Pattachitra – Painting Pretty Pictures

Pattachitra is a special form of painting done in Odisha. Patta can be translated as canvas, and chitra means painting. So Pattachitras are paintings done on canvas. But you don’t get these canvases in art stores. They have to be specially prepared by hand, and the process takes a lot of time.

The colours have also to be hand-made. Only 100% natural dyes are used. The base for the paints is the gum of the Kaitha tree. Different things are added to get different colours. Powdered conch shells are used to make white, lamp soot gives black, a stone called harikala is powdered to make yellow, and so on. The root of the Keya plant is used as a brush.

Once the canvas and the paints are ready, the artists can begin painting. Pattachitras follow a distinctive pattern. They all have borders with flowers. The themes of the paintings are also usually taken from Hindu mythology. Lord Jagganath, the favourite deity of Odiyas, is a popular subject and so are tales of Lord Krishna’s childhood. The technique is also unique. Artists don’t blend colours or shade their paintings, the colours are used in a single tone.

It takes between a week and a month to complete a pattachitra. The whole family is involved in the process. Women help prepare the canvas and fill out the borders of the paintings. The main painting is usually done by men, though some women and girls do take on that task now.

Although all the main traditions are still maintained, some changes have taken place. Artists sometimes paint on tussar silk and palm leaves.

Raghurajapur is a village that is world famous for Pattachitra paintings, but artists all over the State practice it.

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