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Patta Chitra Painting

Pattachitra,Traditional Oriya PaintingThe Patta Chitra painting, one of the fascinating art forms of Orissa, has a tradition that goes back to centuries. In fact, it is often described as the best among the Orissa Craft. Evolved in the Puranic culture and grown in mythology, this form of art developed and revolved around the Jagannath cult of Orissa.

Patta Chitra and Lord Jagnnath

The word “Patta” means cloth and the word “Chitra” means a picture. Thus Patta chitra is a form of painting that is done on clothes. The art form can be traced to as early as the 12th century A.D and has evolved around the Jaganth cult in Orissa. Even to this date certain ritual in the temple of Lord Jagannath is incomplete without the Patta Chitra. The Debasnana Purnima is generally associated with the ritualistic bathing ceremony of the Lord Jagannath. After this the deities become sick for fifteen days and the devotees don’t have darshan of the Lord in his seat, the Ratnavedi. This period is known as Anasar. During this period, three Patta paintings of the Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra are worshipped. These are known as Ansar Pati and unlike the images of the Lord which are incomplete, depict them with full limbs in Padmasana holding Sankh (conch), Chakra(wheel), Gada (club) and Padma (lotus flower) in his four hands.

Traditional Patta Chitras that are painted for Lord Jagannath has elaborate rituals attached to it. The chitrakars/painters need to work on the painting wearing a new dhoti, eat only vegetarian food and sleep on floor. Once the painting is over, a grand bath (maha snana) amidst chanting of mantras is arranged and the deities are put in for Darshan confirming with tradition. After the fifteen days period or Anasar, the paintings are stored in the storehouse of the temple.

Traditional way of making Patta Chitra

Lord jagannath patta chitra: Orissa Art

The form of worship associated with Lord Jagannath is vaisnavite. Thus apart from Lord Jagannath, most of the themes of traditional Patta Chitra are mystical stories from Ramayan and Mahabharat. All the Patta paintings are indigenously prepared following a prescribed method.

First a piece of cloth is washed and dried. A special gum prepared from the powder of tamarind seed is applied over it. Another piece of cloth of the same size and dimensions are put over this cloth before the gum dries up. The tamarind gum is applied once again on this piece of cloth. Once the gum dries, a powder of soft white stone mixed with the tamarind seed gum in ideal proportion, is applied on both sides of the cloth. This is again let to dry. After this, the cloth is polished with a smooth pebble and made smooth to make it suitable for painting. Here it needs to be mentioned that the preparation of Pati/canvas is done solely by the women of the families.

The Pati being ready now, actual work can begin. The colors used are primarily white, red, yellow, blue, green and black and are prepared natural ingredients. While White is prepared from powder of conch-sheel, yellow from Haritala, a kind of stone, red from geru (Dheu) and Hingula black from burning lamp and coconut shell and green from leaves. Traditionally, three types of brushes were used. They are broad, medium and fine. These are prepared out of the hairs of the buffalo, calf and the mouse respectively.

Patta Chitra representation of Lord GaneshThe artists execute a sequential procedure for preparation of the paintings. First the border and the sketch is drawn on the patis either in pencil or in light color. The artists put correct lines to make the figure more prominent. The lines are broad and steady, and then the color is applied. The visual appeal of a patta painting is in its color combination. The human figures are generally presented frontally. But the face, leg is shown side-wise but the elongated eyes are drawn from the front side. Sharp nose and round chins are prominently depicted. The typical hair style, clothing, ornamentation, beard and mustaches are used for different persons, so that there is no scope of confusion to recognize and differentiate between the figures of the king, minister sage, royal priest, common man, the God, the Goddesses and the like. A decorative border is drawn on all sides to give it a frame like look. Overlapping is avoided as far as possible. However, the sense of far and near is neglected here. The typical face style makes this painting different from other school of paintings. The paintings are conspicuous for their elegance, charm and aesthetic appeal. Central focus of the painting is the expression of the figures and the emotion they portray, the strong color only reinforce them.

Patta Chitra in modern day Context

With the passage of time when the chitrakar family increased and Puri town could not generate enough employment, the Chitrakars moved out of Puri to nearby villages where they did various types of paintings on the walls of theirpattons on festive occasions. Gradually patta paintings on wooden and bamboo boxes, mask, pots etc developed.

Patta Chitra representation of Lord KrishnaIn today’s context, the Patta chitra has made a slow sojourn from the temple to the drawing rooms, lounges of big hotels and guest houses. The subject of the paintings has also evolved and taken new dimensions. In addition to the stories from Ramayan, Mahabharat and Vesas of Jagannath, new themes on the life and philosophy of Lord Buddha, pictures on Jainism, Jesus Christ and important historical events are also found in patta paintings. The traditional pattis are replaced with tassar silk cloth and the the chitrakaras have adopted to the brushes sold in the market. Instead of simple rendering, the paintings are now decorated with more ornamentation in order to attract the modern art connoisseur. Even people from other castes are breaking the traditional hereditary rule in getting involved in this art form.

Today people who have adopted this art form as a profession have dwindled though it is still practiced in certain places. The major concentration of the artists and the art form is in Raghurajpur Dandasahi of Puri Sadar Block and Balisahi Chitrakarasahi,Dolamandap sahi, Markendeswar sahi in Puri Municipality, Paralakhemundi, Digapahandi,Chikiti, Berhampur, Dharakot, Bargarh, Sonpurand Keonjhar. From among these sites, Raghurajpur, a village about 12 km. from Puri on Puri-Bhubaneswar road near Chandanpur has attracted the attention of the world as a Heritage village. It has been declared as a Rural Tourism Centre. All the house-holds in the village are artists. The village holds the unique distinction of having maximum concentration of Patta Chitra artists. As per a local survey at least 22 households are pursuing this art form but in practice almost all house-holds in the village are linked with the patta chitra business, they act as artists or promoters.

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