Pattachitra is a general term for traditional, cloth-based scroll painting. In Sanskrit, Patta stands for "cloth" and "Chitra" for "picture". While in the context of Bengal tradition, Patachitra means “the paintings made by Patuas using natural colours.” According to legends, the art was originated among a group of artisans called ‘Patuas’ from Kalighat in the 19th century. They used to paint long narrative stories on scrolls of handmade paper often stretched to over 20 feet in length. These scroll painters then traveled to other parts of rural Bengal, thus spreading the art to many. The migration and innovation brought in new changes in the art, introducing watercolours and mill papers being the new entrants for its execution. Now, two types of Kalighat Pattachitra survive in the time, Oriental and Occidental. The Oriental style of paintings largely depicts gods, goddesses, mythological characters, and scenes from religious texts. Occidental style features secular and civil themes like women and men involved in daily activities, their role in the society, depictions of freedom struggle, and other themes that common people could relate with them.
According to the shape, size, and technique associated, they are divided into two types, namely Square Pata or Chouko Pata and Rolling Pata or Jarhano Pata. Square Pata or Chouko Pata is a card-shaped Pata, made based on a single impression without rolling efforts. At the same time, Rolling Pata or Jarhano Pata incorporates a block that is rolled for impressions. The colours used for this art are mainly derived from natural ingredients like leaves, seeds, roots, pulses, fruits, etc. For example, yellow colour from turmeric root, blue from Aparajita flower petals, black from the soot obtained after burning an oil lamp under a pot, etc.
Along with the colours, the gum of Bael fruit is mixed so as to hold the paint on the base material. One of the famous modern artists involved in Kalighat Pattachitra is Jamini Roy, who experimented immensely with the painting during his early days of the occupation. Equally, a well-known artist is Mr. Anwar Chitrakar, a West Bengal-based person settled in the Naya village of West Medinipur district. He is a National award-winning artist who has contributed to the field greatly for long decades. His entire family is into the making of Kalighat Pattachitra easily passing the craft from generation to generation, thus conserving its heritage.