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Patachitra or Narrative Scrolls of Naya
Patachitra or Narrative Scrolls of Naya

Over the last 10 years or so , a small village in the West Midnapore district  of West Bengal comprising of Bengali artisans named Potuas alias Chitrakars (picture makers) specializing in creation of painted narrative scrolls (pot) is getting famous. The Potuas paint tales from Mangalkavyas (narratives of Hindu Bengali religious Text), Hindu Epic Ramayana and Mahabharata, even incidents like 9/11 attack, and social messages on long canvas fixed on scrolls of cloth and sing them as they unfold the scrolls. The Potuas have their own songs written by them. These songs are known as Poter Gaan.

This is the village of Naya in the Pingla block of West Midnapore district. With the support of  NGO banglanatak dot com and the European Union, the narrative scrolls have found new markets and new audiences. Since 2004, banglanatak dot com is working with the Patuas to bring life to this dying art form. Since 2010, a three day festival at the end of November named Pot Maya is being held at Naya, where the artworks are being displayed. Usually it takes place during end of November.

Mt. Kangchenjunga as seen near Goechala
Mt. Kangchenjunga as seen near Goechala

There was a time in the past when we used to refer trekking in the hills as “Poor Man’s Holiday Trip” among our friends. It was true as the treks conducted by enthusiastic trekkers from different trekking clubs of Kolkata was primarily of shoe string budgeted Alpine style. Everyone used to carry their own luggage, tents, foods and cooking utensils, plan the route and do all activities by themselves from tent pitching to cooking. Some indulged in the luxury of one porter and maybe a guide, but not more than that.

Prior to independence of India, The British ‘Sahibs’ used to indulge themselves in several trekking and camping activities in the hills too. However, along with them went several porters carrying their luggage and all other accessories. Accompanied with them went their cooks and personal servants carrying their personal belonging.

Enjoying a meal like an open air restaurant at 3800 mts altitude
Enjoying a meal like an open air restaurant at 3800 mts altitude

In the recent times, there are many tour operators who conduct such kind of trekking expeditions where the trekkers only carry a small knapsack and walk. Sometimes they carry only their camera. From making the route plan to instructing the cook in the middle of a dense jungle to prepare pizza, the tour operators do it all. On demand, even single tent accommodation and one porter per trekker is provided too. Though there are spartan toilets available in the route and many trekkers are used to  loo in the open, toilet tents are pitched on demand. Of course it comes with a price, but then there are several people who wants to enjoy trekking in this manner. Maybe they always had the wish to trek, but the thought of walking with a huge rucksack and eating two minutes noodles and tasteless soup for days have deterred them.