Mughal rule in India has influenced the social, cultural, political and economic life style of Indian people. But the area which mostly influenced was art, architecture and culture. As far as painting is concerned Jahangir’s reign was known as the golden era of Mughal paintings. Combining the Persian style with the Indian traditional style they introduced a new way of painting.

Many Indian schools of paintings were flourished afterwards and they were heavily influenced by Mughal paintings. One among these was Patna School of Painting or Patna Kalam or Company painting. Patna Kalam was an offshoot of Mughal painting flourished during early 18th to mid 20th century in Bihar. The principal centres were Patna, Danapur and Arrah.

During the rule of Aurangzeb Hindu artisans of Mughal painting faced prosecution because of his anti-Hindu policy and distaste in art and painting. Thus these painters first shifted to Murshidabad which was growing itself as a power center. With the decline and subsequent fall of Murshidabad, the court artists looked weswards to the next biggest city in the East and started migrating to Patna and Purnea. By mid 18th century, many of those artists had settled in Patna with their families, and under the patronage of local aristocracy and often indophine scions of the early East India Company, started a unique form of painting which came to known as the Company School or Patna Kalam.

Patna, by this time, had developed into an important trade centre and newly riches of the Company officials and merchants were delighted with these paintings. Painting took a whole new level from the royal paintings painters were accustomed with.

The painters of Patna Kalam were settled in the areas of Deewan Mohalla, Lodi Katra and Macharhatta in Patna and by 1770s, the style was firmly established. These artists used to paint ‘sets of caste occupation’ known ‘Firka’, based on everyday life – washer-men, hawkers, bangle sellers, butchers, fish seller, carpenters, washer man, baskets seller, distillers, etc., and not Royals became subjects of these paintings. Patna painters were exploring the European market and trying to adapt their style to the tastes of the Europeans who greatly respected its versatility and competence. While this demand for these miniatures of ordinary life in India was being established, and served as a pictorial documentary of the life in those times.  Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, miniature portraits on paper, vellum, bone, and later, ivory, were the fashion with the upper and middle classes.

Some famous painters of Patna kalam were Sewak Ram (1770-1830), Hulas Lal (1785-1875),  Jairam Das, Fakir Chand, Jhumak Lal, Nityanand Lal, Tunni Lal, Shiv Lal, Shiva Lal, Mahadeo Lal, Shyam Bihari Lal etc. Nisar Mehdi was popular for portraits and landscapes, while Hulas Lal used ‘his naturalistic figures as the material for organic rhythm’.

Patna Kalam Shiv Lal
By Shiva Lal in Patna Kalam Style

Among the last painter of Patna Kalam was Ishwari Prasad Verma. Radha Mohan Babu left no attempt to make this painting school live for long. He was the founder of Patna Art School, which started in a single room on the Govind Mitra Road in Patna and blossomed into the Government School of Art and Crafts (currently in a large buinding near the Patna Museum).

Golghar 2
Golghar, 19th Century Painting, Patna Kalam Style

Main features and characteristics of Patna Kalam Paintings:

  • Miniatures were the primary paintings and these were very simple, lucid and proportionate.  While retaining the grace of the Mughal style, Patna Kalam decided to remain simplistic in nature.
  • Patna Kalam has clear influence of the Mughal paintings and Pahadi paintings due to its roots in them. Also there is influence of Western as Calcutta was  the next nearest market which was called as ‘London of the East’. Hence the painting shows rare fusion of the native and foreign elements.
  • Although they followed the basic features of Mughal painting their subject matter was different. Unlike Mughal painting whose subjects were mainly royalty, court  and hunting scenes, painters of Patna Kalam were deeply influenced by daily life of common people like the artisans working, the merchants at the market, iron smith, bazaar scenes, local rulers, local festival and ceremonies. A painting of tanga (house cart) is very famous. Another painting of Golghar is remarkable which shows that Golghar was actually built near the bank of the river Ganges which shows changes in the landscape.
  • These paintings are characterized by light colored sketches and life-like representations.
  • One of the important characteristic of Patna Kalam is that usually they do not paint any landscape, foreground or background.
  • Other feature of the Patna School of Painting was the development in the shading of solid forms.
  • The art of finishing touch is marvelous in Patna Kalam. The painting of flying bird is the perfect example of this, the thin fur as well as the wings of the bird are depicted so clearly as if the painting seems to be an absolute photography.
  • The features of the figures of these paintings are characterized by the pointed noses, heavy eyebrows, lean and gaunt faces, sunken and deep-set staring eyes and big mustaches.
  • The painters used to extract colours indigenously from plants, barks, flowers and metals. Generally they painted on paper, glass, mica and ivory sheets which were mostly handmade.
  • The paper, these paintings mostly were made on, was generally recycled from the waste paper and the brushes used were made of the fur of the animals. The tail of squirrel was the most famous choice of the artists. The paper was treated with vitriol and arrowroot which not only used to give it a shining face but also acted as preservatives so that the paintings could really last long.
  • The paintings are painted straightway with the brush without using the pencil to delineate the contours of the picture. This technique was commonly known as ‘Kajli Seahi’.

After attaining the fame and glory for about a century, Patna Kalam declined due to lack of patronage from the colonial government, lack of demand from the customers, advent of photography etc. Dr. Abdul Haidi wrote a book on Patna Kalam which gives the detailed account of the same. The government of Bihar published the 2010 yearly calender with the theme of Patna Kalam. Many painting of Patna Kalam can be seen at Patna Museum, Patna Arts College and Khudabaksh Library, Patna.

