A fascinating and mystical traditional cloth painting, PATTACHITRA breaks down as ‘Patta‘ which means cloth and ‘chitra’ which means a picture. Fabric such as Tusser silk, cotton and jute are often used as a base for this painting. This art form is considered as one of the finest and auspicious crafts of Odisha as it was evolved in the Puranic period. These scroll-paintings are typically based on Hindu mythology, which is influenced by the cult of Lord Jagannath and Vaishnavas. Dating back to the 5th century BC, Pattachitra traditions are more than thousand years old.

Dastkar Bazaar Pattachitra

Owing to the inextricable linkage between the history of Lord Jagannath and the concept of Pattachitra paintings, the core themes of traditional ‘pattas’ have constantly been about the triad and mysticism in the stories of Mahabharata, Ramayana, and Oriya deities. A small hamlet on the banks of the river Bhargabi near Puri, Raghurajpur, is recognized as a hub of Pattachitra, the cloth paintings of Orissa. The traditional Chitrakaars dwelling there reveres this art form as a means of their subsistence in economic, social and cultural aspects.

The style and the procedure of painting are distinctive in its own sense as ‘Chitrakaras’ aka a painter uses naturalistic colors extracted from organic sources. Amongst the colors, BLACK is prepared from the burning of coconut-shells, YELLOW is taken out from Haritali stone, WHITE from crushed and filtered shells, RED from mineral colors named Hingula, GREEN from grass, and BLUE from indigo. ‘Kaitha’, the natural gum from a fruit along with water, is blended with colors to ensure their indelible nature.

‘Pattis’ aka canvas is prepared by binding two layers of cotton fabric with the gum of tamarind seeds. Also, a coating of powdered limestone and tamarind seeds is applied for a smooth surface.  The painting brushes are created from plant fiber or animal hair. The ornate borders on palm leaves deriving its peculiar themes from the temple sculpture motifs of Orissa are the U.S.P of these paintings.

Though Pattachitra has mostly stayed unaffected by the other forms of Indian paintings like Mughal or Pahadi, it has soaked in the contemporary vibes by evolving from temple paintings to decorative handicrafts. Hopefully, this beautiful and distinctive art form from the small tranquil villages soon captures the fancy of art lovers and artists across the world.

Rishu Jain