Hinduism Amar Chitra Katha
by
Karline McLain
  • LAST REVIEWED: 20 October 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 April 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399318-0002

Introduction

Amar Chitra Katha is India’s first and most beloved comic book series. Founded by Anant Pai in 1967, it is also an important cultural institution that has helped to define, for several generations of readers, what it means to be Hindu and Indian. Its first heroes were Hindu gods and goddesses including Krishna, Rama, and Durga, whose stories were drawn from classical Hindu mythology. In the 1970s, historical Indian figures were added into the mix, including medieval warrior kings such as Shivaji and Akbar and modern freedom fighters such as Bhagat Singh and Mahatma Gandhi. To date, the comic book series entails over 440 titles and has sold more than 100 million issues. Over the past several decades, this English-language comic book series has been wildly popular with the middle classes in India and with the global Indian diaspora. For these readers, as for the producers, the comics in this series are not considered primarily an entertainment product; instead, they are regarded as foundational texts for the religious and national education of their young readers. It is the realization of this profound significance of these comics in the everyday lives of their millions of readers that has prompted several scholars to undertake serious studies of the Amar Chitra Katha series.

General Overviews

The academic study of comics is a young field, emerging as a serious arena for scholarly inquiry only within the past several decades. Scholars first began to take note of Amar Chitra Katha in the 1990s. One of the earliest but still most useful and accessible overviews of the series is Pritchett 1995, which provides a taxonomy of the Indian heroes and heroines presented in this comic book series and critically considers religion and gender in the discussion of who is included and who is excluded in this canon. McLain 2009 offers an in-depth introduction to Amar Chitra Katha, based on the author’s extensive time in the production studio: it examines a handful of titles as case studies for exploring the debates over religion and national identity entailed in the selection of heroes and heroines in this series and in the text and image decisions made to tell their stories. Rao 2001 provides an introduction that compares the series with two other popular Indian comic series, Indrajal and Diamond Comics, while focusing both on the different content covered in these various series and the different audiences drawn to these three series. Kasbekar 2006 offers a useful introduction to Amar Chitra Katha, in three short pages. Lent 1999 includes a very brief overview of the history of comics in Asia, with a concise mention of Indian comics including Amar Chitra Katha. Amar Chitra Katha Online offers some information about the series, as well as comic book titles for sale.

  • Amar Chitra Katha Online.

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    The official Amar Chitra Katha website. Offers some basic information about the comic book series, along with Amar Chitra Katha titles for online purchase in English and multiple Indian languages, featuring both print and e-book comics.

  • Kasbekar, Asha. “Amar Chitra Katha and the Revolution in Indian Comic Books.” In Pop Culture India! Media, Arts, and Lifestyle. By Asha Kasbekar, 94–96. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2006.

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    Kasbekar presents a three-page overview of the history, themes, objectives, and reception of the series, situated within the larger context of Indian popular culture.

  • Lent, John A. “Introduction.” In Themes and Issues in Asian Cartooning: Cute, Cheap, Mad, and Sexy. Edited by John A. Lent, 1–8. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1999.

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    Lent offers a very brief overview of the history of comics in Asia, with mention of India’s Amar Chitra Katha. He also offers a brief overview of the history of academic scholarship (or lack thereof) on Asian comics.

  • McLain, Karline. India’s Immortal Comic Books: Gods, Kings, and Other Heroes. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009.

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    This is a book-length study of Amar Chitra Katha, focusing on the history of this series, the debates in the production studio about religion and national identity, the meaning of this series to its generations of readers, and the uniqueness of this series in the global comic book industry, for its religious significance.

  • Pritchett, Frances W. “The World of Amar Chitra Katha.” In Media and the Transformation of Religion in South Asia. Edited by Lawrence A. Babb and Susan S. Wadley, 76–106. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1995.

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    Pritchett provides a useful and critical taxonomy of the Indian heroes presented in Amar Chitra Katha, focusing on the epic heroes from classical Hindu literature and the modern heroes from India’s struggle for independence. She also provides a brief discussion of the founding and marketing of this series.

  • Rao, Aruna. “From Self-Knowledge to Super Heroes: The Story of Indian Comics.” In Illustrating Asia: Comics, Humor Magazines, and Picture Books. Edited by John A. Lent, 37–63. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2001.

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    Rao provides an introduction to Amar Chitra Katha that situates this popular series historically and thematically in comparison with other popular Indian comic book series, including Indrajal Comics and Diamond Comics.

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