Her color is white, the color of peace. Her clothes, and also her familiar swan, are all white. Not for
her Kali's dramatic and gory nakedness, or Lakshmi's dazzling red
and gold. Her robe and appearance show serenity and a total lack
Legends say that she sprung from the forehead of her father,
Brahma, as did the Greek virgin goddess Athena who was born from
her father, Zeus's head. As soon as Brahma looked at this
beautiful woman, he desired her, even though she was his
daughter. Saraswati disliked the amorous attentions of this old
god and kept dodging him, but whichever way she moved, Brahma
grew a head in that direction to see her the better. As a result
he grew four faces on four sides of his neck, and even a head on
top of these four, so that she could not escape by moving
upwards. But Saraswati still eluded him.
Brahma was angry. He, being the Creator, was also all powerful.
We do not know how, but legend has it that he did manage to marry
the elusive girl, and produced through her mind the four great
Vedas. Lore also has it that Brahma discovered that his girl-wife
was too aloof and absent-minded for his liking. He had arranged
for a major fire-sacrifice, at which his wife's appearance by his
side was a must. He repeatedly warned Saraswati not to take too
long over her toilet and miss the auspicious hour. She must, he
had decreed, take her traditional seat to his left, well in time.
But Saraswati behaved with her characteristic whimsical disregard
for parental diktats. Her prolonged toilet saw to it that the
holy hour passed without the couple's making the supreme joint
offering to the fire God as man and wife. When Saraswati finally
arrived, Brahma was livid. He threw her out, and replaced her
with the daughter of a sage, called Gayatri.
Saraswati, thus, though married, never enjoyed domestic bliss
like Durga or Lakshmi. According to most myths she had no
children, possessed a fiery temper, was easily provoked and was
somewhat quarrelsome. She, of all the goddesses, is described as
possessing a very independent will and was not very obliging to
the male gods.
As the disinherited daughter and estranged wife, Saraswati lived
perpetually in self-imposed exile. She focuses her calm,
dispassionate gaze upon the past as pure experience. The capacity
to recall without anger or resentment, is Saraswati's greatest
gift to her children: the writers, musicians and creators of
various art forms. All of them have fought with tradition, but
their fight has been cerebral, not emotional. For without cutting
away the umbilical cord, no innovative new beginning may ever be
made, whether one is creating or procreating. This is the message
She is shown here in a classical and dynamic pose, seated on her swan.
This is a paata painting. Pata is a Sanskrit derivation which literally
means canvas. The art of Pata Painting (or pata chitra)
is practiced by the artists of Orissa, a state on the Eastern Coast of
The painter first chooses two pieces (generally tussar silk) of cloth and he
sticks the pieces together by means of a paste prepared from tamarind seeds.
They are then dried in the sun.
The tamarind paste is traditionally prepared as follows: The tamarind seeds
are first kept in water for two to three days. When the seeds swell and
become soft, these are ground with a pestle stone till the formation of a
jelly like substance. In an earthen pot some water is poured along with this
substance which is finally heated into a paste. The pieces of cloth thus
pasted into one become a Patti.The Patti may be of an area of a few square
meters. After the Patti is dried it is rolled up and from this roll, pieces
of pata are cut and utilised for individual paintings.
The colors are hand prepared by the artists from natural ingredients like
china-clay, soft clay(chalk), conch shell, red stone etc. The black color is
prepared from charcoal powder. For white, the artists use sea shells which
are available in plenty on the sea shores of Orissa, the home of pata
paintings. The sea-shells are powdered and the powder is kept mixed with
some water for two days.The mixture is stirred properly until it becomes
soft and milky. This milky liquid is then heated with the gum of Kaitha
fruit (Feromia Elephantum). The paste thus prepared is then dried in the sun
to form a solid substance.
Black color is prepared by holding an earthen plate over the smoke of a
burning wick. The soot thus collected at the bottom of the plate is
thickened to a black substance. This is mixed with the gum of Kaitha fruit
when used as black color in painting.
