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Juxtaposing the splendor of travel with splashes of art; Colour Journey weaves a motley of narratives to take you on an expedition through the hues of our country. Navigate the plains and plateaus to see a kaleidoscope of crafts comes alive – from scattered work desks to brightly coloured homes.
A grand scenic welcome canopied with lush coconut and palm groves while the fruity fragrance of mango and jackfruit groves drift through the air. Packed into two streets and 120 homes, all splashed with beaming colours and minimal lines, every inch of Raghurajpur, Odisha, is tinted with the love and commitment to Pattachitra.
Each morning the village is in frenzy as children run around rushing to school while everyone else in the family begins preparation for another day with newly prepared canvases. A few houses down the lane, Guru Banamali Mohapatra is engrossed painting a chitra meaning painting on the patta meaning canvas surrounded by coconut shells bursting with colours. For Pattachitra artisans from canvas to colour, everything is a natural element. While the canvas is pasted together with gum paste made of ground tamarind seeds, water and three layers of a cotton saree, palettes are created with crushed natural stones and mixed colours.
National Award Winner (1981) Guru Banamali Mohapatra routinely works on his sit-out with warm sunlight enveloping the workplace as other artisans join in, stacking up freshly prepared canvases and colours and spending all day painting on their verandahs. Work and home flow into each other for artisans in the village, as every member in the family participates in the Pattachitra. Terraces double up as the base for pasting layers of old sarees together, rooms double up as a way to showcase handicrafts and the sit-out is of course the artisan’s favourite place to work.
Characterised by fine details, Pattachitra typically narrates the stories of Lord Jagannath, an incarnation of Lord Krishna and also features tales from the lives of Radha and Lord Ganesh using rich motifs, traditional to the art form. Idols of these deities are also often found in their homes along with Patta paintings.
Stringing families together, Pattachitra proudly dots all the walls of Raghurajpur – inside and outside. Seven-year-old Akhileshwar, son of artisan Krushna Chandra Swain currently studying in a local school walks around gleefully displaying his father’s work. When children are not playing, they carefully watch the elders at work waiting for their turn to learn and help take forward the family legacy with the craft.
But artisans in the village are not only occupied with their brushes and paints all day; with a smile on their face, they are always eager to welcome visitors into their homes. Little wooden objects adorn the walls and dangle from the ceilings painted in Pattachitra style with vivid colours – delicious red, luminous yellow, crafty green, soothing blue and vibrant pink. A visitor once prompted that they take the style of painting to different canvases, and since then artisans such as Sumitra Swain have embellished betel nuts and other wooden/stone objects alike with the Pattachitra style of painting. From decorative items to Christmas ornaments, handcrafted by artisans in Raghurajpur, these products make their way across the world.
Though Pattachitra swoops through the air in the village, making itself part of everything the artisans do as a primary occupation, Raghurajpur brings a medley of crafts forth – palm leaf engravings, paper mache toys, masks, cow dung toys and wood carvings. As Pattachitra continues to transcend canvases thanks to its relentless artisans and their constant efforts; Raghurajpur, Puri’s heritage crafts village continues to display their unending engagement with art, using every waking moment to practice, innovate and find new homes for their craft around the world.
Photographer: Supriya Kantak
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