Maharana is known for his distinctive style of traditional painting that draws inspiration from Pattachitra and temple murals.
Maharana is known for his distinctive style of traditional painting that draws inspiration from Pattachitra and temple murals.

Promoting an ancient art tradition in a new avatar

Binod Kumar Maharana’s journey in the traditional art sphere has been an interesting one.

BHUBANESWAR: ROM taking up Pattachitra at the age of 10 to support his family to winning the country’s highest civilian award at 79, Binod Kumar Maharana’s journey in the traditional art sphere has been an interesting one. This year’s recipient of Padma Shri from Odisha, 79-year-old Maharana is today known for his distinctive style of traditional painting that draws inspiration from Pattachitra and temple murals.

Born into a family of Chitrakars of Chitrakar Sahi at Puri, Maharana never stepped into any art college. His first guru was his grandfather Markanda Maharana. “My father Harihara Maharana and grandfather were associated with Anasara and Rath Yatra rituals of Shree Jagannath temple as they used to create Patti Dian during the Anasara period and paint the chariots during Rath Yatra,” said the master painter who is now settled in Bhubaneswar.

However, his interest in Pattachitra did not come naturally to him. Instead, Maharana said, he was forced into learning the art form by his family at the age of 10. “After Independence when the country was rebuilding itself, there was a lot of financial hardship that everyone faced. My family’s condition was no better. During this period, they did not know the importance of education and wanted me to take up the family vocation for sustenance,” he recalled.

A few years later at the age of 14, he came across eminent Pattachitra artist late Asit Mukherjee, who resided at Ramchandi Sahi in Puri then. “He ran a Chitralaya then and my father worked for him. One day he came to my house and saw me working. He liked my work and asked me to come to his workshop,” said Maharana who went on to become Mukherjee’s pupil for the next 15 years. “He taught me the ‘rekha’, ‘ranga’ and the entire grammar of Pattachitra,” added the painter who has been chosen for the Padma Shri for his contribution to preserving the Pattachitra art form.

In 1973, he got a job at the government-run State Institute of Handicraft Training (Hastashilpa Talim Kendra) in Bhubaneswar as a junior instructor. This is when his professional stint with Pattachitra began. A year later, he received the State Award and National Award for two Pattachitra paintings that he created after joining the handicraft training centre. A decade later, he won the Viswakarma Citation (Pattachitra) Award from former prime minister late Indira Gandhi and Orissa Lalit Kala Akademi Award in 1983.

Maharana’s style of art involves rich hues and unconventionally drawn figures of human characters which are mostly inspired by temples. “If you see my paintings, you will find the well-built figurines having bigger eyes and nose but thinner waist, like it is shown on temple walls. This kind of painting was very different from the regular Patta paintings and is appreciated by all even today,” said the artist who retired from the handicraft training centre as its superintendent in 2003.

He has been practising the art form for close to five decades now and after his retirement has established an art school where he trains children in the age group of five to 14 in traditional art forms.

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The New Indian Express
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