Wednesday, February 6, 2008


Patachitra, or painting on cloth, represents the vibrant folk art of Orissa. This art form has been extremely popular since the very ancient past. The best work is found in and around Puri, especially in the village s of Raghurajpur and Dandasahi. However, when temples were erected in other places in the state of Orissa, the artists spread in other areas also, like- Bolangir, Sambalpur, and Ganjam.

Distinctive features of the Patachitras
Bold lines and brilliant play of colors is what differentiates this hereditary art form from other styles of painting.

The vibrant themes are provided by religious and mythological stories from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagavata Gita. The painters articulate the pictures of Radha- Krishna, Shakti, Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra with immense bhakti. Figures like a dancing girl or mother and child also formed popular themes. Lord krishna seems to form an inexhaustible supply of themes to the painter for eg.- Krishna dancing with gopis and Krishna playing various pranks on his playmates ,popular legends about Radha and Krishna, set in a riot of exhilarating colours.

Colors used
For the background, red, orange, yellow is used; lapis lazuli for the sky, trees are represented by dark green and parrot green is used for grass. This visually vibrant background is then used to display the blue figure of Krishna. Whereas, silver pink purple, wheat and brown and a whole gamut of shades are used to portray Krishna’s playmates. These figures are then touched off by gold and silver brushing.

The preparation of Patachitra canvas
This is initiated by preparing a double coarse white cloth pasted together with an adhesive made in tamarind seeds. To provide a sticky consistency, the tamarind seed powder is soaked in water overnight and then boiled to give a stiffer feel to the canvas. Sometimes, rice powder is also added.

The next step is application of a coat of tamarind on both the sides of the cloth, which is then left to dry. This is followed by the application of a coat of soap stone powder mixed with tamarind paste. Final step is the polishing of canvas by rubbing coarse grain and polished stones.

Once the canvas is ready, the next step is to mark the border area and outline the central composition. It is followed by painting the background in red, also known as pahili ranga bhara or first coloring. Subsequently, figures are colored and red ornaments and black details are applied. Border decoration is then completed. The central colors used in Patachitra are red, brick red. yellow, white and lamp black.

Pottery forms a very common article on which painting is done. For this purpose,. a mixture of clay and powder from a stone rich in iron oxide is used. Another method is to incise and cut a pattern on the raw pottery using comb - like and knife like tools.

On the completion of the painting, a protective lacquer glaze 'jausala' is finally applied. However, earlier resin powder was sprinkled on the pata on which a bag of hot sand was put. This technique has now become outdated, as nowadays most of the artists apply synthetic varnish, thereby giving a brownish tint to the Patachitras.

Basic materials required: Cloth, tamarind seeds, mixture of chalk and gum, brush

Colors: Earthen colors, stone colors

Brushes/tools: comb-like and knife-like tools

Various kinds of brushes are used. An interesting feature is that painters do not use the squirrel hairbrushes but the fine brushes made from the hairs of a mongoose or rat, or the coarser brushes made from the hair of a buffalo neck. Kiya plants were also used in the past to draw thick lines.

Importance of Patachitras
Patachitras play an important role in the temples of Orissa. Painted wooden images of jagganath, balabhadra and subhadra are ritually given the holy bath. This forms an important annual ritual. The images are thus, discolored; hence they are removed from the garbhagriha for repainting. While repainting is underway, the temple images are substituted for three patachitras representing the divine trio.

Not everyone shares the privilege of painting patachitas, as this honour is bestowed only upon three families,reffered to as hakimas. For this purpose, a cloth measuring 120cmx90cms is used. The entire figure ,with the exception of the eyes ,is completed by the artist. Which is then given to the priest who in turn performs a ritual, 'netrotsva' which induces life to the painting.

Tourists visiting orissa, treasure these patachitras as an important souvenir item. These mementos ,represent the indelible images of the utsava and the central sanctuary of the puri temple. In today's context, the patachitrs have gained immense fame for thier richness of colors are are widely treasured as a collector's item.