Patachitras are known for their bold lines and brilliant play of colors. It is a hereditary art practiced by the family of the painters usually living in the vicinities of the temples.
Initially, Raghurajpur and Dandasahi villages in the district of Puri were the only centers where the practitioners of this art lived but when temples were erected in other places in the state the artists spread in other areas like; Bolangir, Sambalpur, and Ganjam.
The preparation of Patachitra involves a double coarse white cloth pasted together with an adhesive made in tamarind seeds. The tamarind seed powder is soaked in water overnight and then boiled to provide it a gummy consistency. Sometimes, artist adds rice powder to the mixture to give a stiffer feel to the canvas.
It is followed by a coat of tamarind paste, which is applied, on both the sides of the cloth and the cloth is left to dry. On the front face of the dried cloth, a coat of soap stone powder mixed with tamarind paste is applied. Finally, the canvas is burnished by rubbing coarse grain and polished stones.
When the canvas is ready, the artist marks the border area and outlines the central composition.
It is followed, by painting the background in red, also known as pahili ranga bhara or first coloring. In the subsequent stage, the artist colors the figures, applies the red ornaments and black details and completes the border decoration. The central colors used in Patachitra are red, brick red, yellow, white and lamp black. The painter employs the various kinds of brushes.
It is interesting to note that artists of Orissa do not use the squirrel hairbrushes but the fine brushes made from the hairs of a mongoose or rat, or the coarser brushes made from the hair of a buffalo neck. In the past, artists also used kiya plants for drawing thick lines.
When the artist completes the painting, a protective lacquer glaze jausala is provided to the painting. It is interesting to note that in earlier times resin powder was sprinkled on the pata and it was weighed with a bag of hot sand but today mostly the artists apply synthetic varnish, which gives a brown tint to the patachitras.
Patachitas have an important role in the temples of Orissa. Each year, the painted wooden images of Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Shubhadra are ritually given the holy bath. This cleansing leads to the discoloration of the images. Hence, they are removed from the garbha griha for repainting. During this period, the temple images are substituted for three patachitras representing the divine trio.
The privilege of painting the patachitras is given to only three families referred as hakimas. The painter has to adhere to certain rules while painting the patachitras. A new cloth measuring 120 cms by 90 cms is taken for the painting. The artist completes the figures with the exception of the eyes and gives it to the priest who in turn performs a ritual,netrotsva which induces life to the painting.
For tourists visiting Orissa, Patachitras form an important souvenir item. For them, special souvenir mementos representing the utsava image and the central sanctuary of the Puri temple is painted on the patachitras.
Today, the fame of Orissa Patachitras for their brilliant colors, and designs have spread all across the world and they are considered as collector’s item.
Source : Ethnic Paintings
Work In Progress