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Odisha's folk art in the city

Baishali Adak, September 5, 2013, DHNS: 20:00 IST

FINE PAINTINGS

Thanks to the enormity of its size and diversity of culture and people, India is home to a galaxy of folk arts. These, passed on over centuries and serving as documentaries of our ancient history and mythology, are a treasure to behold. Patachitra paintings of Odisha form one such tradition.

Patachitras – depictions mainly of Lord Krishna and Ram – are found over cloth, manuscripts, palm leaves as well as home and temple walls in the eastern State.
The art is said to have originated with the establishment of Lord Jagannath in Puri
and the earliest Patachitra artwork are dated several thousand years old.

Now, a gallery in Delhi – Arts of the Earth – is showcasing some fine Patachitras on canvas made by folk artists from Odisha itself. The exhibit, titled ‘Tales of Odisha,’ is on at the gallery in Lado Sarai till September 14.

Director of the gallery Meenu Verma informs Metrolife, “Patachitras are an extremely rich form of art. Each, thanks to the inclusion of dozens of miniature figures and meticulous detailing, takes months to make; that too, not when there is just one artist working on it, but his entire family. Patachitras also follow an elaborate method of preparation of canvas.”

“First, the cloth is coated with chalk and a glue made of tamarind seeds. Then natural colours are used to paint it and lastly, the canvas is held over charcoal fire and lacquer applied for a shining finish. No wonder the Chitrakar community finds it difficult to sustain this tradition and hence, it becomes our responsibility to support them.”

Meenu has procured around 30 paintings, some freshly made and others up to 60 years old, from the artists and has put them on exhibit cum sale. So these include large 4 by 5 feet paintings depicting not just one episode from Ramayan or Krishna’s life, but one such scene in the centre, surrounded by boxes or circles narrating the
whole legend.

Therefore we see, a bright orange painting depicting the coronation of Lord Ram and Sita in the centre and a whole lot of circles around it portraying the birth of Ram, Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrughan, Ram and Laksman being sent off with Vishwamitra, them slaying Tarka, Ram-Sita’s wedding, their exile, Sita’s abduction, going on till Ravan being killed.

Another stunning Patachitra in white ink over black shows Krishna Maha Raas Leela. Krishna is mounted over an elephant with Radha. Around this scene, are several others depicting Vishnu’s dashavtar and Krishna in various poses of dance with the gopis.

Patachitras spell pure visual pleasure, not to forget entire epics summarised on a single canvas. Do visit ‘Tales of Odisha.’

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