The Sacred Banana Leaf – Nathan Kumar Scott and Radhashyam Raut

Listiga Kanchil 001

Stories about tricksters have existed throughout history, all over the World. They tell the story of a seemingly stupid and weak clown – human or animal – that manage to find a way out of difficult situations. Using courage and cunning the trickster outwits adversaries much bigger and more powerful than himself.

Kanchil is a popular trickster in Indonesian and Malaysian folklore. He is a little deer living in the rainforest. Like all traditional tricksters he shows numerous ways of getting out of dangerous situations using wit and thinking outside the box.

In the beginning of the book we meet Kanchil on his way home from the market. He is completely absorbed by gobbling up the delicious rice cakes he just bought, so absorbed that he doesn’t watch his steps but falls into a deep pit. He desperately calls for help, but nobody seems to hear. How long will he have to stay down the hole? Until the end of the World?! Kanchil has a brilliant idea, and soon he has lured a great number of animals down into the pit. Eventually he will manage to get out while the others stay put, using a great deal of imagination and a simple banana leaf…

This book is the first children’s book using the traditional Indian Patachitra tradition (see more below). The colors are bold and vivid, the line work and characters strong and distinct. The story itself is short but witty, with a strong sense of vitality and self-empowering. A great counter-balance to the Mid-Century aesthetics that prevail in children’s books today, artistic values that might rather express adult preferences than what children really like… Subdued and chalky sixties pastiches are completely steamrolled by Indian folklore!


Nathan Kumar Scott

Nathan Kumar Scott



The paintings in this book are made by Radhashyam Raut. They are done in the traditional Indian style called Patachitra. The literal meaning of the word is “painting on cloth canvas”, and the style traditionally has been found in Orissa in Eastern India. It is closely related to the the religious cult at the ancient Jagannath temple in Puri. The painters were temple employees living and working on the premises or around Puri. The numerous pilgrims visiting the Jagannath shrine created a vast demand of religious pictures and memorabilia that has kept the tradition alive and flourishing for centuries.
Traditionally the pictures were painted only by males, depicting strictly religious or cultural aspects. Today artists are exploring a completely new and vast array of techniques and themes, making it a very dynamic and exciting art form. The style is no longer confined to the Puri area, and female artists have begun to explore the tradition. In The Sacred Banana Leaf, the Patachitra style has been used for the first time in a children’s book.

The earliest example of this style have been traced back to fragmented Cave paintings i the state of Orissa: Udaygiri, Khandagiri och Sitabhinji.

Traditionally the style have been used on Ganjifa/Ganjappa cards, today much coveted collector’s items. These handpainted, circular playing cards make up decks of 96 cards in a game with very complex and complicated rules.
Patachitra: Work flow and technique.


Other books by the same author:




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