Pattachitra: This spectacular art of Odisha will mesmerize you

“Art speaks the soul of its culture.” – Abby Willowroot

The folk art forms of India demonstrate the diversity and uniqueness of the different cultures in India. Bringing together the traditional crafts from different parts of the country, an exhibition called ‘Spirit of India’ at the CSMVS Museum in Mumbai showcased the works by nine of the finest award–wining artists, whose traditional art-works have been displayed in several galleries in India and across the world.

Decoration at the entrance

At the exhibition, I had the opportunity to interact with some of the master craftsmen and know more about these wonderful art forms. In this post, I will elaborate upon Pattachitra, one of the oldest and most popular art forms of Odisha.

Pattachitra is the traditional art of Odisha

Pattachitra, is the art of painting on primed cloth (or patta in Sanskrit). This tradition of painting originated around the 5th century in the temples of Konark and Puri. Naturally, the themes of these paintings are inspired by religion and depict the temple of Jagganath, deities of Lord Jagannath and Radha-Krishna, the ten incarnations of Vishnu and stories from the legends of Ramayana, Mahabharata and other folklore.

Pattachitra Jagannath

Pattachitra painting on silk

Ragurajpur: The Hub of Pattachitra

Fourteen km away from Puri, is the village of Raghurajpur, a heritage village which is particularly famous for its Pattachitra art. Residents of this village are Pattachitra artists ( Chitrakar), who are known to produce remarkable paintings and handicrafts, which they display in front of their houses. The village is a major rural tourist destination of the state, known for its heritage tourism. A few other neighbouring villages like Dandasahi and Pipli also produce beautiful handicrafts that find use in home decor or for gifting.

Incidentally, Patachitra traditions also exist in the state of West Bengal, but the art style is different in both states.

To read about Patachitra art of Bengal, browse the link: Patachitra Folk Art of Bengal and Kalighat Paintings

Demonstration of Pattachitra Art

Mr Pranab Narayan Das, the master craftsman at the exhibition is a traditional Pattachitra artist from Dandasahi in Odisha. He started learning Pattachitra art at the age of ten and has won many accolades for his work. Das’s paintings have been exhibited at The American National History Museum in New York.

Sitting at one end of the hall, Das was demonstrating his art. We could see some of his finest works displayed on the wall. A few people sat on the chairs in front of him to watch the demonstration. Taking out a fine brush from a wooden box, Das started painting the outline of a figure on a canvas cloth.


Painting Brushes

Pattachitra Art

In between the strokes, he paused to tell us about this distinct art form.

Read: Indian Miniature Paintings: Origin, Styles and use in Home Decor

Natural colours are used for Pattachitra paintings

The colours used in the real paintings are sourced from natural ingredients. The red colour is made from a mineral called hingula, black from castor oil lamp, orange from soil called geru mitti. Blue is from Indigo, white from conch shells, and a stone named harikala is used for yellow. These ingredients are mixed with the gum of Kaitha tree, which is used as a base for making different pigments.

The canvas used for the painting is made by sticking together layers of old dhoti cloth with tamarind paste, lime and water. The art has evolved over time and these paintings are now done on fine Tussar silk, on wooden boxes, and also on the walls as murals. Each painting could take days or even months to complete depending on the degree of intricacy and the size of the work.

Pattachitra painting on silk


Distinctive Features of Pattachitra

As we looked at the painting in making, the sharp features, fine details and vivid depicting stark emotional expressions started becoming apparent. It revealed the amount of concentration and craftsmanship required to come up with such paintings and the artist’s perfect mastery over fine line drawings.

Pattachitra artist at work

The distinctive feature of Pattachitra paintings are the floral borders and rich colourful motifs. The colours are restricted to a single tone and shading of colours is a taboo. The Chitrakars maintain strictness in their use of colours and patterns. The art is more about bringing out stark emotions in their paintings through the neat patterns and designs than about realism. This renders a distinct look and feel to the Pattachitra paintings. Though originally the art was practised by men now Pattachitra art is done by women and young girls too.

Also Read: Kantha Work: Traditional craft in contemporary designs

Pattachitra paintings for home decor and as corporate gifts

Pattachitra art finds use in home decor as wall hangings. These are sometimes used and recommended by the interior designers for a classic ethnic style of decoration, The art is nowadays also done on vases, wooden boxes and glass bottles. These paintings and handcrafted art objects also make for excellent corporate gifts.

Pranab Das’s entire family practices Pattachitra. Here are a few more pictures of his exquisite creations.  The elephant with the Pattachitra painting in the picture below was commissioned at the British High Commission.

Pattachitra HanumanFinal touches to pattachitra artPattachitra On Elephant



Elephant Image courtesy: Mr Pranab Das.


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    By: Somali K Chakrabarti

    Hi there! Welcome to Scribble and Scrawl! Here, I delve into themes related to positive lifestyle – from making smart-living choices, savvy financial decisions to nurturing the mind, body and soul. I share my travel experiences, explore facets of art and culture and highlight inspiring stories. Hope you enjoy reading my posts.

