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The Patuas introduced Kalighat Paintings in the 19th and early 20th centuries. These paintings have originated around the legendary ‘Kalighat Kali Temple’ in Calcutta.

Calcutta was then the capital of British India.

Experts consider the brushwork on these paintings as one of the smoothest art forms in India. These paintings have flawless brushstrokes with simple but bold drawings.


Painting is a medium through which human connect their emotional bond with paper.

The Patuas wanted to settle around Kalighat deliberately. It was mainly because the people in the area appreciated their art. Moreover, the paintings were pretty famous among temple goers.

Kalighat paintings were mostly made on mill made papers. Also, the paintings used cheap colors and squirrel or goat hair brushes.

The paintings usually came from joint-artists or the same family.

While some members ground the ingredients to make homemade dyes, others drew the outlines of human figures. Some filled in the colors while others did the motif and final touch up.


The initial Kalighat paintings depicted Gods and Goddesses. Besides, it portrayed mythological characters, incidents and contemporary themes from regular life.

However, it took a turn towards social reform during the British monarchy. It sought to raise social awareness among the viewers.

In fact, the paintings portrayed the regular scenario of Kolkata at that time.

Some of them included Zamindars drinking wine with women, police being sloppy. Besides, it involved priests being around harlots, etc.

Also, it illustrated in support of Tipu Sultan and Rani Lakshmi Bai during the British Indian movement.

Thus, these paintings shed light on the societal crimes and heinous system of that time.


This form of modern art is one of the most-well recognized forms of art across the globe. In fact, Kalighat paintings are on exhibit globally right from Philadelphia to Britain to Prague.

Also, this genre of art has inspired many Indian designers to create unique motifs.

Besides, these paintings are open to versatile themes that include animals, birds and insects.

The Irony?

Kalighat paintings have influenced many eminent artists like Late Jamini Roy.

Yet, the largest collection of Kalighat paintings is not in India. In fact, the Victoria & Albert Museum has most of the collections in London.

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