The visual folk art of Bengal has traditionally been the domain of rural women. Filled with simplicity, honesty and a quiet vigour, the art symbolically represented the hopes, aspirations and artistic creativity of these rural folk – be it in their alponas, or their kanthas or the painted walls of their mud homes. Their immediate social environment, agricultural activities and the cycle of six seasons were reflected in their work. They also used traditional motifs across the different forms of their art. For example, the lotus, the sun, the tree-of-life, flowery creepers etc. are seen in paintings, embroidery, weaving, carving and engraving. Some other popular motifs are the fish, elephant, horse, peacock, swastika, circle etc. Most of these motifs have symbolic meanings.
Traditionally, the visual art of rural Bengal, being largely contributed by the women, was non-commercial unlike the art produced by the rural men. However, today folk art forms like patachitra have become visual art forms and offer commercial sustenance to their makers, both men and women.