Paitkar Paintings, storytelling through scrolls -

Paitkar is the traditional scroll painting of a small village Amadubi, Jharkhand. The word Paitkar is derived from the local word Patekar, or the Pata artists of the region. It is known for its narrative tradition and performance. Its use for story-telling is a socio-religious custom prevalent in the region.  The paintings reflect the realities of day-to-day life, mythology and legends prevalent in their society.

Traditionally, the Paitkar paintings were done by men, while women assisted them in preparation of paints. However today, many of the artists and performers are women as well. The vertical scroll paintings today survive mostly as post card art for the tourists.

King Dhabaldeva was the first patron of Paitkar. He established his capital in Narsimgarh of Dhalbhumgarh. The artists have maintained friendly relations with the royal family since then.

three Santhal Women, paitkar painting

Figure 1 Three Santhal Women


Themes of the Paitkar paintings can be divided into three categories:

  1. Social themes such as fairs and festivals of the tribe such as karam puja, dansai, baha, etc.
  2. Religious themes based on the Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, and other religious texts such as manasa mangal, durga pada, kali pada, data karna, nouka vilash. Also depicted are the themes from Santhal mythology such as Pilsuhara and Pilsuburhi.
  3. Contemporary issues are only depicted when sponsored by the government.


  1. The Paitkar paintings are vertical scroll paintings.
  2. A common theme in the Paitkar paintings is the depiction of human life after death.
  3. The style of Paitkar scroll painting is derived from Pandulipi, which was earlier used by kings to send messages to other kings.
  4. There is no perspective in the paintings. Thick lines are used to make the elements of the painting.
  5. The Paitkar paintings are an important part of the Santhal tradition, as the tribe does not have any written history, only oral tradition going as back as the origin of mankind.
  6. Traditionally the artists use natural water-based colours. They have a narrow colour palette consisting of red, yellow and blue. The artists create the other colours using the primary colours.
  7. The division of space in the Paitkar scrolls is not even. The human characters occupy most of the scroll area, with faces depicted in profile or semi-profile. They have elongated eyes, a characteristic of most Indian paintings.

Santhal Dance

Figure 2 Santhal Dance


The artists use natural colours prepared from leaves, stones and soil. Even though they are easily available, it is a long process to prepare them. They use the bel fruit gum and neem resin to make the paints permanent. The white colour is prepared from lime powder, yellow and red are prepared from stones or soil, black from burnt rice, lamp soot, ashes from kerosene lamp, blue is from indigo, while green is prepared from broad bean leaves.

Paitkar Jeevan

Figure 3 Paitkarer Jevan (life of a Paitkar artist)

The scroll paintings are always accompanied by narration, mostly in the form of singing. The artists use Ektara and Dotara to accompany their singing, mostly done in Bengali. Paitkar is a living tradition of Jharkhand which is slowly dying because of the lack of patronage and exploration.

Further reads

  • Paitkar Painting: A Visual Narrative Tradition of Jharkhand by Harekrishna Talukdar
  • The role of state in saving the Paitkar painting in Jharkhand

  Written by 

~Misha Jaswal







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