Pigment colour on Lokta paper

 Courtesy of the artist and ArTree Nepal

These prints are made in large quantities for the Nāga Panchami festival, which is celebrated to appease the Nāgas (divine serpent beings) and invoke luck for a plentiful monsoon. During this event, the upper part of a house’s primary entrance is decorated with a large Nāga image that is replaced and worshipped every year. Likewise, entrances to individual rooms may bear smaller pictures. Nāgas are believed to be keepers of rain and fertility and belief has it that a domestic Nāga resides within every household, often unseen.

Among numerous cultural traditions developed in the Kathmandu Valley, printmaking stands as a distinct art form. Woodblocks, known as thāsā, are used primarily by the women of Chitrakar communities to make prints for the city’s diverse festivals. Chet Kumari Chitrakar is among the few artists who continue to produce hand painted prints. While structured and formal traditions of Newa art, like Paubha paintings, are extensively studied, vernacular and accessible artforms are often undermined.

Today, imported ofset prints of Gods and Goddesses have completely overtaken the market, collapsing the commercial value and the prestige of old block printed and hand painted pictures. With declining proftability, increasing modernization, and waning devotion, many intangible forms of heritage, like block printing, are gradually being lost. Chitrakar admits that she now works solely for the sake of keeping the block printing tradition alive.

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