Odisha stands tall with the pride and dignity of its innumerable forms of arts, especially those crafted by the means of hands. One of such ancient crafts is PATTACHITRA. Patta and Tassor paintings are an exclusive indigenous tradition of the state, practised by the 'chitrakar' community. The making of the Canvas is as important as the pictographic portal of puranic legends of it. The "chitrakaras" or folk paintings of Puri and raghurajpur belong to an indigenous school of painting that dates back to a remote past.
The word "Pattachitra" evolves from the Sanskrit words "patta", meaning "Canvas", and "chitra" which means "picture". The pattachitra art form is known for its intricate details as well as mythological narratives and folktales inscribed in it. Some of the popular themes represented through this art form are Thia Badhia - depiction of the temple of Jagannath; Krishna Lila - enactment of Jagannath as Lord Krishna displaying his powers as a child; Panchamukhi - depiction of Lord Ganesh as a five-headed deity. The art of pattachitra in Odisha is steeped in legend and closely connected to the much-loved Lord Jagannath of Puri, an avatar of Lord Krishna. On the full moon day of the Jyestha month (May-June), which is also considered the birthday of Lord Jagannath, the deities of the Jagannath temple are taken for a ritualistic bath to stave off the summer heat. This is the time when thousands of devotees witness the snana yatra or the ‘procession of bathing’ when the idol of Jagannath, his sister Subhadra and brother Balabhadra are taken in a procession for the ceremonial bath.
The paintings of Orissa can be divided into three categories from the point of view of the medium, i.e. paintings on cloth or 'Patta Chitra', paintings on walls or 'Bhitti Chitra', and palm leaf engravings or "Tala Patra Chitra' or "Pothi, Chitra'. The style of all these remains more or less the same at a specific time because the then artists were commissioned to work in all these media, it is believed. The painting the 'pattachitra' resembles the old murals of Odisha especially religious centres of Puri, Konark, and Bhubaneshwar region, dating back to the 5th century BC. The best work is found in and around Puri, especially in the village of Raghurajpur.
The ‘patta’ is prepared using cotton cloth, usually old saris, which are starch-free. They are arranged in layers, one on top of the other, each layer stuck to the other by a paste made with tamarind seeds. The seeds are soaked in water for 2-3 days and then ground to obtain a gummy paste called niryas kalpa. Kaitha, wood apple gum, is mixed into the tamarind paste and more layers of cloth are pasted together. When the desired thickness is achieved, the cloth is sun-dried. This forms the ‘patta’. Soft claystone, locally found in Orissa and used for stone carving and other architectural purposes, is also used in this process. It is ground into powder and mixed with the tamarind paste and then applied over the patta with a brush and dried. The surface of the patta is then rubbed with a rounded stone, seashell, or a piece of wood. The long patta then forms a roll, from which pieces are cut for the chitras.
The art of Pattachitra is exceptional, with its indigenous sourcing and application of materials. The colours used for painting pattachitra are entirely genuine. Kaitha gum and bilwa fruit are used as adhesives and mixed with natural powders.