Pattachitra and Raghurajpur – what Gods look forward to

In Odisha, we often wonder if it is a prerequisite for a town to be on the banks of a river to nurture a great art form? Well it seems so, as all the towns that perfected the art of Pattachitra happen to be situated on the banks of rivers (Paralakhemundi, Raghurajpur, Chikiti and Sonepur).  The idyllic village of Raghurajpur, situated on the banks of River Bhargabi, has continued this glorious tradition and, infact, extended this art form to other mediums – Tasar Chitra and Tado Chitra. In the year 2000 , Raghurajpur was developed as state’s first heritage village by Indian National trust for Art and Cultural heritage (INTACH).

As in any ancient art form in India, the inspiration for these paintings comes from Hindu religion and mythology.  Pattachitra paintings depict various stories of Lord Krishna, Ganesha, Mahabharata and, of course, of Lord Jagannath; little wonder then that during the yearly ritual bath (snan) where Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra fall ill for a fortnight, the Pattachitra paintings adorn the Puri temple, which is something that every household in Raghurajpur is proud of.
Pattachitra literally translates to picture on canvas (cloth); A Mixture of chalk and gum made from tamarind seeds is used on a cotton cloth to make the canvas and give it a leathery finish. Artists use natural colours and start painting directly using brushes made from the hair of various animals including squirrels! The families at Raghurajpur and other areas train themselves to paint without creating an outline and this adds to the overall aura.
The tradition of Pattachitra goes back to over a thousand years and both, the art form as well as the temples in Puri, Konark and Bhubaneshwar has had a mutual flourishing. The themes of these paintings have a mix of classical and folk style, which makes this art form unique; Pattachitras have a focus on the main subject with the background filled with flowers and foliage. The permanence of these paintings is achieved by using natural colours which while is a tedious and time consuming activity, still maintains the continuity of tradition and also worships nature.
Pattachitra paintings have bright colours especially red, yellow, indigo, black and white. These colours are made from natural materials; e.g. Conch shells for white, Hingula, a mineral colour for red. 'Haritala', king of stone for yellow, 'Ramaraja' a kind of indigo for blue, while burnt coconut shells are used for black.
Usually, all the family members contribute in creating these paintings. The master artist draws the initial lines and gives the final touch while others help prepare the canvas, fill-in colors and give the final lacquer coating.

As in other glorious traditions, Pattachitra has a GI (Geographical Indication) tagging which shows the importance of Odisha and, specifically, Raghurajpur in keeping this art form alive. We at TerraHasta plan to promote this art form across all locations and get the old glory back.
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