This ‘singing scroll‘ or Story Pat from Bengal was on long term loan from storyteller Helen East and has now been returned to its owner.

Unrolled it extends to nearly five metres in length. It is made up of separate sheets of paper which are stitched together to form the complete pat.

Pat is the Bengali word for scroll and the artist / singer is called a Patua. The Patua is a form of minstrel who travels West Bengal from village to village singing the story as he unravels his pat showing one frame at a time. When his show, which may consist of two or three scrolls or more, is over the villagers will reward him with food or money and he will travel on to the next village to perform.

The singing scrolls are often moral tales from the Hindu religion such as the Chandi Mangal featured on this Story Pat. However, this is not always the case they are also used to depict Muslim stories and transmit topical news events.

This storytelling, or more exactly ‘story-singing’ tradition dates back to pre 12th Century and its origin is unknown.

Although most villages have access to news via radio and television the tradition continues to this day in West Bengal with many present day events painted and sung utilizing pats.

Chandi Mangal

The translations below each image are as sung by Mina Chitrakar, from Naya, Pingla, Midnapur and are courtesy of Academic Media Studio, Wesleyan University.

Durga, Durga, Tara oh mother, the remover of distress. Hard to vanquish Dakshina Kali, the daughter of the king of mountains (Himalaya). Lakshmi and Saraswati are on the left. Kartik, Ganesh, the lion, the Demon, Jaya and Bijoya (the two friends – sakhi) are with the mother.

One day mother Durga was very pleased. She showed the jewels under the pomegranate tree. Kalketu got the jewels from under the dalim tree and established a city, cutting down the Gujarat jungle. Sadhu was imprisoned for 14 years, Srimanta was born in Khullana’s womb.

Srimanta grew up, was educated and wanted to go in search of his father. You are my only son, the apple of my eyes. I’ll be lost if I let you go. If you must go, first invoke Durga. When she was invoked, she appeared.

His mother gave him to the goddess. He started the boat saying – jai (hail) Bhabani. In a storm in Magra Srimanta saw Kamini swallowing an elephant, sitting on a lotus. Kamala Kamini – in a lotus, swallowing an elephant, the mother of Genesha. The goddess swallows an elephant in a silence unbroken by any movement. Sadhu Srimanta does a million pronams.

After bowing to her Srimanta shows up in Ratnamala’s ghat. There is the sound of Dhamsa (a kind of drum) in the ghat. The king’s officers are fighting among themselves. Whose is the kingdom? The officers are bleeding it white. They don’t bother to ask or inform the king.

King Shalibahan was sitting, having neglected his golden kingdom. rimanta stood before him with folded palms. He said oh king I have seen a goddess on a lotus swallowing an elephant in your kingdom. Where is that Srimanta. Show it to me – I will give you half my kingdom and marry you to my daughter. But if you can’t, listen to my words, you will be killed in the execution ground in the south.

Having made that promise, King Shalibahan came to Kalidaha to see Kamala Kamini. Mother Bhagabati played a trick. She hid within the hundred petals of the lotus.

Being unable to show her Srimanta was in a fix. The city keeper came to execute him and tied him up. Ensnared, Srimanta prayed to Durga. She displayed herself, resplendent with 18 arms.

Where did you go mother; who worshipped you. I’m giving you this boon, Srimanta. You will marry King Shalibahan’s daughter.

Mythstories museum often made story pats with groups. The story pat linked to below was created by Mythstories Home Ed Group illustrating the story of “The Queen of the Cats” from Zimbabwe.

Created, stitched and sung in just three hours during their March 2020 Group Session at UCS, University Centre Shrewsbury.