Patachitra from Orissa

Patachitra from Orissa

Last week I discussed the palm leaf engravings from Orissa, with Krishna as the central figure. Today I want to give you, a glimpse of ‘Patachitra’ from Orissa. This is once again in conversation with Mr. Devasish Sahoo, an artist. With Krishnajanmashtami being celebrated next week, Krishna continues to inspire me. As He is the main deity in Orissa as Lord Jagannath, he inspires the artists in Orissa as well. Most of the ‘Patachitras’ are based on Krishna, other Gods and mythological stories. ‘Patachitra’ literally means art on canvas. ‘Pata’ is the canvas and ‘chitra’ means art. This was earlier done only on cotton canvas which is prepared in an elaborate manner. But now, we have the art on Tussar silk as well. The arrangement of the painting is similar to the palm leaf engravings. With elaborate borders, and the main theme at the centre, the space in between is to narrate the entire story of any of the mythological characters. Krishna, Rama, Dashavatara, Ramayana and Mahabharatha are favourite topics. Though there are simpler paintings, I am usually drawn to the elaborate and colourful ones.
Colourful and elaborate Patachitra
Colourful and elaborate Patachitra, with Krishna at the centre.
Preparation of canvas is an astounding process.

Cotton cloth without starch, is used for making canvas. The cloth is dipped in a solution of tamarind seeds and water over 4 to 5 days. It is sundried and laid on the tamarind seeds solution, and ‘kaitha’ or wood apple gum is applied on it. Another processed cloth is overlapped on this and gum paste is applied to stick the layers. It is again sun dried and a paste of chalk powder, tamarind seeds and wood apple gum is applied on both sides and sun dried. OOfff….such a tedious process and we are still not done! After drying this, it has to be rubbed with a stone called ‘khaddar’ several times for smoothening the canvas. After this, another stone, called ‘chikana’ stone is used for rubbing the canvas. This gives it a shine. Thank God…it’s now ready for painting. The canvas feels thick and leathery after the process.

Lord Jagannath with Balram and Subhadra is the main theme. The Dashavataras .
Lord Jagannath with Balram and Subhadra is the main theme. The Dashavataras are also depicted here.
orissa, puri jagannath
The Rathyatra or car festival with all three deities
But the colours!

In urban areas artists like us will just pick some bottles of acrylic paints, but not so in Orissa ‘Patachitras’. They use natural colours from leaves, minerals and stones. Earlier it was difficult for the artists to find these raw materials. But now they are easily available. Mr. Sahoo tells me, colour preparation takes nearly two months. Check out the different colours and their source.

White – The shells from the seaside are powdered, boiled and purified two to three times.
Black – Lamp soot is collected.
Brown – Geru stone is powdered.
Yellow – Hartal stone from Jaipur is powdered and boiled. After the water is removed, the paste is sundried.
Red – Hingulal stone found in Orissa is used.
Blue – A stone in Orissa called Khandneela is used.
Green – Leaves are dried, boiled and the paste is sieved and dried. This is ground with hand with a little water.
These colours are prepared and stored for use. A little quantity is taken and mixed with water and wood apple gum to be used as required.

orissa patachitra
Some details in an elaborate patachitra
More of black is used in this patachitra
More of black is used in this patachitra
Themes for these paintings-

1. ‘Krishna leela’ is a favourite of artists, depicting Krishna’s childhood.

Krishna leela
Krishna leela
2. Dashavatara depicting the ten forms taken by Vishnu.

3. ‘Thia Badhia’ , the representation of the Jagannath temple in Orissa.

4. ‘Rama Ravana Judha’, which is the battle between Rama and Ravana in Ramayana.

5. ‘Kanchi Abhijana’, which is the expedition against the Kingdom of Kanchi. (I have this painting, but did not know the story. But now I know!)

patachitra painting orissa
From my collection-Kanchi Abhiyan, where Lord Jagannath is on a black horse and Lord Balabhadra on a white horse. The milkmaid offers them some refreshment on their way.
6. ‘Kandarpa Leela’ of Krishna. This one is my favourite. ‘Kandarpa’ has two meanings. One is ‘Kama’, the god of love( that’s Cupid for you) and it also means amazing. These paintings portray Krishna with the gopikas in different formations. They are so under the spell of Krishna’s love, that they are entangled and aligned in different postures around him.There are four leelas here. The Kandarpa Hasti (elephant), Kandarpa Ashva (horse), Kandarpa Ratha (chariot) and Kandarpa Nouka (boat). I did not find the Kandarpa Ashva and Nouka but have the other two..yippee!!
kandapra is amazing and cupid
Kandarpa Leela of Krishna- Kandarpa Rath and Kandarpa Hasti on tussar silk

I think I am in love again…with these ‘Patachitras’. Don’t you just love them??

Twinkles to you. Have a great week.

PS- Mr. Sahoo’s contact details have been shared in the earlier post.