This pata-chitra, a cloth-painting on fine Orissa silk, representing coronation of Rama, is one of the finest examples of the stylistic blend of different art traditions and classical and folk idioms. With broad features of Orissa pata-chitra, its cardinal style, the painting assimilates also the features of the art styles of Andhra, Tanjabur, or Tanjor, and north India. While for the body colour of most of the figures the artist has used yellow – pale or deep, white, blue or blue-black in pursuance of Orissa tradition, in conceiving the figures of Rama and Bharata in green, and the face of Hanuman in red, he has resorted to Andhrite and Tanjor art traditions. In Tanjor and Andhra art traditions Rama, and correspondingly Bharata, is portrayed in green as his body colour, and Hanuman, with a deep red face. The artist has not used a colour from Orissa palette or the universal blue, which not only most other art traditions but also the canonical literature have prescribed as the colour of Vishnu’s or Rama’s body.
While the facial features of Sita and Bharata, and somewhat of Rama, betray Andhrite influence, the horizontally stretched arched pavilion with a flattish look is a feature of Tanjor temple architecture as it features in most of the Tanjor paintings from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The styles of costumes have been immensely diversified betraying various influences. The figure of Vibhishana on the extreme right in white ‘angarakha’ – a long upper wear, is putting on a pajama – sewn garment with independent legs, one of the most popular components of ensemble widely represented in the eighteenth-nineteenth century north Indian medieval paintings from Rajasthan, Oudh, or even hill states. Even the theme of Rama’s coronation has been painted as it has been painted in Tanjor paintings. In miniatures from Rajasthan it has been portrayed with greater details and has narrative thrust.
Rama, with bow and arrow in hands, the attributes with which his identity is decisively established, is seated with Sita, his consort, on an elevated double lotus pedestal consisting of an inverted lotus as its lower half, and an upwards rising, its upper. Rama, seated in ‘lalitasana’ with his right leg suspending below where Hanuman holds it on his lap and massages it, is occupying major part of the pedestal, while the figure of bashful Sita is almost squeezed on the rest of it. On Sita’s left, close to the pedestal, stand Rama’s three brothers, Lakshmana, holding the royal umbrella over the figures of Rama and Sita, and Bharata and Shatrughna with folded hands. With matted hair and clad in a mere antariya, Bharata has been represented as an ascetic, a form in which he had ruled Ayodhya in Rama’s absence for fourteen years considering himself as Ayodhya’s mere care-taker and living a life as lived his brothers Rama and Lakshmana in exile.
Besides Hanuman seated on floor close to the pedestal, there stand on Rama’s left sage Vashishtha, extending over Rama’s head the sacred conch held in his hands, and Jamvan, Sugriva and Vibhishana who accompanied Rama to Ayodhya after he had won his war with Ravana and had rescued Sita. Jamvan, the enlightened minister of Sugriva, is holding in his left hand a text and is elaborating with the other some point under consideration. Though Vibhishana was now Lanka’s king, he revered Rama as his supreme master and it is this humility of him that defines his appearance. Sage Vashishtha, Ayodhya’s state priest, is performing coronation-rite symbolically by extending sacred conch over Rama’s head. In the classical tradition portrayal of coronation is usually more elaborate, often portrayed step-wise and finally by putting on the head a ‘tilaka’ – the auspicious mark denotative of victory. It is only in folk traditions that any one of the steps symbolises the whole act of coronation, or any, as in this painting. Thus, the painting is basically a folk version of the theme.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.
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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