Pattachitra – Traditional Art of Orissa, India

Pattachitra is a combination of two words ‘Patta’ and ‘Chitra’. In local language ‘Patta’ means canvas or cloth or screen or veil and ‘chitra’ means picture, So Pattachitra means painting on cloth.

The themes of Patta Chitra are mostly mythological, religious stories and folk lore. Some of the famous themes of pattachitra art are Rasa Lila ( the divine dance of love and passion), Ten Incarnations of Lord Vishnu, Nava Grahas (Nine Planets), Kanchi Avijana of Lord Jagannath, Panchamukhi Lord Hanuman and Panchamukhi Lord Ganesha.

The paintings are done on specially prepared cotton cloth, which is coated with a mixture of gum and chalk and polished, before applying natural colours.

The process begins with creating a canvas, or the surface on which the painting is to be executed. A gummy paste of boiled tamarind seeds and soft granite powder is plastered on a stretched piece of cloth, twice over, so that it becomes stone hard and does not crack.

Once dry, the bare outlines of the painting are sketched with charcoal or limestone (chalk) by a master painter.

This is usually done free-hand and from memory, though decorative motifs like borders and certain geometric forms are copied from pre-cut stencils in order to save time.

So the soot of oil lamps serves for black and diluted lime for white. The leaves of plants, flower petals, fruits (like mango, for yellow), ground rocks and even the urine of domesticated animals contribute to the production of a variety of shades and hues. But now a days of mass production the artists are using stencils, chemical-based dyes and paints. The paintings are polished and mounted before sale.

Raghurajpur is also famous for Palm Leaf Engraving art. Plamleaf illustrations are executed on oblong palmleaf. When these are intended for a manuscript they are bound together with a thread, passing just through the middle of the leaves. Palm leafs are also used to draw pictures of different Gods and Goddesses. These are joined lengthwise with the help of threads to form a rectangular or square format. These could be folded and opened or could be hung on the wall.

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