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Pattachitra Paintings: Folktales Of Orissa Preserved In Art

Pattachitra art

Being a type of folk art since its origin, Pattachitra paintings go beyond the art of storytelling. Their significance continues in the world of cultural expression, which draws on existing traditions and beliefs while incorporating different perspectives. Native to Orissa and West Bengal, the ‘Pattachitra‘ is one of the crucial art forms that depict the essence and heritage of Indian Mythology. 

In Sanskrit, ‘Patta‘ means cloth, and ‘Chitra’ refers to a picture. Puri, the sacred place of Lord Jagannath, is where the Pattachitra art originated. Beliefs go that the Mohapatras, a local community in Orissa, developed this art form. Raghunath Mohapatra is one of the renowned masters of Patta Chitrakars. 

The credit for creating large Patta paintings goes to the artists who travelled from village to village across Orissa, where local rulers assigned them to document their achievements on canvas. These artists master their skills before proceeding to other villages. They painted murals depicting scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata legends on plaster walls. It also features images of deities from Hinduism, such as Ganesh, Laxmi & Saraswati, Shiva & Parvati, Lakshmi & Vishnu, etc.

The Uniqueness Of Pattachitra Paintings

The Pattachitra stories have been around in India for hundreds of years. The depiction of mythological themes from Hindu mythology, the use of linear perspective, the use of brilliant colours, animal figures, and components and motifs like clouds and rainbows are some common features that characterise this genre.

For Pattachitra, traditionally, the artists prepare the canvas. The process starts by applying a coating of white stone powder and gum along with tamarind seeds on fine cotton cloth and leaving to dry for some time. This art style is unique from other artworks in the use of colour, as warm palettes mostly dominate it. Also, artists master their strokes with hand-mulled paints with mineral pigments, like chalk white, Indian yellow, red lead, indigo, or charcoal-based black.

 The Inception Of Pattachitra

The art form has its roots in Orissa and has its first records mentioned in the Vedas. The earliest depictions of gods and goddesses in the caves of Bhimbetka, Madhya Pradesh, make it relevant. Pattachitra paintings have a captivating beauty as the folks place great significance on decorative arts. The Maratha Confederacy’s rule of the Mughal Empire in the Orissa region finally gave rise to their growth and development, despite the patronage of Hindu deities and a reflection of the fusion of Eastern and Western creative forms, contributing to their popularity.

Patterns began emerging in the composition, representation, and scene selection used by the artisans.  They created original replicas over time, which they used as a model for their own work. At the turn of the 19th century, the expansion of the British and other European countries in the region influenced the subject matter and trade practices of Chitrakars. Engravers started modifying their compositions to include secular themes such as mythological characters from the Bible to appeal their chiefly Christian clientele at the indifferent attitude towards religious paintings.

The Basic of Pattachitra Paintings

The subjects of Pattachitras focus on religious and mythological folk themes that predominantly include tales of Krishna Leela, Lord Jagannatha, and visuals of Indian God and Goddesses. Pattachitra is a classic form of art that comes with a set of rules and restrictions, like:

  • A mandatory floral border
  • The subject has to be a part of Indian mythology
  • Strict usage of single-tone colours
  • Well-defined figures and postures
  • Bold, clean and sharp lines
  • No landscapes, perspectives, or distant views
  • Incidents have to be shown in close relations

Are Patta Paintings Famous In The 21st Century?

Pattachitra Art has witnessed a praiseworthy transition with the progression of time. Initially, it was exclusive to clothing, but as we all know, times have evolved in the 21st century, and art forms are no exception. They paint these paintings on wooden boxes, bowls, kettles, sarees made of tussar silk, purses, and other decorative items. In recent times, Pattachitras is a classic amalgamation of folk and classical elements. 

Image credit: Hands On Studios

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