The Indian art and culture has a rich heritage. Every Indian identifies with this creative legacy. Belonging to the state of Odisha, Pattachitra is one such string from the Indian ancient painting tradition. The style is immensely elegant to say the least. The word Pattachitra is derived from two Sanskrit words, ‘Patta’ meaning canvas or cloth and ‘Chitra’ meaning painting. The artists are highly skilled in this art form and are known as ‘chitrakars.’
One of the oldest art forms of Odisha, Pattachitra mainly depicts the characters and tales from the Hindu mythology. Lord Krishna, Lord Jagannath, Lord Krishna-Radha, Lord Shiva & Goddess Paravati, Lord Nataraja, Kanchi Abhiyan, and Tribal Life are the chief inspirations for these paintings. Rich colorful application combined with imaginative ornamentation and designs form the basis of this art form. The Pattachitra tradition still exists in traditional Oriya cities, like Puri, Raghurajpur, and Chikiti.
The Pattachitra paintings are done with very fine detailing. They beautifully reflect the folk as well as the traditional elements. The art form employs the natural mediums. Things from the surroundings are used to make the paintings. Only natural colors derived from vegetables, earth, and stones are used. Yellow, red, black and white are the 4 key colors on a chitrakar’s pellet. One of the most distinguishable features of these paintings is the red border. Even the brushes used are made from the fur of domestic animals. The furs are tied at the end of a small sized bamboo stick.
The traditional Patta paintings were done on small strips of cotton cloth. To prepare the canvas, a mixture of chalk and gum of tamarind seeds is spread on the cloth. This gives a shiny leather-like finish to the cloth, which is then rubbed with two different stones. Finally the cloth turned canvass is left to dry. Once ready, the expert chitrakars directly use a painting brush to draw on the Pattas. Coloring follows drawing. To further enhance the shine and protect the paintings for long, fine lacquer is applied on the surface. All this while, the painting’s back is exposed to the fire. Tussar silk is another preferred canvass after cotton. With time, the shape and size of the canvas have also become varied.
A variation of Pattachitra canvas is the palm leaf. These Pattachitras are known as Tala Pattachitra. Paintings are drawn and colored on the palm leaves, which are sewn together to form the canvas. In the present times, Tala Pattachitras are stuck on handmade papers to prevent the art pieces from being damaged.