Heritage of Odisha- Pattachitra

 Born in rural Odisha and West Bengal and originating as early as the 12th century, Pattachitra is an art form that is iconic to the cultural heritage of India. Patta in Sanskrit means cloth and Chitra means a painting. Pattachitra is, in literal terms, motifs and pictures painted on a piece of cloth. 

This art form requires natural pigments and when traditionally done, takes up as many as 15 days to even a couple of months depending on the size, motifs selected and intricacy of the paintings. This style of art is usually passed on through generations and the entire family is involved in painting these.

 All that goes into making a Pattachitra- Process:

 To start with, a Pattachitra artist, called a Chitrakara, would need to prepare a Patta. For this, he needs to prepare a tamarind paste called niryas which is done by soaking tamarind seeds in water for a couple of days and then crushing and heating them to make a paste. This paste, when ready is used to hold two pieces of cloth together by being applied in between them. A generous coating of powdered soft clay stone is given about a couple of times to make sure it becomes firm. Once the cloth is dry, one soft stone and one hard stone are used to rub the cloth with to make the cloth a workable canvas.

 As this artform uses natural pigments, then comes the requirement of preparing colours. The gum of the Kaitha tree is a very important ingredient in making colours as this acts as a binding medium. Many naturally found raw materials such as vegetables, minerals, stones, and shells are used. For example, for a white colour, powdered conch shells mixed with the gum are used. Similarly, coconut shells are burned or black from the lamp is used for preparing the black colour.

Once everything is ready to use, the painter then makes a border and outline strokes of the motifs he chose and colours are then filled in.

Themes and cultural heritage:

Pattachitra paintings usually depict mythological scenes and folklore. One very common and traditional theme for this art style is Lord Jagannath and stories/ subjects related to him such as the Badhia or his temple, his incarnations on Earth including the Dasavataras, etc.

There is an annual ritual in Puri Jagannath Temple where during the Debasnana Purnima when the three deities Lord Jagannath, Devi Subhadra, and Lord Balabhadra and given a bath with 108 pots of cold water. They are then believed to fall sick for a brief period of 15 days when they are not available for darshan. During this time, the Chitrakaras are asked to paint three Pattachitra paintings of each of the deities for the public.

Key aspects of Pattachitra Paintings:

Pattachitra paintings, as shown in the image below, often pay tribute to the trio of Lord Jagannath, Devi Subhadra, and Lord Balabhadra.

Borders constitute a very vital part of Pattachitra paintings and almost none of them can be said to be completed without a border. Some even argue that Chitrakaras start their artwork by making a border first. Borders are often floral as can be seen in the following image.

Pattachitra paintings, as in the picture below, not just make use of natural pigments but also often are seen being made in bright and vibrant colours such as blue, red, yellow, orange, green etc.

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