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All you need to know about Pattachitra paintings

by Neha Agarwal on January 16, 2021

Pattachitra paintings or Pattachitra depicts the cloth-based scroll painting of the Indian state of Odisha originally for ritual use and West Bengal which was originally used as a visual device during performance of a song. It is known for its complex details of mythological or folktales narratives on it. Originally, it was made to be used in temples and was seen as an old Bengali narrative art

Pattachitra bears a resemblance to the old murals of Odisha especially the centres of religion in puri where the best work was found, Bhubaneshwar and Konark around the 5th century. A variety of non-religious themes are also used nowadays in Pattachitra paintings unlike the old times.


Pattachitra of Odisha

These paintings of Odisha can be bifurcated into 3 categories if focusing on the medium i.e Patta Chitra, bhitti Chitra and tala Patra Chitra or tala Pattachitra also known as palm leaf engravings in which after taking palm leaves from the trees they are left so that they become hard after which they are sewn together so that it forms a canvas. This is one of the oldest and most famous art forms conceptualized firstly in Odisha which is a mix of both classical and folk elements but bent more towards the folk side and display well-defined postures and often contain repetitions ( which is often necessary to the make the narrative character of the style more noticeable)


Pattachitra of Bengal

Talking about the Bengal Pattachitra, it can be divided into different aspects such as Chal Chitra referring to Durga Chala, artist of which were known as pata lekha, Durga pot or semi-circular Patachitra in which Patachitra of Durga is made in the middle, tribal Patachitra, kali ghat Patachitra and so on. It is a traditional art form of rural Bengal. 


About the artisans and procedure


Artists who create these masterpieces are called “chitrakars” who are such masters in their field that they do not need a pencil which is usually used for initial drawings, they simply skip that part and reflect their expertise by directly using a brush. Mainly icon paintings which were established on Hindu Mythology are seen, some of the most loved was that of Jagannath or Vaishnava sect, Krishna when he used to display his powers as a child called “Krishna Leela”, lord Ganesha’s depiction which was called “Panchamukhi “etc.

They use their own colours instead of opting for factory-made poster colours for eg- the white colour is made from powdering, boiling and filtering conch shells requiring a lot of patience but giving brilliance to the hue. a mineral colour hingula is used for red and so on 

The painting is done by coating the cotton cloth with a mixture of chalk powder and gum extracted from tamarind seeds, finally, the cloth is dried after rubbing the cloth in two different stones. 


Pattachitra as an art form

Much before Amar Chitra Katha, it is believed that Pattachitra art was used in illustrated books from which mothers used to convey stories to their kids. Raghurajpur has gained a status of heritage village as they have maintained this art form from ages, they reflect deep love and passion towards this art. Pattachitra as an art form is distinct from the other art forms as they contain a floral border in which natural colours are used with a single tone.

The entire family of chitrakars are often involved in the process of making this beautiful art form in which women usually prepare glue, the canvas or helps in filling out the floral borders while the master painter is the male in the house who draws the initial painting and gives the final touch to it.

Pattachitra has always remained a unique style of painting as it was never influenced by other schools of Indian painting such as Rajasthan phad painting etc which made way for a puri school of painting where this art is taught.

Pattachitra art has gone through a tremendous transition as it is now being painted on bags, cotton, silk, or georgette sarees, wall hangings etc, However even after this transition the customary depiction of figures or use of colours has remained intact from many generations.

It is also found in household accessories nowadays such as coasters, plates, key chains or boxes and even on stationary etc.

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