Know Your Handicrafts- Pattachitra






Pattachithra is a Sanskrit word, from the words, ?patta? meaning cloth and ?Chithra? meaning pictures. The artists were traditionally called Chithrakars.

Stylistically, the Pattachithra resembles the old murals of that region, which date back to 5th century BC. The folk paintings of Orissa have flourished around the great religious centers of Puri, Konarak and Bhubaneswar. The best work is found in and around Puri, especially in the village of Raghurajpur. Pattachitra is a traditional craft, where the artisans delicately paint on primed cloth or ‘patta’ in the finest detail. The ‘chitrakars’ (artists) prepare, what looks like a hard card paper using layers of old Dhoti cloth and sticking them together with a mixture of chalk and tamarind seed gum, which gives the surface a smooth leathery finish, especially after it is rubbed with a conch shell. The theme is sketched with a pencil, then outlined with a fine brush using vivid earth and stone colours obtained from natural sources, like the white pigment prepared from conch shells, yellow from orpiment, red from cinnabar and black from lamp soot. After completion, the painting is held over red hot charcoals and lac mixed with resin powder is sprinkled over the surface. When this melts, it is rubbed over the entire surface to give a coating of lac. A recent modification in Pattachitra paintings is the division of the Patta into a row full of squares with the high-point of the story in the larger centre square and various events portrayed in the other squares. Themes usually depict the Jagannath temple with its three deities – Lord Jagannath, his brother Balabhadra and sister Subhadra and the famous Rath Yatra festival. These paintings were originally substitutes for worship on days when the temple doors were shut for the ‘ritual bath’ of the deity. Many Pattachitra paintings are from the ancient Indian texts based on Vishnu and Krishna. The paintings are of various shapes and sizes.

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