DIY Narrative Scrolls from West Bengal

Appropriate for grades:
Subject areas: Visual and Performing Arts

In West Bengal, India, a traditional caste community of artists, called patuas, paint colorful scrolls to accompany songs which they sing to relate historic, current, religious, and cultural events to their audiences. Many of the scrolls have a moral or lesson which relates to the story. These painters/singers are part of a long lineage that has passed the tradition down for generations. In the past, patuas, traveled long distances to perform in small villages, singing the songs and unrolling the scrolls panel by panel to accompany the narrative in exchange for food, clothing, or payment. Now, many patuas perform in more populated areas for people who come to them to purchase their painted scrolls. The patuas’ official caste designation (or hereditary occupation) is “Chitrakar” or Picture Maker. The term patua and “Chitrakar” are interchangeable, though the artists generally use “Chitrakar” as their surname even though they are not related to one another. Traditionally, patuas were men, yet women have always assisted with the preparation of materials and now women are also recognized as talented artists and performers. Where do you hear stories? What stories do you think are important to tell?

You'll need

  • heaving drawing or lightweight watercolor paper (approx. 9” x 16”)
  • pencils & erasers
  • markers
  • watercolors & brushes
  • water & containers
  • newspaper to cover table



  1.  Draw out your idea for one frame of the scroll in pencil on the paper. Use the entire space and include the setting, background, and a border.
  2. Once the drawing is complete, outline with markers.
  3. Use watercolors to fill in the forms with color. Set aside to dry.
  4. Repeat the steps to add to the scroll story.
  5. If you made sequences of images to place together, glue them onto recycled fabric sheets cut to the width of the paper and the length of the scroll.





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