‘Patachitra’ or scroll painting, has been practiced in the Bengal region since the 12th century. Often executed traditionally by families who specialized in this art form where the pictures depicted scenes from cultural myths and religious events, rural bards and story tellers used the scrolls to preach and spread the myths and stories associated with religion. The earliest Patuas, the artists of the scroll paintings, took themes from mythical and religious events from Hinduism and later expanded the range by including secular stories and household themes.

Shambhu Acharya was born in 1954, the son of patua Shudir Chandra Acharya and mother Kalpana Bala Acharya, who herself was an Alpona painter. He is the ninth generation of the family of practitioners of this art form, the first being Ramlochon Acharya. The themes of his paintings include of Ramayan, Sree Krisna, Gazir Pat, Mahabharata, Manusha Mangal, Muharram, Rass leela and also various other themes from the local folk culture His works have been exhibited at a number of galleries and venues at home and abroad, and have been collected by art lovers from both overseas and in Bangladesh. Shambhu Acharya lives in the Munshiganj district of Bangladesh with his wife, three daughters and son, the latter being currently groomed to carry on the tradition. The existence of the Acharya family, 16 households to be exact with that last name, was acknowledged and mentioned by British historian James Wise in his book titled ‘Notes on the Races: Caste and Trades of Eastern Bengal’ during his visit to Dhaka in the 1860s. The book itself was published in 1883. This extended clan not only practiced this art form but others as well such as stone setting, patterns for saris, and jewelry making. Shambhu has the responsibility of carrying forward the family tradition of ‘Patachitra’, the practice of which is now no longer evident in general and there is always the possibility of this form dying out due to other career opportunities, increasing use of westerns techniques and themes in painting, and because of technology. Bangladesh is also experiencing a cultural shift where, art, based on religious traditions, myths, and symbols are increasingly being shunned and lack the patronization they once enjoyed and still deserve. Shambhu Acharya may be the only contemporary living Patua in Bangladesh who has continued to devote his career to this art form.

GazirPot, 53”X28.5”
Image Courtesy: Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation

Rasleela, 36’X36”
Image Courtesy: Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation
Traditionally, the composition of Patchitras consist of placing the main character in the center of the composition, with the supporting characters placed in geometrics enclosures around the perimeters. The executions are simplistic and two-dimensional. There are also subtle distinctions in the depictions of Hindu mythologies, and Muslim depictions of various festivals, the most popular being the ones depicting the heroic deeds of a Muslim general by the name of Ismail Gazi from the 15th century. The latter depictions are known as Gazir Pat.

EMK Center welcomes you all to Shambhu Acharya’s first exhibition to be hosted by us. We hope that his works will delight his audiences in this exhibition and will foster continuity and patronage of this unique and ancient form of artistic representation.

The EMK Center continues to support both visual and performing artists in various fields, both from home and abroad. Created in 2012 through a partnership between the Liberation War Museum and the American Center of U.S. Embassy Dhaka, the EMK Center is a non-partisan platform committed to open dialogue, informed action, individual and artistic expression, and personal and professional development. We define public service as service on behalf of the people – by anyone, anywhere, anytime.

July 8th till the 20th, 2017

Kesh Binnash, 36”X30” Image Courtesy: Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation
I have been practicing Potchitra or scroll painting for generations as a family tradition, for nine generations to be exact. I had never received any formal education on this form of art; I believe my family is like an academy that has passed on the art of Potchitra from generation to generation. My ancestors used to write ‘Kushthi’ or birth charts for astrologers, where they used to draw a male figure for men’s birth charts and a female figure for women’s. This form of drawing gradually developed into Potchitra.

Back in 1977 Tofail Ahmed, a well-known Bangladeshi researcher and collector of Folk Art, went to ‘Ashutosh Museum of Indian Art’ in Kolkata. There he saw a Gazir pata displayed, where it was claimed to be the only scroll painting in Bengal. Afterwards he started searching for this art form in different parts of Bangladesh and thus he discovered my father Shudhir Acharya. He then encouraged my father and our family to continue this art form. This recognition inspired me further.
Seetar Bonobash, 36”X36” Image Courtesy: Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation
My family and I have since continued to try to keep this art alive. I do not want to limit the art of Potchitra only in my family now. I wish that this art will be kept alive by the next generations. However, I have to emphasize on using only local and natural materials for Potchitra, as this art will lose its soul if synthetic colors and materials are used. I still create each painting using natural materials like tamarind seeds, powder of brick, chalk, vermillion, egg yolk, and various kinds of earth color such as gopi mati, tilok mati, dheu mati, ela mati etc.

I hope this exhibition at the EMK Center will inspire others to come forward to take it up as a form of artistic expression and also bring it to various collectors’ attention for future patronage.
The EMK Center sincerely acknowledges Mr. Durjoy Rahman, for assisting and coordinating Shambhu Acharya’s solo exhibition “Potchitro Kotha’ at it’s premises