An artist’s life fills with gratitude by the moments he spends labouring over his art. The spirituality seeps into his being and his everyday life. India is a land of spirituality. For centuries, people in India have been worshipping the gods and goddesses through the practice of Indian art forms. Through this worship, the gods were asked to take care of the life of the devotees. Most traditional art forms in India have this one beautiful dimension – art is not a practice to please oneself but to please the gods.
About 15 Km away from Puri in Odisha is Raghurajpura, a village of artists. A quiet village that echoes with the silence of artists at work.
Raghurajpura village is full of artists, where they use their homes to conduct workshops. Hence, you will find every home in Raghurajpura looks like a studio. An array of colours pleasantly surprises you as you enter the village.
They paint the walls of their houses with mythological themes infused with tribal art. The main source of energy and inspiration behind these paintings are the triad deities of Puri – Lord Jagannath, Balabadra and Sulabadra. The large beautiful eyes of the deities capture the viewer; sometimes demons also adorn the walls.
The intricate lines in these paintings have a spiritual essence to them. The artists practice them, again and again, to perfectly render them and to bring a spiritual quality to them.
Pattachitra: An Indian Art Form
Pattachitra in Sanskrit means a ‘picture painted on a piece of cloth.’ This form of Indian art is closely related to the cult of Shri Jagannath and the temple traditions in Puri. People believe that this art form originated in the 12th century. Today, it is one of the most popular living art forms practised in Raghurajpur.
The artists who practise this style of painting are called ‘Chitrakars’. They follow a traditional method for preparing the canvas. They coat a fine cotton cloth that has a loose open weave with white stone powder and gum made from tamarind seeds. The canvas becomes ready to accept the paint after this. The artists use the gum of the ‘Kaitha’ tree as the main component in making different pigments. They add this gum to available raw materials. For example, to make a shade of white, the artists mix powdered conch shells with gum and then use them.
The people of Jagnnath Puri believe that the gods take a bath with 108 pots of cold water to fight the heat of summer during Debasnana Purnima in Puri Jagannath Temple. Afterwards, they fall sick for a period of 15 days, which is known as ‘Anasara.’ In the absence of the Gods, some of the finest Chitrakars are called upon to make three Pattachitra paintings of the three gods – namely Lord Jgannath, Goddess Subhadra, and Lord Balabhadra – for the public to worship. These three paintings are called ‘Anasar Patti.’
Pattachitra is a disciplined form of art which has a set of rules and restrictions. A floral border is a must around the paintings, and so is the use of natural colours. The figures in the paintings are primarily in profile and have elongated eyes. The artists use prominent colours that end up depicting stark emotional expressions with detail. After they complete the painting, they hold the canvas over a charcoal fire and apply lacquer to its surface.
Other Indian Art Forms
Another important art form practised in Raghurajpur is palm-leaf painting. Artists use strips of palm leaves stitched together to paint the fine line drawings. Each drawing is like a tapestry telling a story. Apart from traditional paintings, the artists also produce souvenirs in the form of painted palm leaf bookmarks.
Artisans living in Raghurajpur create several traditional craft forms in their homes like palm leaf engravings, Tussar paintings, colourful masks, wood carvings, papier mache toys, etc.
Over the years the art form has developed and has experienced noticeable changes. The Chitrakars have painted on palm leaves, Tussar silk, and also created wall hangings and showpieces. Because of the uncompromising and rigid methodology of the art, it survives, preserving the effervescence of the aesthetic Pattachitra. This intriguing art form is now known internationally and even art centres have been set up to teach this art form to art enthusiasts.
Raghurajpura is a safe haven for artists, the walls are testimony to their art, their lives and their aspirations. Anyone who visits the place carries back the spirituality, humility and simplicity of life in this village. ‘With patience and hard work one can reach an inner divinity that surpasses everything that is soulless,’ is probably what the art here tries to say.
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