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Naratting Stories Through Pictures And Paintings In Ancient Hinduism – Chitrakatha

The name Chitrakatha or Chitrakathai is derived from two words, Chitra (a picture) and Katha (story). Narrating stories through pictures and paintings in ancient Hinduism was known as Chitrakatha. The tradition of telling stories with the aid of pictures can be traced back to 2nd century BCE as Patanjali in his Mahabhashya makes a reference to performances of the Krishna legend played by actors called subhika with chitras, paintings, and also the recitation of grathikas, small pothis or books.

There is enough evidence in ancient and medieval literature pointing to the tradition of picture showmen.

Uddyotana Suri has mentioned a samsara chakra pata in his Prakrit text of Kuvalayamala Katha, dated Shaka 700 (778-9 CE) in which a large painting on a canvas is discussed. It is therefore clear that the institution of painting and picture showmen has been common in ancient India. This is found in some form or the other in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Bengal, South India and other states even today.