitrakathi performances.

Gawde Wada, located in the Sindhudurg district, is renowned for its Chitrakathi painting done on the wall, six feet above the ground. The Wada, or the locality, has a small temple which is considered to be the location where Chitrakathi performers of ancient times narrated their stories.

Efforts to Preserve

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Parshuram Gangawane revamped their old cowshed to fashion it into a museum displaying an array of brilliant Chitrakathi art. Here, they sell these pieces of art and other merchandise. A special place for puppets is also reserved in this little Chitrakathi museum.

In the culture and art sphere, many seminars, workshops, and training and orientation programs have been organized to spread awareness about Chitrakathi art. The government as well as educational institutions have also aided many such organizations. Scholarship programs and other financial assistance have been provided to those who have ventured to preserve the heritage of Chitrakathi art.

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Chitrakathi art is not quite popular amongst the mainstream masses. However, with such efforts, many later generations have been educated about this artistic expression of India.

The overwhelming influence of foreign lands due to globalization has, unfortunately, considerably affected the folk art forms of India. Even the changing lifestyle of the rural people does not generate adequate audiences for these traditions. Although under patronage and sufficient aid Chitrakathi art has the potential to persevere onward, no significant leaps have been witnessed.

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  1. Very interesting information about Chitrakathi Painting really indigenous traditional art form as well as as stylization the quality of line, shapes composition & color application is so beautiful

  2. were we found this community any ph. no address in Maharashtra or Karnataka both because i am interested in live activity with feel real experience of Chitrakathi Painting?
    me and my students are waiting for real experience with Chitrakathi Painting.


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