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The village that makes exquisite Pattachitra paintings – By Premjit Mohapatra

The village that makes exquisite Pattachitra paintings – By Premjit Mohapatra

Orissa’s villages are the centres of the famous Pattachitra paintings which have blossomed and flourished around the religious centers of Puri, Konark, and Bhubaneswar. The most skillful exponents of this living art form producing the most exquisitely designed pattachitras are found in Raghurajpur, a small village in Puri district. This idyllic village dotted with mango, coconut and jackfruit trees, and other tropical trees; nestled on the southern banks of river Bhargabi is considered a haven of Pattachitra from Odisha.

   Located off the Bhubaneswar-Puri six-lane highway, you could easily miss the entry to the village if you speed on. There is a small signage to the left declaring its presence and you have to take a detour from the highway into a village road, passing through a crowd of shoppers, hawkers and small shops in a village market. Then the road opens up along the bank of river Bhargavi opening up vistas of coconut palm avenue and green paddy fields, and after navigating the narrow roads for a while and following the signage you arrive at the artisan village Raghurajpur.

As you enter the villages you see houses arranged in two neat rows, facing each other on either side of narrow lanes. At the centre, runs a line of small temples and total wooden interiors and traditional decors tell us that each house is an artist’s studio. This is also the only village in India, where each family is engaged in one craft or the other–pattachitra painting, wooden toys, tusser silk paintings, stone carvings, etc. This is the cradle of the aesthetically rich paintings Pattachitra from Odisha. The artisans are also known locally as chitrakars.

 Art and Crafts is integral to the people living of this village with the socio-cultural and economic lives centred around it. The knowledge of the craft and drawing skills is passed on from the one generation to another in the traditional Guru- Shishya Parampara (Teacher and student tradition), and has few Padma Bhushan or a Padma Shree awardees among them.

The village has another unique distinction as well. It is the birthplace of the famous Odishi dance legend Padma Vibhushan Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, a revered proponent of the popular dance form worldwide. It was here the Guru was born in a traditional artist family, but found his passion elsewhere in dance and music and today thousands of his disciples are spread across the world. The village, its deep-rooted cultural tradition, its natural surroundings ahd a deep impact on shaping his childhood and young adult years.

Another branch of the art tradition of Pattachitra that the village is renowned for is Talapatachitra, a sub-category of Pattachitra from Odisha.Talapatachitra (tala – palm, patra – leaf, chitra – illustration) consists of inscribing letters and painting artistic designs on palm-leaf. For palm leaf pattachitra leaves are from tree and dried. They are then cut into standard sizes and held together with two wooden plank covers stringed through a hole in the center. After needle-sharp fine drawings are carefully etched and cut out, they are delicately strung together with thread. Stories of gods and goddesses besides great mythological epics are depicted with minute details in a fascinating way. The talapatachitra paintings also include natural sceneries, local legends and folklore.

     Though not exactly paintings, but imbibing the rich ethnic designs in the manufacturing of papier-mache masks of several characters from Indian mythology. These masks, made from papier-mache is prepared by making pulp of paper and organic materials like sawdust. They are then cast in traditional moulds of woods shaped with facial characteristics of a mythical figure. These are then dried in the sun for several days after which they are painted in the pattachitra style and are despatched for sale. A unique 3-D representation making alive characters from the 2-D pattachitra paintings come alive, these masks are usually used as wall décor. These could be very well made in a wearable size and used in dance performances. The PuriSahijata festival is a unique fiesta for the eyes, with wide use of these colourful masks and energetic dances depicting scene from Indian epics.

Pattachitra painting has a rich heritage and Raghurajpur has been recognized as India’s first heritage crafts village. Pattachitra paintings have found global recognition and captured the imagination of artists and art lovers worldwide. Pattachitra from Odisha owes a lot to its reputation and popularity to this small village which remains unchanged and glued to the tradition even in the modern-day.

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Pattachitra Art in Home Decor

Pattachitra Art in Home Decor

Famous folk art of Orissa, Pattachitrais form of scroll painting on canvas, aboriginal to Orissa, and traditionally uses colors derived from organic sources. Because the art is so raw and elemental and uses iconic illustrations such as the totem-like illustration of Sri Jagannath, people often limit its purpose to temples and rarely use it in home décor or for personal use. The form is a tribute to Hindu gods and an offshoot of worships and rituals associated with the history of Sri Jagannath, but it’s an art, too, not only a rite specific to a religion.

The simple matter that pattachitra paintings are so vibrant makes them pieces to have in homes, but especially in Indian homes, as they are so entrenched in the indigenous Indian culture that a patta painting beholds great cultural and chronological leverage over many other types of paintings. The brush strokes speak loudly and proudly, adding thrill and a line of interest to a home decor. Modern Pattachitra paintings have also now been founded and explored, in which contemporary Pattachitra artists use adulterated material and unconventional icons. Consequently, the art now finds itself even in contemporary style homes. Traditionally, folk artist would use colours made from natural ingredients like china clay, soft clay or chalk, conch shell, red stone, yellow-brown ochre, and so on, and paint them using brushes made manually from the keya root and hairs of mouse and buffalo, on silk (for canvas). Black would come from charcoal powder, and white from sea shells plentiful on shores of Orissa.

It’s one’s own discretion to choose an art piece as per one’s own taste and home décor, but essentially, there are six types, based on:

Sri Jagannath Pati

Great Indian epics

Orissa folk lore

The art of bratas and worship rituals

Animals and birds

Eroticism

The paintings based on Sri Jagannath Pati and great Indian folks are more traditional in nature, adhering to the purpose of depiction of the deity and the holy “triad”, or mythologies, respectively. Whilst bright, these kinds of art are also solemn. The best suited décor that’ll be able to support this sort of art must be mature, and in style preferably earthen, or eclectic, or indigenously traditional to be in harmony with the painting. On the other hand, the Pattachitra paintings based on animals and birds are lighter in pathos, and their purpose is mainly depiction of nature. These paintings are soothing to eyes and soft in their implication. Such paintings are perfect for cottage style homes, coastal style homes, industrial homes, and country style homes, as they personify leisure and romanticism. Then, there are erotic Pattachitras which are tamasik in nature, exploring the darker side of nature. This art is bold, and finds itself in place in rustic style homes, Tuscan style homes, Moroccan style homes, eclectic style homes, and also indigenous traditional homes.Pattachitra painted dhurries, wall-hangings and quaint masks and figurines can fill your yoga area with a lot of spiritual character and ambience.

Besides paintings, Pattachitra is also finding its reaches in many scopes- like statues, artifacts, miscellaneous products such as pots, bookmarks, trinkets, accessories, etc, wall art, and more.They would typically be painted on surfaces as varied as canvas, paper, cloth and wood and even large size murals covering walls and roofs are possible. Such murals are seen in ancient temples of Odisha as part of traditional rituals including the Puri Jagannath temple.

   Today, the improvements in digital printing have enlarged the scope to transfer these unique designs which have been so far hand-painted unto a diverse set of surfaces. You could choose to have a personally preferred traditional pattachitra image to a t-shirt, handbag, flex, cap or umbrella. This why we at pattachitra.net offer a customised option to our customers. By paying a little more you can have your select merchandise imprinted with pattachitra designs. Makes a great gifting option as well!

   The Central and state government of Odisha have been relentlessly trying to impart the traditional artists or chitrkars with relevant training to make their craft applicable to modern home décor. This would make their products have more appeal in the mass market and improve their incomes. Reputed institutes like NIFT and NID are also working with the artisans towards this end.

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