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Odisha's Traditional Painting, The Tales of Pattachitra

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

Pattachitra is an ancient form of art from Odisha that draws inspiration from Hindu mythology. The name refers to cloth-based scroll painting and is derived from the Sanskrit words "patta" for cloth and "chitra" for picture. The majority of artworks are inspired by Lord Jagannath and depict Hindu mythology. It is one of Odisha's oldest artistic traditions.

Pattachitra is a beautiful traditional painting from Odisha, India. The Paintings only use natural colours. Pattachitra artists are currently evolving with different designs and topics. Previously, it was solely done on fabric canvas and was known to reflect Hindu mythology. Previously, this art form was thought to be exclusively practised by men, but as time has passed, women have also learned it and are helping to preserve this priceless history. Pattachitra is a canvas painting that shows the majority of mythological figures by the use of vibrant colour, imaginative patterns and motifs, and simple, attractive themes.


The "Pattachitra" artwork shows ancient murals from Odisha that date to the fifth century BC, particularly those found in the region around the sacred centres of Puri, Konark, and Bhubaneswar. The best of Pattachitra's works may be seen in Raghurajpur, an Odisha village located 55 kilometres from Bhubaneshwar and 10 kilometres from Puri, respectively. In areas like Puri, Raghurajpur, Paralakhemundi, Chikiti, and Sonepur, this ancient tradition of Oriya painting is still practised.

In particular, those discovered in the area of the holy sites of Puri, Konark, and Bhubaneswar, the "Pattachitra" artwork depicts ancient murals from Odisha that date to the fifth century BC. The best examples of Pattachitra's creations may be found in Raghurajpur, an Odisha village that is situated 55 and 10 kilometres from Puri and Bhubaneshwar, respectively. This age-old practise of Oriya painting is still carried out in places like Puri, Raghurajpur, Paralakhemundi, Chikiti, and Sonepur.


The triad and the great worship have always been the central themes of the pattas because the pattachitra originated in the Jagannath temple. Lord Jagannath is portrayed as Maha Vishnu, and the worship style is primarily influenced by vaisnavite tradition. This explains why Lord Jagannath and other mystical tales from the Ramayan and Mahabharat serve as the primary inspiration for the majority of traditional Patta chitra themes.


On tiny strips of cotton fabric, patta paintings are created. Paintings were once done on cotton canvas, however these days both cotton and silk canvas are used. The cotton fabric is coated with a mixture of chalk and gum derived from tamarind seeds to create a canvas for painting. After that, two separate stones are used to rub it. Next, the cloth is dried. After the canvas has been polished, the chikana stone is used to polish the fabric. The canvas is then smoothed by repeatedly rubbing it with khaddar stone. The canvas is then painted by the Chitrakaar (artist) using natural and stone hues. Light red or yellow paint is used to paint the last lines directly with the brush. female team members make the adhesive, the canvas with colours, or the "fill-in," and then apply a final lacquer layer to make the painting glossy and weatherproof. The initial line is drawn by the master hand, who is typically a male member, and the finishing touches are applied. Finally, a fine lacquer is put to the painting's surface.


Bright colors, usually white, red, yellow, blue, green, and black, are used. Red is primarily used as the background colour. These colours are made from organic sources. White is made from powdered conch shell, yellow from a type of stone called Haritala, red from geru (Dheu), black for Hingula is made from burning lamps and coconut shells, and green is made from leaves. In order to fix the colours and keep the painting from deteriorating, kaitha gum is added to the colour mixture. By combining the current primary colours, a multitude of hues can be created, such as pink when red and white are combined. If the colours in the coconut shell begin to dry, water is added to the colour and it can be reused.

These "Chitrakaras" also have their own native brushes that they use, and they are made of domestic animal hair. The brush is made by tying a bundle of hair to the end of a bamboo stick.


The Pattachitra is most known in Odisha, where Lord Jagannath or Vishnu are depicted in the art. The Badhia, Krishna Lila, Dasabatara Patti, and Panchamukhi are the most widely used religious art subjects in Pattachitra. The three deities of the Jagannath Temple, Lord Jagannath, Goddess Subhadra, and Lord Balabhadra, bathe in 108 pots of ice-cold water to ward off the summer heat each year on the auspicious event of Debasnana Purnima in Puri. Then, for 15 days, the gods experience "Anasara," a sickness. The best Chitrakars are gathered to create three Pattachitra paintings of Lord Jagannath, Goddess Subhadra, and Lord Balabhadra to worship in place of the idols because the deities are not visible to the general public. "Anasara Patti" is the name of these paintings.


In the modern era, the art form has changed significantly. The Chitrakars displayed their artistic talent by painting on tussar silk and palm leaves. Pattachitra art is now well-known and highly esteemed on a global scale.

The Puri School of Painting, which imparts Pattachitra teachings to future generations, was established by the Indian government in an effort to preserve ancient art.This has led to the beautiful and unique Patta Chitra art form becoming recognised as a distinct art form and capturing the interest of both artists and art enthusiasts. It is used for many different things, including worship, wall hangings and gifts, book marks, greeting cards, and other things.

Pic Courtesy Internet.

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