By Diana Sahu | Published: 01st July 2017 10:00 PM |
An enchanting world of Pattachitra opens up as you step inside the Odisha State Museum in Bhubaneswar. The ancient story of Ushabhilas, an epic poem composed by Odia poet Sishu Shankar Das in the mid-16th century portraying love, comes alive in the form of a 20x20 ft mural, beautifully done by Pattachitra artist Karunakar Sahu.This traditional form of drawing is practiced by a handful of artisans in Odisha, and 52-year-old Karunakar is one of the few who have kept the original art form alive.
He says a traditional Pattachitra painting can be identified from the distinguishing features of its figures. “Traditionally, Pattachitra is characterised by human figures with long eyes, beak-like noses, prominent chins and fuller bodies. Every figure has different features, characterised by thin strokes of brush,” he says. But these days, subjects in Patta paintings appear more or less similar, be it the facial appearance or clothing.
Ushabhilas, he says, speaks about the love story of Usha, the daughter of a mighty demon Banasura who ruled the beautiful city of Sonitapura, and Aniruddha, the grandson of Lord Krishna. Aniruddha with the help of Lord Krishna fights against Banasura to marry Usha.
“The love story also finds mention in Odia Mahabharata written by Sarala Das,” says the artist who had won the National Award in visual arts, instituted by Ministry of Culture, in 1995 for engraving the entire story of Ushabhilas in palm leaf manuscripts. “The subject provided me a rich visual imagery for depicting the poem through Pattachitra,” he says. It took him two months to complete the massive mural that was put up in the Odisha State Museum on the occasion of International Day of Museums.
The artist has no roots as far as Pattachitra is concerned. Hailing from Mayurbhanj district of Odisha, he learnt the craft for two months at the State Institute for Development of Art and Crafts (SIDAC) in Bhubaneswar in 1977 before deciding to make a career out of it.
“None of my family members belong to Raghurajpur—the heritage village in Puri district where Pattachitra is practised by every family—nor did I ever practice the craft before I arrived at SIDAC,” says Karunakar, who was a weaver before. “It was the beauty of the art form that attracted me.” He is working on a painting representing the life of Lord Ganesha.
His Pattachitra paintings are mostly huge in size. Karunakar selects themes based on Vaishnav sect, mostly representing Lord Jagannath, and paints them with naturally extracted colours.
Pattachitra or scroll paintings are based on mythology, be it the different Veshas of Lord Jagannath, 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu, Krishna-Radha Leela or episodes from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.
Whatever the theme is, the painting is bordered with motifs of tendrils and flowers, says the master craftsman who also trains art students in original Pattachitra style.
He is also the only artist in the state to have adapted Ushabhilas into painting. “These days, artists work on a commercial basis. Their work lacks detailing that is required in a Patta painting. I train a few students on these traditional aspects on a yearly basis to keep the tradition alive. Before starting to paint, they study the stories to bring out their beauty on the canvas,” he says.