Patua is a scroll painter in West Bengal
. A scroll-painter is also known as Chitrakar, Patikar and Patidar, depending on the region.
Patua is usually a poor and socially outcast person. He roams from village to village, entertaining the people with his scrollwork containing scenes from the Hindu mythologies.
Even though the scroll paintings of the Patuas lack perfection, they exhibit originality. This form of painting is believed to have been influenced by the style used in Muslim calligraphy, due to its use of thick brush strokes. This art form is more prominent among the followers of the Jain religion.
In the beginning, the paintings depicted scenes from Hindu mythologies. They were later replaced by themes showing the British rule in India. Sometimes even images of birds, animals, snakes and fishes are found in the paintings.
Patuas are categorized by the theme they choose for their scrollwork. The first group includes the persons who choose Hindu mythological themes. These persons are less of a socially outcast due to their frequent contacts with the persons belonging to the upper caste of the Hindu society.
The second group contains the persons who depict the Heaven and Hell. The scenes of Hell show the torture of the sinners by Yama, the god of death. These persons are called Yama Patuas. Their work displays the moral values to be followed in a Hindu society.
The third group belongs to the artists who exhibit the origin of the Santhal tribe. Their work also includes the theme depicting the transition from life to death and beyond it. These artists mostly belong to Purulia District and some parts of Bankura District. They are mostly of tribal origin.