Month: March 2020

Colors used in Pattachitra and their sources

Pattachitra painting, an organic folk art, uses all its materials in their natural states. Thus, the colors used, too, are made of natural ingredients like china-clay, soft-clay or chalk, conch-cell, red stone, yellow-brown-ochre, and so forth. Charcoal powder is used for coloring black; sea shells available in bountiful amounts on the sea coasts of Odisha, for white; juices of boiled green leaves along with proportionate amounts of gum of Kaitha or Bilwa fruit, or unique green stones, or simply a clever mixture of black and yellow in specific proportion, for green; powdered hingula (red ochre), powdered using pastle stone and then formed into a tablet to be dried, for red; powdered harital stone (yellow ochre) mixed with water and formed into a tablet to be dried, for yellow; and indigo or a kid of soft-stone called rajabarta, for blue.

To manufacture white paints, the powdered sea shells are mixed with water and kept in a basin, for two days. The mixture is stirred until soft and milky, after which it is heated with the gum of Kaitha fruit, scientifically called Feromia Elephantum. The paste thus prepared is then dried in the sun to form solid white substance, used as white colour.

Collyrium is traditionally made by Odisha’s women folk. Oiled leaf is held over the smoke of burning wick. To make black paint, earthen plate is used in the stead of leaf, and the smoke formed at the bottom of the plate thickens to black substance, which is then mixed with the gum of Kaitha or Bilwa fruit. The paste is then ready to be used as black paint.

There are only five main colors, all derived from natural resourced, used traditionally for painting the pattas. These natural five colors, also called Pancha Tatwa- suggestive of five ingredients- are paralleled and associated with the divine colors of Jagannath, Balabhadra, Subhadra, Sinhasana (The Throne), Nila-chakra (The Blue Wheel) by the folk painters and saints of Odisha.

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Materials used by folk artists

With the modernization and advancement of age, modern techniques of painting even traditional art forms have now crept in. Yet, the idea that plastic and synthetic colors are being used by the folk artists of Odisha still remains strange. In a art form so stoic and rigid, so rooted in its tradition, that every article and ornament keeps its shape, location, connotation, and significance, that every animal has been depicted with the same old and familiar stylized features, that every personality holds its absolute marks of identification defined by the ancient texts, religious myths and local tradition, it is indeed revolutionary and meaning-changing to experience modernity in patta painting.

Orissa’s is a world of myths and gods, entrenched deeply in folk imagination that is naught but the manifestation of thoughts, feelings, and experiences of the many Indian peasants, fishermen, and craftsmen. Thus, the paintings of the state speak the same language of their creators who decant their lives into their exacting art. The performances displayed by the painters are the inscriptions on canvas, of an incomparable artistic dexterity. The matchless craftsmanship, exemplified by the folk-painters has both an individual slot of its own yet many facets such as of a prism’s, which carve themselves out of the unfathomable depths of the sensibility.

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Pattachitra in Home Decor

A famous folk art of Orissa, Pattachitra is form of scroll painting on canvas, aboriginal to Orissa and traditionally uses colours derived from organic sources. Because the art is so raw and elemental, and uses iconic illustrations such as the totem like illustration of Sri Jagannath, people often limit its purpose to temples and rarely use in home décor or for personal use. The form is a tribute to Hindu gods and an offshoot of worships and rituals associated with the history of Sri Jagannath, but it’s an art, too, not only a rite specific to a religion.

The simple matter that patta paintings are so vibrant makes them pieces to have in homes, but especially in Indian homes, as they are so entrenched in the indigenous Indian culture that a patta painting beholds great cultural and chronological leverage over many other types of paintings. The brush strokes speak loudly and proudly, adding thrill and a line of interest to a home decor. Modern Pattachitra paintings have also now been founded and explored, in which contemporary Pattachitra artists use adulterated material and unconventional icons. Consequently, the art now finds itself even in contemporary style homes. Traditionally, folk artist would use colours made from natural ingredients like china clay, soft clay or chalk, conch shell, red stone, yellow-brown ochre, and so on, and paint them using brushes made manually from the keya root and hairs of mouse and buffalo, on silk (for canvas). Black would come from charcoal powder, and white from sea shells plentiful on shores of Orissa.

It’s one’s own discretion to choose an art piece as per one’s own taste and home décor, but essentially, there are six types, based on:

Sri Jagannath Pati

Great Indian epics

Orissa folk lore

The art of bratas and worship rituals

Animals and birds


The paintings based on Sri Jagannath Pati and great Indian folks are more traditional in nature, adhering to the purpose of depiction of the deity and the holy “triad”, or mythologies, respectively. Whilst bright, these kinds of art are also solemn. The best suited décor that’ll be able to support this sort of art must be mature, and in style preferably earthen, or eclectic, or indigenously traditional to be in harmony with the painting. On the other hand, the Pattachitra paintings based on animals and birds are lighter in pathos, and their purpose is mainly depiction of nature. These paintings are soothing to eyes and soft in their implication. Such paintings are perfect for cottage style homes, coastal style homes, industrial homes, and country style homes, as they personify leisure and romanticism. Then, there are erotic Pattachitras which are tamasik in nature, exploring the darker side of nature. This art is bold, and finds itself in place in rustic style homes, Tuscan style homes, Moroccan style homes, eclectic style homes, and also indigenous traditional homes.

Besides paintings, Pattachitra is also finding its reaches in many scopes- like statues, artifacts, miscellaneous products such as pots, bookmarks, trinkets, accessories, etc, wall art, and more.

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The village that makes exquisite Pattachitra paintings – By Premjit Mohapatra

Orissa’s villages are the centres of the famous Pattachitra paintings which have blossomed and flourished around the religious centers of Puri, Konark and Bhubaneswar. The most skillful exponents of this living art form producing the most exquisitely designed pattachitras are found in Raghurajpur,a small village in Puri district. This idyllic village dotted with mango, coconut and jackfruits trees and other tropical trees; nestled on the southern banks of river Bhargabi is considered a haven of Pattachitra.

As you enter the villages you see houses arranged in two neat rows, facing each other on either side of narrow lanes. At the centre, runs a line of small temples and total wooden interiors and traditional decors tell us that each house is an artist’s studio. This is also the only village in India, where each family is engaged in one craft or the other–patta painting, wooden toys, tusser silk paintings, stone carvings, etc. Art and Crafts is integral to the people living of this village with the socio-cultural and economic lives centred around it. The knowledge of the craft and drawing skills is passed on from the one generation to another in the traditional Guru- Shishya Parampara (Teacher and student tradition), and has few Padma Bhushan or a Padma Shree awardees among them.

Another branch of the art tradition of Pattachitra that the village is renowned for is Talapatachitra. Talapatachitra (tala – palm, patra – leaf, chitra – illustration) consists of inscribing letters and painting artistic designs on palm-leaf. For palm leaf pattachitra leaves are from tree and dried. They are then cut into standard sizes and held together with two wooden plank covers stringed through a hole in the center. After needle-sharp fine drawings are carefully etched and cut out, they are delicately strung together with thread. Stories of gods and goddesses besides great mythological epics are depicted with minute details in a fascinating way. The talapatachitra paintings also include natural sceneries, local legends and folklore.

Pattachitra painting has a rich heritage and Raghurajpur has been recognized as India’s first heritage crafts village. Pattachitra paintings have found global recognition and captured the imagination of artists and art lovers worldwide.

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