Chal Chitra literally roof painting, a kind of folk art on circular or vaulted canvas behind the statues of Hindu deities. There is a long tradition in Bengal of placing a circular canvas of mat, cloth or paper bedecked with picturesque paintings of celestial scenes above the idols of gods and goddesses. This is particularly true for the image of goddess Durga. This traditional art not only enhances the appearance of the Durga image, but also develops some aesthetic value.
In order to make a chal chitra, the base is prepared by pasting paper on cloth coated with clay. This base is then painted white. Various figures and scenes from myths and legends are drawn on the whitened canvas. Popular themes include Lord shiva and his followers, scenes of wars between the gods and the demons (asuras), the goddess Durga slaying the demon, the scene of the coronation of ramachandra, images of Kali, radha, and krishna. The image of Mahadeva or Shiva is found at the centre of all ancient chal chitra. The image of Durga surrounded by her sons and daughters suggests the warmth of Bengali family life. Besides being used for Durga images, chal chitra is also seen behind the statue of the goddesses Jagaddhatri and Basanti (worshipped and celebrated in the vernal season). [Shila Basak] [Basak, Shila Folklorist, Kolkata]