Pattachitra Paintings: Folklores of Odisha, frozen in time

Did you know that white colour in a Pattachitra Painting is made from crushed Sea Shells?

How did "Pattachitra" start?

Pattachitra = Patta (cloth) + Chitra (painting).

Pattachitra - a Sanskrit word, for the style of Hand Painting that originated in Orissa in 12 century B.C.,  i.e. more than 3000 years ago. It started when Painters of Orissa, or Oriya Painters, started making Chitra on a Patta as religious offering to Temples. These paintings showed religious stories and life events of deities and people from that period.


Raghurajpur in Puri Odisha

Raghurajpur in Puri Odisha
Location of Raghurajpur village in Puri, Orissa

What do Pattachitra paintings show?

Pattachitra Folk Art is inspired by Lord Jagannath. 

Pattachitra of Lord Jagannath, Balbhadra, and Subhadra
of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra

Originally, they depicted the tales of Lord Jagannath and his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra. They also showed tales of Navagrahas and scenes from their lives. Even today, these paintings depict the folklores in same way as they were depicted centuries ago, unperturbed and uninfluenced by time.

Pattachitra art of today, while preserving the traditional style and motifs, shows tales of Radha and Krishna, Lord Ganesha, and scenes from Krishna's Leela.

What is unique about them?

- Historically made only by Male Oriya Artists, now some women Artists are also recognised for their beautiful work.
    - Paintings narrate the stories using colours for Ornamentation and Details.

      - Mohapatras from Raghurajpur village in Puri are considered the Master Artists of Pattachitra.

        A Pattachitra Artist teaches his unique style only to his son, but some secrets are not revealed even to him.

        - Raghunath Mohapatra is among the most renowned of Pattachitra master artists, and recipient of India's highest honours.

        Pattachitra Artist Debasis Sahu with his Painting

        Pattachitra Artist Debasis Sahu with his Painting of Lord Ganesha.

        These Paintings have been drawn on walls of Udayagiri caves and the famous Sun temple of Konark.

        How are they made?

        From canvas to colours, everything is prepared by hands of craftsman.

        Original and Authentic Pattachitra paintings are made with colours from vegetables or minerals. For example, white colour is made from chalk power, and grounded sea shells.

        Old cotton sarees or papers are gessoed with a suspension prepared with tamarind water or wood gum, using traditional techniques.

        Synthetic glue is not used, as it changes  the pigment of natural colours over time.

        Traditionally, specific colours are used to represent specific personas. Like, only Blue or Black is used to represent Lord Krishna.

         Artist Srinivas Mahapatra walk us through the process of making a Pattachitra.
        Courtesy: DSource


        Is Pattachitra Painting relevant even today ?

        Pattachitra is a traditional style of Painting that is of immense historical significance to India. It primarily showed rituals and religious belies of Vaishnava sect.

        Today, same style of painting is used to create Art works for Home Decor.  These include Paintings, Bookmarks, Wall and Door Hangings, Bags, and even Artsy Earrings, and Umbrellas. 

        pattachitra painted shell

        Image by Prasanta Sahoo from Pixabay


        These days,  Tussar Silk Saree handprinted by a Pattachitra Artist is a fad.

        1 comment

        • Nibedita Mohanty

          I am actually looking for artist for my business who can do Pattachitra and other designs on Saree, dupatta, blouses, kurta, kurti and other home accessories.

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