The new-age saga of Odisha patachitra: Folk art for the social media generation

The storytelling art of Odisha patachitra dates back to the 13th CE, the same time as the building of the Sun Temple at Konark. Even now, as it was back then, the drawings are all made freehand. All that is used to achieve the exquisite levels of intricacy are a few simple brushes made with fine squirrel hair, fastened tightly with cotton thread to a straight twig — and wielded by rock-steady hands.

The outlines and drawings are made with lampblack (pigment made from soot) bound with natural gum. A number of mineral and vegetable homemade dyes, including blues and greens extracted from seaweed, are used to fill in the colours.

Odisha is the land of the Hindu deity, Vishnu. He is represented widely in patachitra and poetry as the mighty Jagannatha, lord of the world; through his 10 incarnations referred to as the Dasavatar – which interestingly includes one avatar as the brother of Krishna, Balarama, in place of Rama elsewhere in India; as the endearing child Krishna himself in Krishna Leela; and as the flute-playing divine lover of the enchanted Radha, immortalised in Jayadev’s romantic Gita Govinda.

Then there are recollections of the Sun Temple and of its sensuous themes such as Ras-leela (‘dalliance of the divine lovers’), Shringar-ras (a woman’s elaborate adornment rituals) and the romance of the seasons; of idyllic village life and lusty folk ballads.

All the patachitra works that will be presented at the exhibition Jagannatha in Chennai this week, have been specially commissioned for the show. The 11 artists who created the masterpieces are mostly National Award or Lalit Kala Akademi winners. The few that are not are young talent, and well on their way there...Read more


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