Pattachitra is derived from the Sanskrit words, ‘patta’ meaning cloth and ‘chitra’ meaning a picture. Hence, the art of Pattachitra is a form of painting done on cloth. Pattachitra originates from Odisha, the land of the famous temples of Puri, Konark and Bhubaneswar. The Pattachitra are paintings inspired by the believers of the Jagannath and Vaishnava sect.
WHAT TO SEE
Traces of the paintings can be traced from after the time of the building of temples in Puri, Konark and Bhubaneswar. In all possibility, the origins of Pattachitra do not go beyond the building of the Jagannath Temple in Puri and the paints inside the temple affirm this supposition. Even till date, the best of the paintings are found in areas and villages around Puri. Raghurajpur is one of the most popular heritage villages in Odisha known for the involvement of the entire village in the preservation and practice of this form of painting.
The Pattachitra paintings have a singular theme of worshipping deities and Gods. The paintings revolve around the Lord Jagannath and the Vaishnava sect and are based on religious stories, mythological legends and folklore. Besides, the individual paintings of the different Gods and Goddesses the themes of Pattachitra include the depiction of stories and activities of the ten reincarnations of Vishnu, Radha and Krishna, Ramayana, Mahabharata and more.
Pattachitra involves first preparing the base cloth before starting to paint. The Pattachitra painters have always been called the ‘chitrakars’ and the cloth is traditionally prepared by the women of the house using tamarind paste and a powder from soft clay. The cloth is then polished with stone or wood to make the surface smooth and leathery.
The paints are prepared from natural elements and dyes, such as gum of the kaitha tree, powdered shells, lamp soot, root of plants and so on. The paint brushes are made from buffalo hair for thick brushes and with rat or squirrel hair for thinner ones.
The Pattachitra style has a distinguished border design on all its paintings which are usually inspired by temple motifs and sculptures in Odisha. One of the most popular border designs is that of entwined snakes also seen on the doorway of the Konark Temple.
The faces on the paintings usually have long noses, elongated eyes and outstanding chins. They are differentiated from each other through their hairstyles, dresses and colors and the focus is on their expressions and emotions.
Palm Leaf Pattachitra
Besides painting on cloth, the chitrakars also painted on palm leaves and this form of art is also referred to as Tal Pattachitra . The palm leaves are dried and made hard and then sewn together to form a canvas.
Pattachitra painting designs are today used as brilliant prints on sarees and other clothing, as well as on wood carvings, souvenirs and so on. However, they still remain to be of great devotional value to the people of Odisha, especially those around Puri. The local artist paint pictures of their deities that are revered during the religious period of Anasar. Similarly, pilgrims visiting the Jagannath Temple are sold a Yatri Patta as a souvenir.
Pattichitra paintings are essentially not influenced much by another painting forms or by the Mughal art forms. Though it has gained global recognition it still remains devoted and flourishes around its inspirations, which are the temples of Odisha.