Colors used in Pattachitra and their sources

Pattachitra painting, an organic folk art, uses all its materials in their natural states. Thus, the colors used, too, are made of natural ingredients like china-clay, soft-clay or chalk, conch-cell, red stone, yellow-brown-ochre, and so forth. Charcoal powder is used for coloring black; sea shells available in bountiful amounts on the sea coasts of Odisha, for white; juices of boiled green leaves along with proportionate amounts of gum of Kaitha or Bilwa fruit, or unique green stones, or simply a clever mixture of black and yellow in specific proportion, for green; powdered hingula (red ochre), powdered using pastle stone and then formed into a tablet to be dried, for red; powdered harital stone (yellow ochre) mixed with water and formed into a tablet to be dried, for yellow; and indigo or a kid of soft-stone called rajabarta, for blue.

To manufacture white paints, the powdered sea shells are mixed with water and kept in a basin, for two days. The mixture is stirred until soft and milky, after which it is heated with the gum of Kaitha fruit, scientifically called Feromia Elephantum. The paste thus prepared is then dried in the sun to form solid white substance, used as white colour.

Collyrium is traditionally made by Odisha’s women folk. Oiled leaf is held over the smoke of burning wick. To make black paint, earthen plate is used in the stead of leaf, and the smoke formed at the bottom of the plate thickens to black substance, which is then mixed with the gum of Kaitha or Bilwa fruit. The paste is then ready to be used as black paint.

There are only five main colors, all derived from natural resourced, used traditionally for painting the pattas. These natural five colors, also called Pancha Tatwa- suggestive of five ingredients- are paralleled and associated with the divine colors of Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra, Sinhasana (The Throne), Nila-chakra (The Blue Wheel) by the folk painters and saints of Odisha.

Leave a Reply