The Patuas of West Bengal are a traditional artists specialising in the painted narrative scrolls. They also sing the songs to accompany their unrolling. In olden days, the scroll painters use to wander from village to village, seeking patronage by singing their own compositions while unravelling painted scrolls on sacred and secular themes.
The scrolls and paintings come from the distinct Patachitra scroll tradition in the state of West Bengal. The Patachitra or patua scrolls may portray stories from the great Hindu epics, such as the Ramayana, and Sufi traditions which are also sung frame by frame. Today the scrolls by the young painters venture even further into current affairs, history and other subjects outside their tradition.
Their subjects include not only the Ramayana but the Tsunami, the September 11th attacks, the Kashmir earthquake, the Gujarat earthquake and riots.
These scrolls are painted with vegetable dyes fixed with a vegetable gum on paper. The panels are sewn together and fabric from old saris is glued to the back to strengthen the scroll. Individual paintings may resemble single panels from these same scroll stories, or independent images of wild animals and scenes from the artist's imagination.