Green color typically is prepared from the juice of green leaves which is
boiled and gum is mixed in the same proportion.
The materials used by these artists are totally of an indigenous character.
To unite the colors they utilise wooden bowls made of dried coconut shells.
The coarse brush is prepared from the root of a local plant called keya.
Hairs of brushes are collected from a buffalo's neck, more fine brushes
require the hair of mouse. These brushed are fixed to wooden handles. They
are usually kept in the quivers made out of a hollow joint of a thick bamboo
tree. The brushes may also be sometimes stored in leather cases or in dried
It is truly said of these Pata paintings that " Strange is this world of
Pata paintings, a world in itself, where every article and ornament keeps
its unchanging shape, its place and importance, where every animal has its
own stylized features, every personality its unerring marks of
identification defined by the ancient texts, religious myths and local
tradition. It is a world of myths and gods, but still more it is a world of
folk imagination, the reflection of thinking and of the mental scope of
millions of Indian peasants, fishermen and craftsmen, their joys, their
hardships, binding faith and exacting beauty. So the paintings speak the
language of their creators, they give realistic expression, a clear symbol,
humorous details. They are familiar to the eye, close to the heart, bringing
joy and expressing life".
Indeed the immensity of life and the diversity of the divine come together
and stand in one in these Pata paintings.
The traditional Pattachitra is a scroll painting that is done on
cloth. This is revealed in the name; Pattachitra is a Sanskrit
term made from two words i.e. Patta meaning cloth and Chitra
meaning picture. The main subject of this painting is portraying
Hindu mythological narratives, scenes from religious texts, and
folktales. Pattachitra paintings are especially practiced in
eastern Indian states such as West Bengal and Odisha, and also in
some parts of Bangladesh. This art form is closely related to Shri
Jagannath and the tradition of the Vaishnava sect. It is believed
that Pattachitra art originated in the 11th century and the people
of Odisha practice it even today without any discrepancy. Bengalis
use these scroll paintings for ritual purposes (as a visual
device) during the performance of a song or Aarti.
Pattachitra paintings are characterized by creative and
traditional motifs/designs, decorative borders, and bright
colorful applications. The outline of the figure and motifs are
bold and sharp. Some common shapes and motifs seen in these
paintings are trees, flowers, leaves, elephants, and other
creatures. The artists of Odisha and Bengal still use the
traditional method of painting which gives a unique look to it
The process of painting a Pattachitra begins by preparing the
canvas (patta). Generally, cotton cloth is used for making the
canvas. The local artists dip the cotton cloth in a mixture of
tamarind seeds and water for a few days. The cloth is then taken
out and dried in the sun. Now natural gum is applied over it to
stick another layer of cotton cloth on it. Thus a thick layer of
cotton cloth is formed. This layered cotton is sun-dried and a
paste of chalk powder, tamarind, and gum is applied on both
sides. The surface of the cloth is then rubbed with two
different stones for smoothening and it is again dried. This
process gives the cloth a leathery finish and it is now ready to
The painters prepare and use vegetable and mineral colors for
application in the painting. White color is made from conch
shells, black is made by burning coconut shells, Hingula is used
for red color, Ramaraja for blue, and Haritala for yellow.
The artist now makes a double-lined border on all four sides of
the canvas. The local artists are so expert in painting that
they do not draw figures and motifs with pencil but directly
draw them with a brush. The paint brushes that the painters use
are made of the hair of domestic animals, a bunch of which is
tied to the end of a bamboo stick. The figures are now painted
with natural colors using the indigenous brushes. The outline is
thickened with black color.
Finally, the painting is varnished/glazed to protect it from any
damage and to get a glossy shine on the surface.
The making of a Pattachitra is laborious work and therefore, one
painting may sometimes take over a month to complete. Due to their
classical look, these paintings are admired by people from all
over the world. The artistic skills used in Pattachitra are passed
down from one generation to another and thus are preserved to
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