THE ENCHANTING PATTACHITRA PAINTINGS ￼ PATTACHITRA OR PATTA (CLOTH) + CHITRA (PAINTING) is the traditional art form of painting on a special cotton canvas which has its origins in Odisha. Since it hails from the land of Lord Jagannath, the major art inspiration is the cult of Shri Jagannath and the temple traditions of Puri. While it appears simple and rustic, the paintings require a lot of hard work and patience to make. Depending on the size and subject, each painting can take up to months to complete. It requires dedicated and skilled craftsmanship, something that THE CHITRAKARS (the term given to Pattachitra painters) have mastered.
￼Pattachitra paintings are vibrant, colorful, and very eye-catching. They are a comprehensive depiction of the Hindu mythology, religion, and culture, thereby playing a very important part in preserving our rich heritage. The art, however, has evolved with time and is no longer just restricted to paintings. There are handicrafts designed with these paintings such as bags, pots, stoles and even sarees.
ORIGIN AND HISTORY
Pattachitra originated some 3000 years ago in the twelfth century BC. Oriya painters used to paint and give Chitras as offerings in the temples. These paintings depicted the deities, architecture, and life of people in that period. The painters were called MAHARANAS OR MOHPATRAS too. The art form was majorly patronized by Vaisnavas and Jagannath's. Lord Jagannath was the main subject of many popular Pattachitra paintings. Tales of other Hindu gods such as Krishna, Vishnu, Shiva, Hanuman, and Hindu goddesses such as Radha, Parvati and Sita were also commonly painted.
Some of the most popular themes for these paintings are The Badhia (a depiction of the temple of Jagannath), Krishna Lila (an enactment of Jagannath as Lord Krishna displaying his powers as a child), Dasabatara Patti (the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu); and Panchamukhi (a depiction of Lord Ganesh as a five-headed deity).
Every year during the time of Debasnana Purnima in Puri Jagannath Temple, the deities are believed to take a bath with 108 pots of cold water to fight the heat of summer. Afterward, the deities supposedly fall sick for a period of 15 days known as ‘Anasara.’ Now since the deities’ are absent from public view, some of the finest Chitrakars are summoned to make three Pattachitra paintings of the three deities — namely Lord Jagannath, Goddess Subhadra, and Lord Balabhadra — for the public to pay obeisance. These paintings are called Anasar Patti.
Pattachitra paintings combine elements of classical and folk styles both. The canvas is prepared traditionally and begins with a fine gauze-like cotton cloth being coated with white stone powder and gum made out of tamarind seeds. This prepares the canvas so that it can easily accept the paint, made from natural colors. These colors are one of the most distinguished features of Pattachitra. The gum of the kaitha tree is the base ingredient and different colors are created by adding pigments of available raw materials. For instance, the shade of white is created by using powdered conch shells.
The art form has its own special set of rules and restrictions. A floral border is a must around the paintings, and so is the use of natural colors. This creates a unique look and feel that is typical to Pattachitra and cannot be replicated. All of the poses of the figures are restricted to a few well-defined postures. The lines are kept bold, sharp and clean. You are not likely to witness landscapes or perspectives or distant views. All the incidents are seen in close juxtaposition. These paintings are meant to be executed primarily in profile with elongated eyes, as well. Since such prominent solid shades are used, one can see even the starkest emotional expressions in greater detail. Finally, when the painting is complete, the canvas is held over a charcoal fire and lacquer is applied to the surface.
THE MOHAPATRAS OR MAHARANAS
The majority of Chitrakars hail from a small village of Odisha called Raghurajpur. An interesting fact about this village is that it happens to be the only village in India where an entire family is involved in some form of crafts be it patta painting, wooden toys or stone carvings, etc., isn't that fascinating?
Although historically, only male artists could make Pattachitras, now a lot of female artists are getting due recognition for their work. A Pattachitra artist passes on his skills to his son but some secrets are not revealed even to him.
Apart from Odisha, this art form is also practiced majorly in parts of West Bengal; the only difference being that instead of cotton, Silk fabric is used in the paintings.
This precious art form has been kept alive not just through paintings, but also various handicrafts, home decor items such as wall hangings, lampshades, trays, showpieces, even key chains. They also get translated on Tussar sarees hence bringing forth the innovativeness to suit the demands of current times.