26 March 2010

Patta Chitra....an ancient illustrative Indian art form!!!!

If you have seen a Patta chitra work, you will realise how miniature & artistic the work is but only if you look at it closely. This is exactly what happened while visiting a fair in the city recently, where I spent a considerable amount of time viewing the work & got talking with the artist. Although at first glance, they seem quite ordinary, the intricacy of the work can only be noticed on closer inspection & shows the dedication & time that has gone into making it!!!

The Paintings & illustrations done on palm leaf, is an ancient art form practiced in many parts of India & is known by different names, Patta Chitra in Orissa & Olaichuvadi in Tamil Nadu. These have originated from the ancient method of communication, i.e writing on palm leaves at a time when paper was not invented. Gradually these illustrations developed into an art form itself.

The technique of Patta Chitra (Patta: wood, Chitra: drawing) involves sewing together rows of palm leaves which are folded in such a way as to make a pile. The paintings are then etched out on the palm leaf, using a sharp object on its surface. Ink mixed with turmeric & oil is then poured along the lines, thereby defining them. Although these paintings are mostly dichromatic (black & white), often different colours made of vegetable dyes are also used for a more colourful effect .

The images drawn, mostly reflect Hindu mythological themes i.e scenes from the Mahabharatha & Ramayana & images of Gods & Godesses. In Orissa, Lord Jagannath's image & in Tamil Nadu, Lord Vishnu's image is commonly used.

Orissa has a small village named Raghurajpur, also known as the artistic village which is famous for its traditional artisans who diligently follow the time honoured method of creating these pattachitra paintings on different media including cloth, & adapting it to contemporary styles thus keeping the art form very much alive. It is this dedication & devotion which makes the art form unique & one which cannot be replicated in any other part of the world!!!

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