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Somali K Chakrabarti

Hi there! Welcome to Scribble and Scrawl! Here, I delve into themes related to positive lifestyle - from making smart-living choices, savvy financial decisions to nurturing the mind, body and soul. I share my travel experiences, explore facets of art and culture and highlight inspiring stories. Hope you enjoy reading my posts.

  • Lovely pictures. Thank you for writing and spreading word about this beautiful form of art. Art indeed represents the culture and traditions of a place and the beliefs of the people. Re read the post thrice already.. it’s truly wonderful

    • Thank you for the kind words, Ramyani. No doubt these art forms reflect the rich cultural heritage, but I think that when these evolve with times to suit the modern tastes and needs, it becomes easier to get a larger section of people interested in these crafts.

  • Happy to see you feature various art ancient forms from India. It is really important to spread the awareness of these important elements of our culture.

  • Quite a descriptive post on Pattachitra, Somali. The effort you took present its various aspects is commendable – the village of the artists, the sources of colours. And clicks are also very beautiful :)

  • Great post. You must be doing a lot of homework to come up with such an informative post.

  • This exhibition in Numbai is certainly brilliant… Love the artwork, so colorful and linked to the Indian Culture and mythology…. Absolutely mesmerizing, for sure… thank you very much for sharing, dear Somali… I hope that you have a great weekend ahead. Love & best wishes :D xx

  • Pattachitras are indeed exquisite work of art. I visited Raghurajpur during one of my many visits to Puri. The residents of the village are all engaged in this artwork. Unfortunately, the financial condition of most of the families are poor and they find it hard to make both ends meet.

    A nice article containing information about this art. Thanks for the short video…. :-)

  • Such patience and care invested in each drawing! Thank you for sharing such splendid work, Somali. I’m mesmerized by the craftsmanship.

  • This is a beautiful art form. it is lovely to learn more about it, dear :)

  • Thanks Somali for presenting such a lovely encapsulation of the beautiful art form of Odisha, I can feel it and see the wonderful connection of your words and the artisans there. I was able to literally go through every thought of yours capturing the nuanced aspects of the art form to a global perspective of this very art reaching New York Museum to British High Commission. Yes, a very old art form, 5th century and still able to find its place in the modern art canvas, not easy given the rampant spread of new art forms which are ingeniously using technology to appeal the art buyers.

    Being organic, using only the natural colors and cloth as the base canvas, the intricate designs and the patterns having to follow a set rule have set it apart, though now as pointed out it has started breaking the rules and have gone beyond the fabric and has spread onto wood to metal to glass. One could say that is good as it is able to adapt to changing taste and needs of art lovers. Every art form goes through a transformation…

    It all looks so intricate and so much work goes into it but the market for such beautiful products have not yet evolved and still there is not enough demand for such artists, that part of the state which close to the religious sites and historical places of Odisha is still not having a healthy economy and people are still struggling to meet their both ends. They haven’t given up and are continuing from ages that the art in-spite of the financial hardship and continuing to preserve such beautiful art forms, though in many other parts of India many such wonderful art forms have lost the battle against the financial problems and have migrated to other means for survival. A sad tale to tell…

    There is great potential for such art forms if marketed well and if there is smart use of digital technology to reach a larger audience and the globe is the market and not limited to few places here and there, and that is the main problem, the marketing and the reach, and few people have started taking these kind of art forms onto the web and with so many options and platforms things are changing and perhaps will move more rapidly towards the betterment of these community who are creative and committed to the cause of preserving and expanding the scope of the canvas…

    Have a great weekend.

    • Thank you very much Nihar. True that it is not easy for such indigenous art forms to make their presence felt where there are so many other emerging forms of art, which are faster to make with the use of digital technology and for which there is high demand as well.
      Yes, so these art forms also need to adapt with the changing times. Not that people don’t appreciate the art but the cost works out to be higher beyond the affordability for many people. In fact, I was thinking if they could produce these designs on usable products, it might be easier to sell and suggested this to the artists as well.
      As you have said their is a need for smart marketing and smart use of digital technology to preserve and propagate these beautiful art forms.
      Have a great week.

      • Yes Somali, there is a need for creating a proper space for such traditional art and culture to remain with us and co-exist in the new age and forms of art that have a bigger impact and with the reach the later form has simply predominated the scene and the old forms are not able to stand the ground, withstand the onslaught of modern form of marketing.

        Also slowly people are looking more for novelty factor and things that are rare and are available in certain distance places of the country. One thing is that this artists needs curators and they also need the promoter of such art form in a much larger canvas, and there is demand as rightly pointed out by you in the international market, only that someone needs to do the packaging and presentation in a language the world understands better…

        They can do it on usual product and for that they need to reorient themselves and someone needs to guide them in the way they needs to showcase their talent and display their art form in a manner where the brand gets a facelift.
        Thanks Somali and you too…

  • I live about a two and half hour drive away from Raghurajpur. I have visited it. I paint Pattachitra myself. So I connected on another level with this beautiful post.

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