Life on Leaves Text: sanjeev bhar
Raghurajpur in Odisha is not only a heritage village par excellence that is known for its famous ‘Pattachitra’ (Leaf painting) but also shows how nature and an eco-friendly approach are still very much part of India’s art tradition that is being passed on from one generation to another in a seamless manner.
here are certain creations in life that are best appreciated and given apt denomination when they are made in front of you. Pattachitra is probably one of those myriad mystical art forms that lie hidden in India’s heartland. It is referred to as paintings that are etched on Patta or a dried palm leaf (also Tamra patra in Sanskrit). The history of this art form goes back to 5th Century BC. Raghurajpur is one of the most popular places in the state of Odisha (erstwhile Orissa) that is known to have nurtured this craft. It takes a 40 minute drive i.e. a distance of 14 km from the temple town of Puri to reach this fascinating village in the Puri district on the southern banks of River Bhargabi. It is a noted heritage crafts village, where the community has been formed by skilled artisans. The village is also quite popular because it is the birth place of Late Padma Vibhushan Guru Kelucharan Mahapatra, a doyen of the Indian classical dance form – Odissi. The State Institute for Development of Arts & Crafts, Bhubaneshwar promotes this village to create knowledge about the craft as well as to ensure that this art form survives.
Maga Nayak using his carving tool to create an image on Patta (inset)
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Tussar Silk paintings with images of Indian Gods & Goddesses with a bunch of ‘painted betel nut hang piece’ resting on it
Endearing Images The pictures that come to life through Pattachitra go through a long process. It is an attractive journey for a traveller to witness it at the village itself. A number of small rectangular frames are carved and painted with colours and later joined together piece-by-piece to eventually bring a story to life. The process is extensive and involves a lot of patience and most importantly, a calm mind.The palm leaves are carefully chosen and are soaked in a solution of Neem paste and Turmeric. These leaves are then dried in sunlight for about 8-10 days. These are then cut into equal pieces, which are usually long rectangular strips. For painting, only mineral and earth colours are used. The colours and binding agents that are used in the process are derived from nature. Some examples of basic colours from nature based on pigments are - Red Ochre and Cinnabar (red), Lamp black (black), conch shell (white) and Orpiment (yellow). Once the painting is done, the palm leaf strips are joined with a metallic wire or thread to create a complete canvas. But the process of applying colours comes much later. An artist takes each of these strips and neatly engraves his imagination with a fine carving tool. It is quite interesting to see how an
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