Deeply rooted in mythology and tradition

City Express talks to Kalamani Rabindra Nath Sahu who sheds some light on Pattachitra and Indian art forms
Deeply rooted in mythology and tradition

BANGALORE: In the realms of consciousness, as we embark on a journey of spiritual depth, we often stumble upon elements that help us understand better the fundamental nature of our existence. And, art has always been an effective tool of communication for mankind. As Aristotle, Greek philosopher, once said, “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance, and this, and not the external manner and detail, is true reality.”

And in this reality, one often strives to seek harmony in vivid colours, bold lines and rustic textures. Deeply rooted in mythology, Indian art is organic in nature. Delving into the finer aspects of art, Kalamani Rabindra Nath Sahu has devoted his entire life to Pattachitra ­— a traditional art form from Orissa. The artist shares with us his views on Indian art.

Tell us about the history of Pattachitra. How did this particular style of painting evolve?

Pattachitra has a lot of mythological significance. The name evolved from two Sanskrit words patta (canvas) and chitra (picture). It is primarily based on the Vaishnava and Jaganath cult. Chitrakars or painters have traditionally painted Gods, Goddesses and religious stories on Matha and temples. This is one of the most popular art forms of Orissa. Rich colours, intricate motifs and simple themes are the characteristics of these paintings. It uses all natural elements. Here, we use a handmade canvas, natural colours extracted from stones and minerals and fine brushes. A bamboo tube container is used to hold the paintbrushes. Sadhei (coconut shell) is generally used for mixing colours. The other tools used are ghasa pathar (pebble stone), grinding stone, pestle stone, etc. Pattachitra of Puri is also known for its artistry. The paintings of Puri are still linked to the Jagannath temple and have ritual significance. Patta paintings are absolutely traditional in content and have religious overtones.

Owing to the popularisation of contemporary art in India, traditional art forms are fading away. How are artisans managing to cope with changing trends today?

Well, traditional art forms have always been a part of our identity. And, we must do everything to preserve our heritage. Art is universal. For, in art one may acknowledge and understand the importance of simplicity and unity. However, the scene is quite different today. Some of the artists, who are capable of producing sheer poetry on canvas, do not have the right platform to showcase their skills. And, the rural artisans too suffer from the lack of financial resources.  

The Government of India should step in and take appropriate measures to preserve our traditional art forms. There have been several cases of plagiarism in the bigger cities. Shockingly, some of the artisans’ works were being sold at a higher price in different cities without giving them due credit. This needs to be curbed.

How has this art form managed to survive?

Well, Pattachitra was dying in the early fifties. The kings no longer supported artisans and the public was not willing to buy paintings anymore. It was an American lady Helena Zealy who dedicated her entire life to reviving the art form. Today, Raghurajpur (popularly known as artist village) houses several artisans. It is also considered as Orissa’s art land. Every artist takes his or her art seriously.

The village is assigned to make Patta paintings of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra for the 14-day-long Anavasar period. These paintings called Anasara Pati are hung from a bamboo split screen inside the temple while wooden images are repainted.

Can you describe the various stages involved in Pattachitra?

The Chitrakars of Puri and other areas follow a different procedure which is based on the application of several colours. Primarily these stages can be identified as: Tipana (sketching), Hingula Banaka (filling the background), Ranga Banaka (character colour filling), Alankarlagi (ornate work), Motakala (thick black line), Sarukala (fine black line), Ranga Lekha (fine ornamented work), Chhitadia (design work), Sankha Patta (finishing touch with white colour) and Dhadikama (border design work).

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