BHUBANESWAR: Bhaskar Mahapatra had no inkling that his silk painting ‘Tree of Life’ would be Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s gift to French President Francois Hollande.
Even as news agencies played up his pattachitra painting with tree as a motif for clean and sustainable environment, he remained blissfully unaware of the honour that had come to him till Sunday evening. For him, it was another day at work.
“I came to know about it barely five minutes ago when a TV channel called me up to convey that my painting was the Prime Minister’s gift to French President. You are the second person to tell me,” he told this paper over phone.
Mahapatra, who has been relentlessly sharpening his skills in the craft for the last 30 years, had made the ‘Tree of Life’ last year when one Sanjib Kumar Das, along with a foreigner friend, also a member of Iskcon, came calling to his home at Raghurajpur village. “They had my address and came straight to me. Das and his friend liked a five feet by two feet painting of Saint Sri Chaitanya and bought it. That’s when he asked me to paint something from my heart, something which inspired me,” Mahapatra said.
While most pattachitra paintings have spiritual, mythological and religious tales as their background story, Mahapatra thought something different. He used tree as a motif for God, as the creator and the nurturer.
When Das and his friend saw the painting, they were elated and paid him handsomely. “They said, this will find place in a French museum but I did not know how. I still have no clue how it reached the Prime Minister,” he said.
The ‘Tree of Life’ was painted on tasser silk and he used traditional natural colours for the painting. The highlight of pattachitra paintings is the use of bright colours which are sourced from natural sources. “I dislike use of artificial colours and don’t use them in my paintings,” he elaborated.
The painting, which took him barely 15 days to finish about a year ago, will be symbolic of the “Conference of Parties on UN Framework Convention on Climate Change” which will be hosted by France in December. It showcases the traditional societal respect for nature in India.