The Chitrakars belong to the Newah or Newar Caste of the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. Traditionally, they are painters and mask-makers. In Nepal Bhasa, the mother tongue of the Newars, this caste is called Puun.When the Newar culture became Sanskritized, the last name Chitrakar was adopted. "Chitr" in Sanskrit means image and "akar" stands for shape. The literal translation of the word Chitrakar is imagemaker. The Puuns or Chitrakars paint Paubas (Thankas in Tibetan ) used in prayer rooms and murals in temples, make masks used for ritualistic dance and woodblock prints used at festivals. The craft is handed down from father to son. Women generally play a secondary role in the artistic ventures.

Although, with the advent of the modern world, the Caste System is eroding in Kathmandu, there are still some Puun/Chitrakar families following their traditional role as artists. The Puuns/Chitrakars practice both Buddhism and Hinduism with an emphasis on Tantrism.

The word "Puun" seems to be derived from Pali/Sanskrit word "puantra"/"patta" or "scrolls/fabric". The religious painting called "Paubhas" is also a derivative of the "Puantra/Patta". These paintings are normally done over fabric.

Apart from Nepal, Pata painting or Patachitra is also an important element in Bengali cultural heritage. This art form flourished particularly during the Buddhist period in Bengal and normally carried the life sketch of the Buddha and his sayings and anecdotes. Later Patas show Hindu tradition. After about eight century AD, Use of patas dwindled in Bengal. Ironically, it was only after about this time that saw the widespread use of pattas/paubhas (paining) in the Kathmandu Valley(Nepal). There is a particular Chitrakar/Patua or painter community in West Bengal who still practise folk paintings in long scrolls. This community during Medieval times was stratified within a caste system based on professional hierarchies in the Hindu society. Few members of this community also follow Islam at present.

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