Chitpur has been the seat of Bengali traditions and played a pivotal role in shaping up the cultural renaissance in state. But with technology developing in leaps and bounds over the last few decades, old art forms — be it the wooden block prints, lithography or more popular jatra — that catapulted Chitpur to the height of fame once have gradually been pushed to the brink of extinction.
To preserve the lost glory of Chitpur, Lalit Kala Akademi is now documenting art forms that were popular between 19th and 20th century. There is a plan to publish the findings in the form of a book.
“We shall try to capture the history of Chitpur and how various art forms flourished during the British Raj. It is a quest to find how the intellectual interaction between the East and the West. The aim is to revitalize the depleting art forms,” said Monoj Sarkar, regional secretary of the Akademi.
The architectural designs of historical buildings built in Chitpur by Nundkumar, Radhakanta Deb, Darpanarain Tagore, Omichand, Ram Mohan Roy, Gouri Sen, Sobharam Basack, Sukhamay Ray, Ramdulal Dey, Jadulal Mallick, Kali Prosonno Sing, Prasanna Kumar Tagore and others are will find mention in the research. The documentary will also feature Thakurbari, Marble Palace and Sobvabazar Rajbari as they played a as platform for prospering culture in the area. Even the architecture of the houses of old Chitpur will also be part of study.
Most of the constructions had a central courtyard surrounded by rooms. Some palatial buildings had more than one courtyard and also had large and decorative Nachghar. The architectural expressions are a mix of the European neo-classical style and Bengali structures where facades with porticos having Tuscan, Doric, Ionic or Corinthian columns with articulated and ornamental parapets with figures and statues.
Preserving the past
“Chitpur has undergone a massive structural change. The Akademi is trying to preserve Chitpur in its old form and the work must be completed before the ancient glory vanishes,” Sarkar said. Interestingly, Kumartuli will form an integral part of the study.
Not only the architecture, the research will delve deep into the art forms that Chitpur once boasted of. Lithography, chromolithograph, block prints and even the art of making ornaments will be documented. Jatra will find a special mention in the study. The Akademi is tracking the lives of well known singers of Chitpur like Gauhar Jaan and Angurbala Devi. Gauhar Jaan was the first Indian to have a record disc to her credit, according to researchers.
Kolkata is a city that has one foot in the past and the other in the present. Keeping the legacy of yesteryears alive in any form is a commendable effort.
Team M3.tv hopes to see such endeavours in higher numbers in the future.
Chitpur is one of the oldest places in Kolkata and it's good that its history and culture are being documented.
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