Pattachitra – The Art From Orissa

Pattachitra Art at a glance:

The Patachitras are extraordinary artistic depictions from Orissa that include the wall paintings, manuscript painting, palm-leaf etching, and painting on cloth, both cotton and silk. The painters who bring this painting alive are called Chitrakars . The village of Raghurajpur is solely devoted to the Chitrakars and is called Chitrakar Sahe. This art of painting on cloth can be traced back to the establishment of the shrine of Lord Jagannath at Puri in Orissa.

The process:

The  Canvas base of the Pattachitra paintings is prepared by coating the canvas with soft white stone and powdered chalk , tamarind paste is used for adhering the paste. This gives the cloth strength and a smooth, semi-absorbent surface, allowing the paint to set in.  There is no rough or preliminary etching of the painting done, traditionally the borders were the first thing which is drawn giving way to rest of the process, when the artist traces the preliminary painting primarily the color crimson and sunshine yellow rule, then rest of the painting is filled in using white, black and yellow, red again.  The painting is given final touch with the use of black strokes using black paint brush giving the effect and finish of pen work. The finished painting is held over a charcoal fire and lacquer is applied to the surface. This makes the painting water resistant and durable and gives it a glossy finish.

The colors used to paint the canvas are made from vegetables and minerals. Black color  is derived from lampblack, Yellow from Haritali stone , Red from Hingula stone and  White is prepared from crushed, boiled, and filtered shells. The theme of Pattachitra paintings revolve around Religion, Mythology and Folk art . The lores comprise Krishna leela and Lord Jagannath.

“The Patachitra artists paint these themes on wooden boxes, on bowls, on Tassar silk, on outer shells of the coconut, and on wooden doors. They are also working on producing painted wooden toys based on animals and birds portrayed in the paintings. The English alphabet is cut in the wood and painted in the Patachitra style for sale. The artists have also traditionally painted playing cards or Ganjifa. Chitra-pothies — a collection of painted palm leaves stacked on top of each other and held together between painted wood covers by means of a string — illustrate mythological themes.”

The traditional Artists of Patachitra paintings were the Maharana, Mahapatra, Sunar, Swain, Sahoo, Godia, Pandit, Naik, and Pradhan, though the Master artists were the Mahapatras or Maharanas of Orissa.

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