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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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