Odisha’s most popular traditional art form ‘Pattachitra‘ continues to live in one of the oldest heritage village – Raghurajpur. A small village on the southern banks of river Bhargavi next to the popular religious Dham Puri, is an amalgamation of rich cultural and traditional centre of creativity. Raghurajpur is often depicted as the village of artisans as their main occupation still continues to be Pattachitra Paintings. Every household in the village has at least one chitrakar (painter) highly skilled in his profession and continues to carry on the legacy of creativity. Pattachitra- traditional art paintings on palm leaves have earned worldwide acknowledgement. Slight transitions with time have led the artists to work on cotton silk cloth, coconut shells, areca nutshells, glass bottles, stones and wood too. The art form of pattachitra has age old cultural and social connotations that adheres to various religious sentiments of the people of the state.
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Design and infrastructure of the small village of Raghurajpur is a dreamy sequence in itself. Houses significantly less in number lined up in single row on either sides of little temples that stood in the middle. A quick stroll through the lanes of Raghurajpur takes you to the world of art and craft in Odisha. Neatly rowed houses with walls adorned beautifully. The colours on the walls varied from pastel to different hues of discernible red, green and yellow. Artisans have made sure to make their works minutely displayed on the walls of their houses. Every house will make you halt and admire the intricacy of colours woven to life. Mist of paintings on the walls speaking loud for the artist’s eye for details will leave you awe struck. Artisans can often be spotted at work on the verandahs and balconies outside their houses.
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Pattachitra style of painting is one of the oldest forms of art in Odisha that dates back to 5BC. Pattachitra is a painting done on canvas and is manifested by rich colorful application, creative motifs and designs, and portrayal of simple themes which are mostly mythological in depiction. The artisans make use of organic raw colors. The gum of kaitha tree is used as a major ingredient that forms the base and other materials are added to bring about different colors like- powdered conch shells for white and lamp soot for black. The artisans are rigid and follow strict rules while creating their art forms which include the use of single tone and restricted patterns. Most paintings bring out emotional significance with colorful motifs. Pattachitra paintings are traditionally done on narrow strips of palm leaves joined together. However, specific transitions and innovations have been witnessed in the art forms with time where chitrakars have started painting on beetle nuts, silk, bottles and clay pots. Pattachitra of the deities made by chitrakars of Raghurajpur is placed in PuriJagannath Temple for the people to pay obeisance during Anasara- trinity deities fall sick for a period of 15days. This has immense cultural significance as these art forms reach out to the emotions and religious sentiments of the devotees.
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Women artisans play a very crucial role in the making of pattachitra. They prepare glue from tamarind seeds and treat the canvas with chalk, limestone and sun dry it. This forms the base for the chitra to be painted. This significantly describes how labor has been systematically divided within the household in the making of pattachitra where every individual is a participant in their own way.
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However, in recent times the indigenous artisans tend to stand at crossroads of financial instability and insecurity. Despite significant efforts from the State Government, the coronavirus pandemic was a big blow to the artisans of Raghurajpur. Addressing various media coverages, they have repeatedly mentioned how lack of economic support may compel them to take up other professions. The distress of artisans needs to be highlighted and the function of various Non governmental organizations working for handicraft sector should be made more robust. Boosting tourism and promoting export can help artisans sustain their age old creativity.
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About Author: Swayamsiddha Singhdeo is a post graduate in Sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her research area of interest lies in Indigenous communities, Environmental Sociology and Cultural Anthropology. She writes on socio economic and cultural aspects of various communities. Here is here Insta Profile
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