This is the most unfortunate things about the Patna Kalam, like the world-famous Madhubani paintings, it has not received its due share of acknowledgement despite of that many believes that the eponymous painting was far superior to the more popular Mithila paintings. The Patna Kalam faced competition from the Madhubani paintings which is marketed professionally both at home and abroad. Also, Maghubani painting is a folk form which could be easily transferred from one generation to another.

Patna kalam 2
Holi being played in the courtyard, 1795, Patna Kalam School
Patna kalam1
Durga Puja, 1809, watercolor painting in Patna Kalam Style
Patna kalam 4Patna kalam 3

पटना कलम चित्रकला

पटना कलम चित्रकला की एक शैली है। इस शैली के चित्र लघु आकार के मतलब मिनियेचर्स हैं। पेंटिंग की पटना कलम शैली का जन्म मुगलों के परवर्ती दौर में हुआ। औरंगजेब के चित्रकला के प्रति निषेध से मुगल चित्रकारों में से कुछ लोगों ने राजधानी दिल्ली को छोङना मुनासिब समझा और रोजगार की तलाश में दिल्ली से सुदूर इलाकों में जाकर बसना शुरु कर दिया। ऐसा ही एक शहर था अजीमाबाद (पटना)। यह शहर उस दौर में पूर्वी भारत का बङा शहर था जहाँ यूरोपीय व्यापारियों की गतिविधियां तेज थीं। ,इस आर्थिक बढत से एक सम्पन्न तबका यहाँ उभरा था जिसके पास कई शौक थे। चित्रकला की पटना कलम को इन्हीं लोगों ने बाजार उपलब्ध कराया और कलाकारों को संरक्षण दिया।
प्रमुख कलाकारों में सेवक लाल,महादेव लाल , माधोलाल, यमुना प्रसाद, शिवदयाल लाल, फकीर चंद इत्यादि हैं। ईश्वरी प्रसाद वर्मा अंतिम कलाकार थे जबकि राधामोहन बाबू अंतिम संरक्षक थे। 19वीं सदी के उतरार्ध में कैमरा के आ जाने और 20 वीं सदी में कलाकारों और संरक्षकों में से कई लोगों के गुजर जाने से पटना कलम का अंत हो गया।


  1. चित्रों में मुगल शैली वाली भव्यता नहीं दिखती। दरबार और शिकार के दृश्य नहीं मिलते। आम जन-जीवन , लोगों के दैनिक क्रियाकलाप और जीव-जंतुओं का चित्रण हुआ है। मदारी, लुहार, कसाई, व्यापारी , धोबी , शिल्पकारों और फूल-पौधों तथा पक्षियों का चित्रण हुआ है। # कुछ प्रमुख स्मारकों जैसे गोलघर, पश्चिम दरवाजा का भी चित्रण हुआ है। आज इन स्मारकों के आस पास के भू-दृश्य में क्या बदलाव आये हैं उन्हें आसानी से पकङा जा सकता है जैसे गोलघर के एकदम पास से गंगा नदी का बहना ।
  2. चित्रण की बारीकियां पक्षियों के चित्रण में स्पष्ट होकर सामने आती हैं जब हम एक-एक बाल और पंख का सूक्ष्म चित्रण देखते हैं।
  3. तत्कालीन सामाजिक आचार- व्यवहारों और वेशभूषा की जानकारी में ये चित्र बङे उपयोगी साबित होते हैं।
  4. पटना कलम में चित्र बनाने में पेंसिल से रेखांकित कर फिर उनमें रंग भरने की प्रक्रिया नहीं अपनायी जाती थी बल्कि सीधे ब्रश को कागज या चमङे पर चित्र बना लिया जाता था।
  5. चित्र में समानुपात और सादगी का ध्यान रखा गया है।
  6. चित्रों में पृष्ठभूमि और अग्रभूमि का अभाव है लेकिन अंतिम दिनों में ये दिखने लगते हैं।
  7. चमक लाने के लिए हाथी दांत या अगेट पत्थर से रगङने की प्रचलित विधि का प्रयोग पटना कलम में नहीं हुआ है।
  8. कुछ कलाकारों के कोलकाता के सम्पर्क में रहने के कारण पटना कलम पर युरोपीय प्रभाव भी दिख जाता है।
  9. चित्र ज्यादातर कागज पर बने हैं। इनके अलावा चमङा, धातु, शीशा,अबरख,हाथी दांत,हड्डी और हिरण के चमङे से निकाली गयी पतली झिल्ली पर भी बनाये गये हैं।
  10. कागज ज्यादातर हस्तनिर्मित होते थे। बांस से निर्मित नेपसल कागज और बाद के दिनों में यूरोप से आयातित कागजों पर भी चित्र बनाये गये। कागजों की माउंटिंग ‘ओसली’ पर भी होती थी ।
  11. पतला ब्रश बनाने में गिलहरी की दुम की बालों का प्रयोग किया जाता था जिसे कबूतर के पंख में फंसाकर तूलिका का रूप दे दिया जाता था। मोटे ब्रश सुअर, बकरी, भैंस की बालों से तैयार होते थे।
  12. रंग प्राकृतिक होते थे । चटख रंगों का प्रयोग नहीं हुआ है। लाह से लाल रंग, कालिख या हाथी दांत की राख से काला रंग, नील से नीला रंग, पियुरी मिट्टी से पीला रंग, एक खास तरह की मिट्टी से सफेद रंग तथा सोने व चांदी के वर्क से सुनहरा व चांदी रंग बनाया जाता था। पीला व नीला रंग मिलाकर हरा रंग बना लिया जाता था।

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