Knots of IdentityLocation - Rajkot
As I travel to Orissa, in search of the story and the people behind the famed Pattachitra paintings, I had to make a quick stop at the temple in Puri dedicated to Lord Jagannath: the inspiration behind the Pattachitra work
A couple of kilometres from Puri, lies the artisan village of Raghurajpur: home to the Pattachitra work. This artisan village is designed such, that the houses form two parallel lines with the temples dividing the road in the middle.
All the 120 homes practise the art of Pattachitra; it is their main source of livelihood. The artwork proudly adorns the walls of most homes in the village of Raghurajpur.
The village is filled with kids peering over elders going abouttheir work, families deeply engrossed in their daily wok, and veterans such as Guru Banamali Mohapatra. Mohaptra is a National Award Winner (1981), and has been practising the art of Pattachitra for more than 50 years, or for 'as long as I can remember' he says.
Pattachitra paintings are usually depictions of the lives of the local deities, especially that of Lord Jagannath, an incarnation of Lord Krishna. The life of Krishna-Radha as well as of Lord Ganesh are also popular themes. Apart from in paintings, it is common to find idols of these deities as well in the homes.
Artisan Biswanath Swain stands outside his home which also doubles up as a workplace as his wife admonishes him from inside their home for posing in his typical work clothes.
Old vests stained with paint are often reused as rag cloths to clean paints off the paintbrush. Even so, the ragbloths land up looking like beautiful art themselves.
Seven-year-old Akhileshwar is the son of artisan Krushna Chandra Swain. He is currently studying in a nearby school but he will be taught this artwork once he is 10 years of age, his father assured me. The pride in their work, boh for the father and the son were palpable as they showed off the work
On a bright day, on his very own rooftop, artisan Kirtan Das prepares the canvas used for the artwork.
The first step is to layer three old cotton saris on a piece of plywood using a paste made out of ground tamarind seeds and water. This is done early in the morning so that the canvas can dry by noon in the sun.
Several such glued saree stacks can be seen lying around having dried out in the season, waiting for the next steop of prep work.
The 'gum' paste made from ground tamarind seeds and water is used to layer the old cotton saris, which then forms the basis of the canvas used in Pattachitra.
Achalk paste made from a mixture of crushed stone and water is applied to the canvas and lends it a leathery finish. This is the base of the final artwork, and the blank canvas for the artists to operate open
After applying two layers of the chalk paste, a stone is used to polish the canvas to make sure it is flat and smoothened evenly to start with the paint work
Most artisans prefer sitting by the door of their homes, where plenty of natural light helps them work better.
Line drawings and paintings on the walls both inside and outside the house, and having various artifacts at home covered in the art form is a regular feature of the homes in Raghurajpur
Fine lines and intricate curves mark the style of this artwork. Lines were drawn roughly with the paper held in the hand, as opposed to the present technique of fine lines formed with the help of a ruler with the paper placed on a low desk or the floor.
Vivid colours are traditionally used in Pattachitra paintings. While 4 or 5 colours were commonly used in initial artworks, now the basic five colours are mixed to create a palette of more than 120!
The traditional style of Pattachitra paintings primarily used the colours of red, yellow, black and white
The colours now tend to incorporate more shades of blues and greys along with black and white.
The yellow colour used in Pattachitra is obtained from a local stone said to be so poisonous that I was a warned 'a touch on your lips will kill you'.
The bowls in which the paints are mixed are not commercial plastic containers but made out of coconut shells. As far as possible, the elements used in the preparation of the art form seem to be as close to natue.
The Pattachitra style of painting is now also seen on decorative items sculpted out of wood, coconut shells and betel nuts.
A local artisan said that it was a suggestion of a foreigner who visited the village back in the 1950s that prompted them to create such pieces to sell to tourists.
Sumitra Swain paints betel nuts in the Pattachitra style, which can be used as a decorative item in one's home, or even 'hung as Christmas ornaments', her husband suggested.
An artisan's home is where they live, work as well as showcase their products. The lady of this home came to the door with the hope I would purchase some of her creations.
The art can be seen across various artifacts and surfaces at the artisans home, in the hope that they become the part of someone elses home soon someday
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