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Niranjan Chitrakar, Patachitra
Niranjan Chitrakar, a.k.a Rajab Ali was a master patachitra artist, performer and a wonderful human being, who learnt his art of from his father and grandfather at the age of 16.  An incredibly talented artist, Niranjan spent his life, composing songs and painting narrative scrolls, struggling to eke out a dignified  existence. He was a resident of Habichak village in Purba (East) Medinipur district, and was sixty-five when he passed away on June 12, 2014. Had he received timely financial assistance, he would have still been with us. 

Like his brethren, he has travelled from village to village displaying his patachitras and singing corresponding songs that were either passed down generations or composed by him.  He spent the first 20 years of his career criss-crossing  the districts of Medinipur, Bankura, Bardhaman, Birbhum and 24 Parganas.  It was only much later, in the last few decades that he gradually began to receive opportunities to perform in Kolkata and other cities.  He slowly began to interact with more people in the cities, performing narrative songs based on the Ramayana, Mahabharat and Bhagvad Gita, and India’s freedom movement, his preferred subjects. He has also created patachitras based on the 2011 Tsunami, the 2001 Bhuj (Gujarat) earthquake and the 9/11 disasters.   

Niranjan also participated in government sponsored awareness programmes narrating and painting for socially relevant issues like dowry, polio and afforestation. Though his heart lay in his beloved patachitras, his talent was also used for election graffiti in the past. He was asked in 2009 to paint slogans on walls for a political party during elections. Niranjan travelled across Tamluk, painting pictures and singing songs, urging people to vote for the party, even though he would have liked to paint differently, and sing other songs.

Niranjan proudly told us that he was the master trainer in the early training workshops for women artists organized by the government. Prior to that time, women helped  in making the patachitras, but it would be the men who would travel around performing them.  

Niranjan also trained his family, who helped him in his work. His wife Jharna is a very competent artist herself.  Several of their sons have inherited their parents` talent. 

Sadly, Niranjan  never received due recognition for his prodigious talent.  His beautiful paintings had only limited access to markets. He was invited to exhibit at the Santa Fe International Folk Art market a few years ago, but could not procure funds to even pay his visa fees. 

This master Patachitra artist and above all, a wonderful human being, died on June 12, 2014, succumbing to a heart ailment in tandem with insufficient financial and medical support .  



Images
Niranjan Chitrakar : Manasha panel
Niranjan Chitrakar : Manasha Mangal
Niranjan Chitrakar : Patachitro painting on umbrellas
Videos
Niranjan Chitrakar : Poter Gaan : Sabitri-Satyaban