Patua Sangit

Patua Sangit a genre of folk song performed by patuas (rural canvas painters) who paint stories on canvas based on myth and folklore. The illustrated canvas is unrolled as the patua narrates the story through dance and song.

The stories of the pats (paintings) and their accompanying songs are very diverse in subject matter: tales about the world of the dead, Buddhist monks, Gazi Pir, ramachandra or krishna. However, patua sangit may also narrate recent social events as in the following example from Krishna's Avatara:

'The sins of the king visit the subjects; Laksmi or good luck leaves a household on account of the sins of the mistress of the house; Similarly, when there is drought, an emperor's subjects leave the land.'

When a gazir pat is shown, illustrating different incidents from the life of Gazi Pir, the patua begins by duly saluting the holy man. He then goes on to sing about Gazi Pir and the miracles wrought by him capacities. During the display of a Yama pat, the focus is mainly on what happens after death in the world of Yama (the Hindu God of death), where, according to a song, the sinner is punished by being cooked in a pot by Lord Yama's mother: 'Yama rajer may baisa achhe tamar dekchi laiya/ ati papi manuser kalla dichhe se deke phelaiye'.

Patua songs are popular in many areas of west bengal: Birbhum, Burdwan and Murshidabad. Patua Sangit, a book compiled by gurusaday dutt, consists of stories of Krishna, Rama, etc. At one time Patua songs, especially songs about Gazi Pir, were very popular in many areas of Bangladesh, among both Hindus and Muslims as they dealt with issues of religious reforms and social changes. Though the popularity of these folk songs has lessened in many areas, they still survive and are the main occupation of a particular sect or group of people.

Kanai Miah, a bedey, or gipsy, used to earn his living by singing gazir gan. Shudhir Acharya of Dhaka was a renowned scroll painter who specialised in Gazir pat. Shambhu Acharya, his son, still paints these scrolls. [Momen Chowdhury]