Resonating the legacy of over a thousand years with enchanting images of colorful deities, emerging from fine brushes and bright naturally prepared paints on canvas is an ancient form of scroll painting called Pattachitra.

Origin

The word Pattachitra has evolved from the Sanskrit language where, “Patta” means “cloth” and “chitra” means “picture”. Pattachitra is one of the oldest and most popular art forms of Orissa, whose presence dates back to the 5th century BC. A glimpse of this art form can be seen in the murals of Puri, Konark and Bhuwaneshwar regions. Raghurajpur, a small village on the banks of river Bhargavi near Puri is an abode of Pattachitra paintings and has captured the attention of the world as a Heritage village with atleast one member in each family involved in arts.  

Procedure

The first and the most important step is preparing the patta for painting, which involves the preparation of Niryas Kalpa. This is done by soaking tamarind seeds in water for 3 days. The soaked tamarind seeds are then pounded with a crusher, mixed with water and heated in an earthen pot to form into a paste. The paste is then used to hold two pieces of cloth together and coated with a powder of soft clay until it becomes firm. Once the cloth becomes dry, a final polishing is done using a rough and then a smooth stone until the surface becomes smooth and leathery making it perfect for painting.

The next significant step is the preparation of paints; the paints are made exclusively from natural sources such as vegetables, stones and earth. The gum of the kaitha tree is the chief ingredient, and is used as a base for making different pigments, on which various raw materials are mixed for diverse colours. For instance, powdered conch shells are used for making a white pigment, while lamp soot is used for a black pigment and so on. The root of the keya plant is usually used for making the common brush, while mouse hair attached to wooden handles are used as finer brushes.

Theme and style

The themes traditionally revolved around Indian mythology including but not limited to stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata. Lord Jagannath of Puri who is the incarnation of Lord Krishna has been a major source of inspiration. Pattachitra has a very distinctive way of painting gods and goddesses wherein the Saatvik (Virtue), Rajasik (Passion) and Tamsik (Dark) aspects are portrayed using white, red and black colors respectively. The characters also have their own colors according to the Rasa (Emotions) they depict, for example,  Haasya (Humor) in white, Roudra (rage) in red, Adhbuta (wonder) in yellow and so on.

In the traditional style of Pattachitra, the facial features of the characters show elongated beak like noses, a prominent chin and extended eyes. The distinguishing elements are the facial features, hairstyles and clothing. Mughal influence can also be observed in the dressing styles of some of the works. However, with the passage of time the art of Pattachitra has gone through a considerable transition, and the Chitrakars have painted on tussar silk and palm leaves with motifs ranging from flowers and animals to geometric shapes.

Pattachitra as a modern home décor product

The ancient art of Pattachitra has been revived substantially to suit the requirements of the modern times. These days Pattachitra paintings are available on a variety of home décor products like serve wares, table tops, home furnishing items like bed spreads, wall hangings etc. in a variety of modern colors and designs.

Role of Theethnicstory.com 

Theethnicstory.com is working closely with Chitrakars form Puri and Raghurajpur villages in Orissa to bring about a range of innovative products with a contemporary touch. You can login to www.theethnicstory.com to checkout our collection of Pattachitra paintings.