The cultural History of Orissa can be traced to Prehistoric times. Traces of Prehistoric civilization are
evident in different parts of Orissa. The history of Art in Orissa began with the Mauryan rule over Kalinga in
ancient Orissa, when stone was used as the medium for art. The first specimens of Plastic art in Orissa date
back to the third century B.C. found at Dhauli near Bhubaneswar and Jaugarh in the district of Ganjam. Later it
seems that the art activities in Orissa were influenced by the contemporary all India trade during the period
from the first century BC. to at least the fourth or fifth century A.D. The first mural painting of Sitabanjhi
in Keonjhar district can be grouped with the mural paintings of Ajanta belonging to the Gupta period is the
only evidence of early classical Orissa’s painting. From the seventh century onwards several royal dynasties
ruled in succession over ancient Orissa and the political and cultural life becomes more clear, the sculptural
art took a definite shape form this period with the building of beautiful temple complexes in Bhubaneswar and
other places in Orissa.
According to the royal patronage and also due to the teachings of Vaishnava scholars, the tradition of
Patachitra painting seems to have got associated with the Jagannath temple of Puri in the Ganga period (Circa
A.D 1110 to 1435)
In the temple of Jagannath there are the daily rituals of rousing the deites, feeding and putting them to bed
at night. There are besides many periodic and festive rituals to be observed on different auspicious days. The
most important of these festivals is the Rath Yatra (Car Festival), but there are a number of other important
festivals to keep the Sevaks busy throughout the year. In most of these festive nitis (rituals), the chitrakar
(artist) has an important function.
The painting of the Anasarapati during the Ansara that is the primary ritual function of the chitrakar and the
need for the substitute icon might well have been the basic reason for creating the seva itself. For at least
fifteen days of the year the creations of the chitrakar received some obeisance and worship from the devotees.
Besides the painting of the substitute icon, the other important function of the chitrakar is to decorate the
cars (Rath) during the Rathyatra and other festive occasions. Chitrakar was one of the original 35 orders which
was introduced by Jagannath temple. There is a legend among chitrakars of Puri that the Srimukh Singhar seva
was also performed by the chitrakar earlier having had their origin in rituals of the Puri temple several
hundred years back. The chitrakars in later periods seem to have moved to other parts of Orissa, specially the
so called "Athara gadajata" (Eighteen feudatory states) areas.
Besides the seva, chitrakars have traditionally painted Gods and Goddesses and religious stories on Matha and
Temples works. At one time particular chitrakar families were attached to particular Matha and temples. In
their spare time they engaged themselves in doing other paintings on Patta for commercial sale. In the older
times the chitrakar would even setup a shop in the important market places of Orissa. Not only Pattachitra viz.
Yatri Pattl’s, Ganjifa Card sets, Paper Masks, wooden image toys of Jagannath etc.
Patachitra was an already existing art form before palm leaf illustration made their appearance in the 15th
century and later. Though the chitrakar must have been affected in his work by the new style of drawing on palm
leaf, he continued his work following conventions practiced for generations. Even though some chitrakars may
have illustrated some palm leaf manuscripts, the writing and illumination was mostly done by scribes and
artists belonging to other castes like "Bhamin, Karan, Vaisya" etc.
Patachitra, a traditional style of painting has often been compared to the western Indian school and is said to
have been influenced the latter. The beginning of the this linear conception can be traced back to Ajanta
Painting, Jain Painting, where ever it might have originated.
Typical Styles of Patachitra
In spite of many similarities, Patachitras have many distinctive features of their own:
1. The base material (canvas) is prepared by hand by using cotton cloth, tamarind seed gum, and chalk powder.
2. The indigenous colours used in Patachitra are prepared by the artisans themselves.
3. The style of paintings mostly has a lyrical sensitiveness.
4. All figures are drawn in profile, and to some extent in proportion to one another and to the background.
5. In Orissan faces the chin is elongated and there is no protuberence of the farther eye in to face. The
pupils in the eyes of Orissan faces are also not small as in the case of western India.
6. Only limited primary colours are used in Patta Paintings, and liner conception and its workmanship is with
Erie brushes which are made of smooth hair of rats and squirrels.
The base material is hand made canvas and is prepared by pasting layers of old and used cotton cloth with the
help of tamarind glue. Khadi (Chalk Powder ) coats are applied, and after the coats are applied and polished,
the pattis are trimmed on the sides and are cut into required sizes with help of scissors.
Preparation of Colours/Pigments
Only earth stone and mineral colours are used to paint the pattas. Nowadays Powder colours are being introduced
which give a very destructive result. Basically Primary colours are used in patta painting like sankha (white),
Hingula (red), Harital (Yellow), deepa kala (Black), dhau (brown), neela (indigo), the other mixed colours
being prepared from the above pigments. The gum used with the colours is obtained from kaphitha tree (wood
apple) and mixed with a coconut shell.
Stages of Painting
The Chitrakars of Puri and other areas follow a different procedure which is based on several colour
applications following one after the other such as
1. Tipana ( Sketch)
2. Hingula Banaka (Background Colour filling)
3. Ranga Banaka (Character Colour filling)
4. Alankarlagi (Ornamental work)
5. Motakala (Thick Black line)
6. Sarukala (Fine Black line)
7. Ranga Lekha (Fine ornamented work)
8. Chhitadia (design work)
9. Sankha patta (finishing touch with white colour)
10. Dhadikama (Border design work)
1. Brushes are used to apply paint over the patti. In the past brushes of fine quality were prepared out of rat
hair and the coarse quality were made out of buffalo hair.
2. A bamboo tube container is used to keep to keep the brushes.
3. Sadhei (Coconut shells are generally used for mixing colours)
4. The other tools are ghasa pathar (pebble stone), Grinding stone, Pestal stone etc.
Having originated in the seva of the Jagannath Temple, the patta of Orissa has naturally always had the Triad
as its main subject.
Another popular subject, Dasavatar (The Ten Incarnations) is painted with Sri Krishna Lila stories from the
Bhagavat Puran. Ramayana and Mahabharata are generally included in the Vaishnava themes. Patta Paintings are
absolutely traditional in thematic content and have essentially religious overtones.
Themes may be classified into following categories:
1. Vaishnava 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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