The Powerful Gaze Of Bhakta Hanuman

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On a throne of cut-glass lotus petals kneels Lord Hanuman. The right knee grazes the surface of the throne, the left foot set against the same. Against the knee jutting out laterally rests His goad, the weapon that is indispensable to the cebine iconography of Lord Hanuman. Like the jewels on the body of the warrior deity, His weapon is engraved and studded with pearls and rubies. A red and blue dhoti conceals His sturdy hips and a green teal angavastram cascades down His broad shoulders. A gold crown sets off the deep black of His ample mane.

Lord Hanuman is a bhakta (devotee) of the highest order. The Ramayana narrates how indispensable He was to Lord Rama in His rescue of Devi Seeta. The brightest shining jewel in the necklace of Ramayana characters, He acted consistently from a place of unconditional love and divine wisdom in execution of the same. As such, a popular element of Hanuman iconography is to depict Him with an image of Rama-Seeta thoroughly annealed into His breast.

A vibrant colour palette characterises this pattachitra, a folk art form from Orissa that comprises pictures (‘chitra’) executed on handmade fabric-based canvases called ‘patta’. The mustard gold complexion of the body of Hanuman, the floors of sapphire beneath His throne, and the emerald-coloured vines that frame the composition. A gaze as powerful as it is intelligent adds life to the eyes of Hanuman.

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Item Code: PZ07
Artist: Rabi Behera
Water Color Painting on Patti Folk Art From The Temple Town Puri (Orissa) Artist: Rabi Behera
Dimensions 12 inches x 18 inches
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Mastering the Ancient Technique: Exploring the Meticulous Creation of Pattachitra 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 altogether.

1. Canvas is prepared

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 be painted.

2. Natural colors are made using traditional method

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.

3. Colors are filled in

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.

4. Painting is given a finishing

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 date.
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