Rabinder, or Rabi Behera, was born on the 15th of August, 1983, the same day that India achieved independence (1947), in the village of Chandanpur, twelve kilometres from the holy city of Puri. He lost his father Shri Faqir Mohan Behera when he was just twelve years of age and had to thus abandon his studies in the seventh grade, since the hard pressed family could ill-afford his
education. His elder brother set up a vegetable shop to support
the family of four children (two brothers and an equal number of sisters) and their mother. In the words of Rabi:
"I was not at all distressed when I had to leave my formal education unfinished. I immediately joined the classes of the revered guru Shri Jagannath Mahapatra who was a renowned artist in those days and the brother of the world-famous Odissi dancer Shri Kelu Charan Mahapatra. The former had been an intimate friend of my father and in fact I had frequented him even when I
was enrolled in school. My heart had always been in painting and studies had never really interested me."
Rabi would join Shri Jagannath at his workshop sharp at eight in the morning, come home to lunch in the afternoon and then continue his apprenticeship till five in the evening. He journeyed thus for four years until he was again orphaned with the death of his guru. Shattered, but unwavering in his dedication to art, Rabi then joined the atelier of Shri Dinabandhu Mahapatra, who was a
recipient of the President's medal for excellence in th e folk painting of Orissa. According to Rabi Behera:
"While guru Jagannath helped me focus my skills and laid the foundation of my artistic ability, Shri Dinabandhu gave to my creativity the strength of line and an intuitive sense of color, both of which I consider the hallmarks of my individual style."
See the accompanying image for the finesse of style Rabi Behera gained under his second guru.
Then of course there was no looking back. Numerous Indian and Western clients started treasuring his works; the fact that Chandanpur is a model heritage village and thus attracts a significant number of tourists gave him an immense exposure. He held his first solo exhibition at Dilli Haat (New Delhi) in 2003. In September of the same year he participated in the Hyderabad Expo and in the winter exhibited his creations in Mumbai, the
financial hub of India. In the year 2004, he was granted the honour of displaying his paintings at the Surajkund Craft Festival, which is reserved for the topmost artists of India.
||This image shows Rabi Behera's line before he entered the atelier of Shri Dinanath Mahapatra. The second figure exemplifies his style after he had trained under him. Note the assured confidence of the second outlline in contrast to the more jagged first.|
As an aside it is relevant to mention here that Rabi Behera was struck by polio at an early age. Perhaps what destiny snatched with one hand it compensated with another abundantly, namely - Rabi Behera's immense creative talent.
||Before picking up the brush, the desired figure is first roughly outlined on the surface with a pencil. The figure is then traced out using colors and the pencil image is sophisticatedly overwritten. For example, observe the rough upper right palm of the deity. The same hand will look like the fist shown in the lower right of the illustration.
Rabi Behera utilizes only the traditional, handmade stone and vegetable based colors, which,
before application, are mixed with glue extracted from the tree known as 'Kaint' in the local parlance.|