Patna Kalam and The Journey of Williams Hodges

Patna Kalam and The Journey of Williams Hodges to Patna seems a different story but I will explain to you how this Painting has greatly left an impression to the British Artist William Hodges.

When Britishers took possession of India then it became necessary for them to know the local customs and traditions. Understanding customs of India was not so easy for Britishers and for this they need to know the social system of India.

On the other hand people of England were also curious to know about India. British government hired and brought some well known artists to India to make paintings and sketches of local architecture, social and religious festivals and locals’ standard of living.

William hodges painting duing Patna Kalam
Credit: Landscape with fort at Latifpur, Bihar. Coloured etching by William Hodges, 1785. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

William Hodges was one of the first artists to come to Bihar and further Patna to paint its historical heritage, culture and craft. He came to Patna in the convoy of Governor General Warren Hastings in 1778.

This is the period when Patna Kalam Painting was initially being developed. William Hodges stayed in patna for a long time and he was basically a painter. He met here with the other artists who migrated to Patna from Murshidabad.

How Patna Kalam Painting Started

Seed of Patna Kalam Painting was planted with the fall in Mughal rule. By the falling kingdom of Mughals, they were unable to support or pay the then artists. Survival in these circumstances became very difficult and artists started to find other places for livelihood.

They migrated to Patna and its nearby locations. Since they were free from Mughals and had freedom to craft on their own wish. These artists then developed a new style of painting called Patna Kalam.

Locals, its lifestyle and different aspects of life was the main theme for illustration in Patna Kalam.

William hodges painting duing Patna Kalam
Credit: Gateway to the caravanserai at Rajmahal, Bihar. Coloured etching by William Hodges, 1785. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Since artists were mostly displaced from Mughals Kingdom so its style was then prevalent in newly evolved Patna Kalam Painting. You can see a glimpse of Mughal style, British Style and local lifestyle in Patna Kalam.

With passing time it became very famous and an identity of Patna. This iconic heritage is now extinct and it is very difficult to find artists of this style.

Most of Patna Kalam painting is preserved and has been kept securely in Patna Museum, Patna Art College and Khuda Baksh Library. You can see Patna Heritage and witness their beautiful style of painting.

Williams Hodges and Patna Kalam

Group of artists who migrated from Murshidabad was experimenting with a new style of painting, Williams Hodges met with them. They became friends and those artists helped hodges to his further painting work. This was the time of the evolution of Patna Kalam.

William Hodges traveled a lot in Patna and its nearby places. He knew its glorious past. 

There are lots of very tall buildings in Patna but its streets are very thin and full of dirt. People are travelling on Ekkas, Palki, bullock cart and on horse. Its market is full of goods.

Williams Hodges Wrote

During his Patna stay he had also visited Maner Sharif. He was very impressed with the mausoleum of Maner Sharif. Its painting of the maner sharif mausoleum is still preserved in Royal Academy of Arts, London. 

Hodges created many paintings of Bihar and Patna. You can see a glimpse of Patna Kalam’s style of painting in his work. This was probably because of friendship with a local artist. In 1783, he returned to England.

William hodges painting duing Patna Kalam
Credit: Mausoleum of Makhdam Shah Daulut at Maner, Bihar. Coloured etching by William Hodges, 1786. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Speciality of this style of Art

  • It comes in Miniature category of arts
  • Painting done on Paper made of bamboo
  • Ivory and Abarak was also used for canvas
  • Brush used for painting were made by artists itself
  • Theme of painting was local daily life style and local businesses

Famous Artists of Patna Kalam

When patna kalam was in prevalent, there was many good artist but some well known name of  this style of painting is

  1. Sevak Ram
  2. Hulash Lal
  3. Jayram Das
  4. Fakirchan Lal
  5. Ishwari Prasad

Ishwari Prasad was the last known artist of Patna Kalam.

How Patna Kalam Lost its Glory

In 1861, the English businessman and a high level art lover, Mr. Charle D.Aisle established a litho press in Gulzarbagh area of Patna. The press started printing copies of Patna Kalam. In Bihar this was the first litho press.

William hodges painting duing Patna Kalam
Credit: Village at Bhagalpur, India. Coloured etching by William Hodges, 1787. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

As a result, the huge demand for these paintings in foreign was being fulfilled. The end of this style of art was evident from the fact that the paintings were recreated quickly and the technical growth stopped.

In later days there was a decrease in incoming and outgoing of foreign tourists and businessmen in Patna. Increasing no of litho press affected the artists a lot. 

The invention of photographic cameras had also an adverse effect on the artists. 

The Patna Kalam born on the land of Patna saw its golden period and wrote its own story of elevated success. The prosperous art finally died with the demise of the last artist of its era Ishwari Prasad Verma in 1949.

Anish Kumar Singh

Amature Photographer and Content Writer. From History to Street to landscape to Food everything.

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