Giving life to old art

A partial view of the intricately designed Tussar cloth with vegetable colours known as ‘Pattachitra Art’. Prasant Samal was in Mangalore to participate in the Shilpakala Handicraft Expo organised by Umeia Handicrafts Association. Photos by author

Speaking to City Herald, Prasant Samal from Orissa reveals that it takes months to complete the intricately designed palm leaf known as ‘Leaf Pattachitra’ which tells mythological tales.

It all starts by drying and stretching a palm leaf and joining them together to form a sheet just like a canvas. Once the sheet is formed it is engraved with pictures and stories with the help of an iron needle.

Later the entire leaf is soaked in black ink and washed allowing only the ink to remain in the engraved areas, hence making the picture stand out. One can also add beauty to this piece of art by painting the engravings with natural vegetable colours.

“One can paint on different mythological topics or tribal stories. I have engraved many such mythological episodes such as Ram Leela, Dashavatar, story of Ganesh and many others. The longest I have done is a six foot long palm engraving telling the entire story of Krishna Leela. It took six months for me and my brother Niranjan to complete,” says
Prasant and adds that the Krishna Leela engraving costs Rs 45,000.

The artwork is not copied but from our imagination, says Prasant and adds that in his village Jagatsinghpur, there are artisans who train young children in this art at their home. However, this art is dying as it involves lot of hard work and very less profit, he says.

This palm is flexible and has a long life.  But while engraving if one does a mistake, then one has to start the art all over again, reveals Prasant.

Apart from Leaf Pattachitra, Prasant also is an expert in ‘Pattachitra Kala,’ which is designing a long Tussar cloth with mythological tales printed in vegetable colour. The price of Pattachitra Kala starts from Rs 250, he says and adds that the price depends on the design and length.

“We are trying to make a living with this art. As long as people are interested, we can get our daily bread,” he smiles.

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