This excellent ‘pata-chitra’ – a painting rendered on a piece of cloth, by Rabi Behera, represents twelve patterns traditionally followed for adorning the images of Krishna as Jagannathaji, his elder brother Balarama and sister Subhadra at Puri shrine, one of the principal seats of Krishna-cult. Such adornment, known as ‘shrangara’ of Jagannathaji, is one of the most significant rituals of the deity. Under the Pushti-marg, the path of worship that Acharya Vallabh had propounded, ‘shrangara’ of the divine images is part of the regular service offered to Jagannathaji. The painting illustrates twelve standard patterns of adorning the three images round the year – two of which, one the ‘Mangal-shrangara’, the early morning adornment, and the ‘Bada shrangara’ , that is, the day’s last adornment performed before deities go to bed are mandatory and regularly performed. Bada ‘shrangara’ is the last of the deity’s services performed every evening. Though it was the Pushti-marg that alternated worship by deity’s service, the ‘shrangara’ of Krishna’s presiding image at all ‘pithas’ – seats, Vrindavana, Nathadwara, Dwarika or Mathura, is now the globally accepted and pursued path of his worship. The painting contained within an elaborate lotus border makes use of a few colours, black, blue, grey, pink and white in particular, some in their basic tints, and the rest, mixed, but none of them, shaded.
The entire canvas space that the ‘patti’ or ‘pata’, a piece of textile toughened by using various hardening elements, sometimes also thin paper sheets pasted along its upper surface, affords, has been divided into twelve identically conceived and designed rectangular cubes of similar size. Each of these cubes are styled like a sanctum with shallow arched openings terminating into beautifully moulded pendentives and draped with light pinkish curtains collected artistically along the arches. Each of the twelve cubes enshrines the three deities, Krishna, who is Jagannatha, on the extreme left, Balarama, on extreme right, and sister Subhadra, in the centre. On left to Krishna is a representation of Sudarshana Chakra that symbolises the deities like Madan Mohan, Bhudevi and Vishwadhatri. The background in all shrines consists of dark black sky with stars scattered all around. Rabi Behera, one of the most celebrated artists of Orissa ‘pata-chitra’, who has accomplished this outstanding work of art, has displayed rare skill, for which he is widely known, in assimilating various elements, folk and classical. He has obtained fine details using softer colour-tones in representing the images of the deities exactly as they enshrine the holy sanctum as also the patterns of ‘shrangara’ as are observed round the year. and a few colours, black, blue, grey, pink and white in particular, some in their basic tints, and rest, mixed, but none of them, shaded. represents Krishna as Jagannatha, the enshrining deity of the worldwide venerated Puri shrine, one of the four major Vaishnava shrines of Krishna-cult.
Traditionally these twelve patterns of ‘shrangara’ are termed as ‘beshas’ – apparels, though used in wider perspective here the term means adornment of the deity to include even change in iconographic structuring of the images. Accordingly, as inscribed under each shrine the four ‘beshas’ in the upper register are Nagarjuna Besha, Rajarajeswara Besha, Padma Besha, erroneously inscribed as ‘Pamda’, and Suna Besha; in the middle register, Shraddha Besha, Radha Damodar Besha, Chandanalawi Besha, and Badasinhara Besha; and in the bottom register, Gajananana Besha, Nabanka Besha, Bamana Besha, and Abakasha Besha. In Nagarjuna Besha the faces of Jagannatha and Balarama are squarish and bearded while Subhadra’s is circular. Both, Jagannatha and Balarama are equipped with arrows – simple with pointed heads as also with tridents-heads. Jagannatha is also carrying a conch and a sword. In Rajarajeswara Besha and Padma Besha the faces of all three images are round though in Rajarajeswara Besha Jagannatha carries the conch whereas in Padma Besha he does not carry any. In Padma Besha, lotuses – padmas, have been widely used in adorning all three images. Completely different this ‘besha’ has only the representations of deities’ faces carried over four columns and lower halves are replaced by icons of four geese. In Suna Besha also the faces of all three deities are round and Jagannatha is represented as carrying the conch.
Adorned in white in Shraddha Besha all three images have squarish faces though towards the chin they are apsidal and the apex of Jagannatha’s image is flat while those of the other two are domed. The hands of all images seem to have been excluded. Not only the faces even the torsos of all three images in Radha Damodar Besha have been rounded, though in contrast all three image in Chandanalawi Besha are columns’ like upward raised. The apex of Jagannatha’s image is flat whereas those of other deities are domed. In Badasingara Besha all three faces are round and their headdresses are very colourful and different. In Gajanana Besha all three images have round faces though those of Jagannatha and Balarama are framed within squarish frames structured like elephant heads along trunk and large ears. In Nabanka Besha the faces are round but covered under temple-towers-like rising headdresses with mango leaves, their base, they appear to be a bit conical. The decorative column on the extreme left holds Lord Jagannatha’s conch. In Bamana Besha the faces are a perfect round contained in double rings. Lord Jagannatha has a Shiva-ling icon on his forehead and Balarama is carrying in his right hand an arrow, and in the left, a bow. In Abhkasha Besha the face of lord Jagannatha has been modeled like a square box, and those of Balarama and Subhadra, like inverted baskets. All three images are clad in white with white sashes which appear to be quite massive in size and different from sashes in all other Beshas. The images of Lord Jagannatha and Balarama have been modeled with arms but without hands.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet.
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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