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Patta Chittra: A Poetry In Colours- An Exquisite Art Form Of India

If you feel that only the sprawling golden beaches and the monumental temples make
Orissa one of the most beautiful Indian states , then you could be wrong. It is
also the land of one of the most exquisite painting forms - " The Patta Chittra".
The word "Patta" originates from the Sanskrit language which means
"Vashtra/Canvas/Cloth" and "Chittra" stands for "Picture". This art form has the
finest of characterization and is a mélange of mythological themes mostly
comprising stories from the Mahabharata, Ramayana and legends concerning Krishna,
Radha and Lord Jagannath. History reveals that the Patta paintings revolve around
the cult of Lord Jagannath, even being considered to be as old as the construction
of the Jagannath Temple in Puri somewhere during the 12th Century A.D.

These paintings were made by the traditional Chitrakaras (Painters) who used to
observe a strict ritual during their assignment. They had to follow high degree of
austerities (e.g; women were not allowed to touch the painting/s). The Chitrakara
had to be a strict vegetarian during the course of the painting, ought to sleep on
the bare ground and also had to donne a new dhoti (a long yard of cloth for men)
during that period every day. After the painting was completed, a Mahasnana (Grand
Bath) used to be arranged with chanting of mantras (holy chants). Then the
paintings were placed in front of the deity along with other offerings. Later
these paintings were preserved at the store of the temple. The `patta', is an
indigenously-prepared canvas made of old cotton clothing. The brushes are homemade
and are from the buffalo or calf or the mouse hairs. The colours are prepared from
vegetable or mineral extracts. The colours used for these paintings are bright and
primarily white, red, yellow, blue, green and black. The red colour is used
predominently for the back ground.

The uniqueness of this painting lies in its overall finesse and also the intricate
decorative borders drawn on all sides of the central theme to give it a frame like
look.

“Painting is an attempt to come to terms with life.” Raghurajpur, a picturesque


village on the banks of the river Bhargavi, around 12 kilometres from Puri very
well defines this quote. This village is anything but ordinary. Painting is a way
of life here and everyone is an artist practising one or more of nine art forms —
`Patta chitra', `Matha chitra' (painting on tussar silk fabric), Wood carving,
Stone sculpture, Paper masks, Cow dung toys, Coconut painting,`Talapatra chitra'
(painting on palm leaf), and `Ganjappa' or playing cards. But it is definitely
“Patta Chittra' that has brought Raghurajpur, the national and international pride
and honour.

With changing times, Patta Chittra has broken the shackles of austerities and
filtered into every walks of life. I have been following this art form for quite
some time now. It gives me a recluse from idiosyncrasies of life and helps me
find out the much needed sanctity and peace.

Kudos to this divinely elegant craft and hope to see it grow further in leaps and
bounds.