Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Chalchitra and its technology

Chalchitra or "Devichal" is the painted background of an Idol, especially used with Durga. Chalchitra is a metamorphosed form of halo found in the Indian sculptures of ancient period. Primarily these were used to give proportion to the structure. Gradually narrating the associated myth of the figure gets its place on this halo which then took the form of a slab, known as "Prabhamandali" or halo of the idol. This tradition has been carried forward to the idol of Durga also. According to some this tradition was to put up a resistance to the tide of Buddhism. So decoration to depict the glory of the Hindu gods and goddess in its background has become an important part of the worshipping. According to some this may also be a display of the general familial bonds that a Bengali shares. Though generally Chalchitra or commonly called Chali is painted on perishable materials like, course canvas of "Potas" or paper a few varieties engraved on ivory, wood, stone or sculptured out of metals (Ashtadhatu) are also found.
Originally the artists of Chalchitra are potters but name of two other section are found to be involved in this drawing, surprisingly called "writing". First of them is "Grahabipra" (they are idol makers and might be Brahmanas by caste), the other is called the "Patuas" or "Sutradhar" (the painter of scroll patas, who are often its narrators). These people are often referred as artisans. It might be possible that they are part-timers.
While tracing their religion these artists or writers cannot be clubbed
into a single section as they came from both Hindu and Muslim community. Mysteriously some are found to be followers of both the religions as they had to draw "Gaji" patas for the Muslim locality and Kalighat and other mythological patas for the Hindu locality. They are found to have changed names for serving their purpose.
Four varieties of Chalchitra are still can be found - Bangla Chal, Markini Chal, Mothchouri Chal and Tanachauri Chal. Three more extinct varieties are Girje Chal, Sarbasundari Chal and Dothaki chal. Among these Dothaki Chal probably has two steps with uncountable figures and motifs. One of it stood at the usual background and the other at the front of it. Sarbangasundari chal is like a car shed found in many old houses, spreading like a canopy over three pillars at every four corners. Among the commonly seen chali is the Markini Chal. This is a semicircle stretching from one end of the idol to the other supported by two pillars.
Bangla chal follows the tradition found in temple architecture. The chali extends on both side of the idol in a suspended pattern. The chali is lengthy enough to fit figures like Shiva, Dashabatar of Vishnu and Dashamahavidya of Durga.
Markini Chal
Mothchouri chal has three continuous semicircular divisions like a wave with three peaks.
Tanachouri chal though resembles to some extent the Mothchouri chal it doesn't have the three divisions but here the peaks are prominent. Chalis' differ in their shape as in their themes. Generally chalchitra deals with themes like Shiva at Kailash and Durga sitting in a two-storied building carrying Ganesha at the center. Two extreme corners narrate two battlefields. One battle was fought between Sumbha-nishumbha and Devi Kaushiki, a part of Durga, where Kali was born to kill these two demons.The other battle depicts killing of the demons Chanda-Munda by Chamundi. In between region are covered by themes like Radha-Krishna at Brindaban and Coronation of Ram at Ayodhya.
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