Pattachitra is the old and famous form of art which was born in Odisha but admired worldwide. This aesthetic form of art got its name from Sanskrit words ‘Patta’ meaning canvas and ‘Chitra’ meaning picture. These colourful and vibrant paintings made on canvas are based on Hindu mythology and mostly inspired by Jagannath of Puri. The popular themes of these paintings are:Thia Badhia – depiction of Jagannath temple; Krishna Lila – enactment of Jagannath as Lord Krishna displaying his powers as a child; Dasabatara Patti – the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu; Panchamukhi – depiction of Lord Ganesha as a five-headed deity.
This ancient painting method is carried out by washing and drying a piece of cloth. A special gum called niryas kalpa is made by crushing the seeds of tamarind, mixing them with water and heating in an earthen pot, used to stick two cloth of the same size together. Soon after the gum dries, a powder of soft white stone mixed with tamarind seed gum is applied on both sides of the cloth and is set to dry again. After drying, the patta is made smooth by polishing the cloth with a smooth pebble to make it suitable for painting.
Patta painters traditionally known as Chitrakars, generally have their family involved in the making of paintings where the work of preparing canvas is solely done by women and the master hand is mostly of the male member who draws the initial line and gives the final touch.
Colours like white, black, blue, red, yellow and green are majorly used in making pattachitra paintings. These colours are made naturally. The gum of the kaitha tree is used as the base for preparing all colours. Later, natural ingredients are added to the gum to make colours like powder of conch-shell is added to make white, Haritala for yellow, geru (dheu) for red, lamp soot for black and leaves for green. Three brushes are used for painting: broad, medium and fine. They are made of buffalo, calf and the mouse’s hair respectively by attaching them to wooden handles.
Apart from centre theme of Lord Jagannatha, individual pictures of Gods and Goddesses are also painted. The dress style of pattachitra painting mostly has mughal influence with a few well defined postures. These paintings are free from landscapes, perspectives and distant views. The background is mostly painted in red colour and is decorated with flowers and designs.
Pattachitra painting has developed with the introduction of painting on palm leaf and tussar silk and has captured market with beautiful wall hangings and showpieces. However, this ancient form of art has not lost its charm by keeping alive the use of natural colours and their customary themes.