Enriched with temples and heritage sites, Odisha -the land of Lord Jagannath is a reservoir of arts and artisans. Known for its various temples carved with beautiful storylines depicting the historical events and the life of the people at that time, the painters too gave justice by showing their skills to say the lore. Pattachitra is one the most alluring art forms of Odisha that has grabbed the eyeballs in several international platforms. The word ‘Pattachitra’ has evolved from Sanskrit with ‘Patta’ meaning canvas and ‘chitra’ meaning picture. These paintings continue to carry the legacy of the Indian mythology and folklore long forgotten. Here are seven interesting facts about the Pattachitra paintings.
1. Inspired By Hindu Mythology
The theme of the Pattachitra paintings are mostly based on Hindu Mythology and inspired by Jagannath Sanskruti. During the Hindu festival, Rath Yatra, when the Lord Jagannath and his siblings go on hibernation and the Pattachitra paintings of the deities are worshipped. The artists start the paintings a fortnight before the beginning of the hibernation period. However, the origin of the art form dates back to 5th century BC. The finest paintings can be found in the places like Puri, Konark, Sonepur and especially in the World Heritage Village, Raghurajpur.
2. It Can Take Forever To Complete
To encraft a masterpiece it can take days or even months of hard work and patience along with years of practice and dedication to master the skills. The preparation of the canvas known as ‘Niryakalpa’ can often take up to a week. Since the materials and tools for the paintings are obtained from natural sources like brushes from mongoose or mouse hair, Pattachitra is a tedious process.
3. Natural Colours Make Them Vivacious
Pattachitra is a depiction of the creativity of the fecund mind of the Odia painters. The vivacity of the paintings can be ascribed to the enchanting natural colours used. The colours that make the art form more livid and appreciable, are made by the chitrakaras (painters) using ancient colour drawing techniques.
The color making process is very time-consuming process. Black is made from lampblack. To obtain the lampblack, a burning lamp is placed inside an empty tin box. The soot collected on the underside of the tin is then collected and mixed with gum and water. White is made from conch shells, red from hingula stone and yellow from harikala stone. Green is obtained by boiling green leaves with kaitha gum and water.
4. Different Picture Planes
Not just limited to clothes or canvases but the paintings are engraved on the walls of the localites depicting the Indian mythology (The Ramayanas, puranas, etc.) and the shrine of Lord Jagannath.
5. The Motif
The uniqueness of the paintings is showcased by their floral borders. Further, the paintings have a single tone of colour. The preparation of the patta (canvas) is unique to most of the paintings. Although Pattachitra can be done on a variety of media like palm leaves, walls, wooden boards, saris or a variety of apparels, the canvas is commonly made from cotton clothes. Starch made from crushed tamarind seeds is applied to the cotton cloth which is then coated with chalk powder mixed with starch.
6. Undiluted Art Form
The magnificent art form has remained uninfluenced by the other schools of art like Pala school and Mughal school. Odisha, previously known as Kalinga, was one of the last few princely states to be invaded by the Mughals. This actually gave the art form sufficient room to flourish and remain untarnished over the years.
7. The Art Runs In The Blood
The art form is usually practiced by a generation of artists in a family. The ancient lineage of the artists usually used to live around the temples which employed them to make paintings for the purpose of worship.
‘Pattachitra’ is a very disciplined art form. Over the years, several painters have enthused innovativeness into the art form. However, the motifs that include rich colours and depiction of stories from mythology, still remain intact. Perhaps the vivid description of the emotions and undiluted nature of the art form justify their popularity.