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The Tales of Pattachitra - A Traditional Painting of Odisha

Write By: praveenmohapatra Published In: Arts & Crafts Created Date: 2013-03-09 Hits: 9205 Comment: 0

Pattachitra is a traditional art form from Odisha that is based on Hindu mythology. The name is derived from Sanskrit word for cloth “patta” and picture “chitra”, denoting cloth-based scroll painting. Most paintings depict Hindu mythology and are inspired by Lord Jagannath. It is one of the oldest art form of Odisha.



 Pattachitra is one of the fascinating traditional painting of Odisha, India. All colours used in the Paintings are natural. Earlier it was done only on cloth canvas and known to depict Hindu mythology, today Pattachitra artists are exploring new designs and themes. There was a time, when this art form was known to be associated only with men, but with time, woman have also mastered it and are contributing to sustain this rare heritage. Pattachitra is a painting done on canvas, and is manifested by rich colourful application, creative patterns and designs, and portrayal of simple & beautiful themes, which depicts most mythological characters.


The 'Pattachitra' painting depicts the old murals of Odisha dating back to the 5th century BC especially in the religious centres of Puri, Konark and Bhubaneswar region. Raghurajpur, a village in Odisha state, 10 kms from Puri and 55 kms from the state capital Bhubaneshwar where the best work of Pattachitra is found. This old tradition of Oriya painting still survives in the places like Puri, Raghurajpur, Paralakhemundi, Chikiti and Sonepur.

Traditionally, the painters are known as ‘chitrakaars’.  The use of cloth for painting has been in vogue in India from early period.  Lord Jagannath in the present from is being taken as the origin of the Patta style. The colour schemes of the deities of Puri are quite similar to those of the Patta style. The origin of paintings is traced to a moving legend in the Chitralakshana, the earliest known treatise on painting. It is said that when the son of the King’s highest priest died, Brahma asked the king to paint a lifelike likeness of a boy so that he could breathe life into him again and this became the first painting. It is also said that painted thin clothes were sent to China from Orissa during the rule of Bhaumakars and the craftmanship was highly appreciated. The patta painting has its root in religion. It is evolved, nourished and flourished under the cult of Lord Jagannath. Therefore, according to some, the Patta paintings of Orissa is considered to be as old as the construction of the temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri. The three deities who are held in high esteem by the Oriyas and who inspire religion, life and activity of the people also carry with them a tradition of art and painting which is as old as the deities themselves. The Three dieties are Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Maa Subhadra. These paintings were originally substitutes for worship on days when the temple doors were shut for the 'ritual bath' of the deity. d. Here in these paintings, the deities have been depicted with full leg and hands in padmasan mudra. These paintings are known as anasar pati.


Since the pattachitra has its origin in the jagannath temple, the triad and the great cult have always been the main theme of the pattas. Lord Jagannath is depicted as Maha Vishnu and the way of worship is shaped mostly in vaisnavite tradition. It is for this reason that most of the themes of traditional Patta chitra are mystical stories from Ramayan and Mahabharat including that of Lord Jagannath, their perennial source of inspiration.


Patta paintings are done on small strips of cotton cloth. Traditionally, cotton canvas was used; now, both cotton and silk canvas are used for paintings. A canvas for painting is prepared by coating the cotton cloth with a mixture of chalk and gum made from tamarind seeds. It is then rubbed with the help of two different stones. The cloth is then dried. When canvas is smooth then chikana stone is rubbed for shining the cloth. Then, khaddar stone is rubbed on the cloth several times for smoothening the canvas.  After which the Chitrakaar (artist) paints the canvas with vegetable and stone colors. The final lines are drawn directly with the brush either in light red or yellow. Woman members prepare the glue, the canvas and apply colours what we call the fill-in, and give the final lacquer coating to protect it from weather, thus making the painting glossy.  The master hand, mostly the male member, draws the initial line and gives the final finishing. At Last, on the surface of the painting fine lacquer is applied.


The colours used are bright and primarily white, red, yellow, blue, green and black. The red is used predominently for the back ground. These colours are prepared out of the natural ingredients. White is prepared from powder of conch-shell, yellow from Haritala, a kind of stone, red from geru (Dheu) and Hingula black from burning lamp and coconut shell and green from leaves. The colours are mixed with kaitha gum which acts as a fixative and prevents the painting from decaying. A variety of colours is made by mixing the existing primary colours, like, red mixed with white gives pink. In case the colours dry in the coconut shell then water is mixed in the colour and it is reused. The brushes that are used by these 'Chitrakaras' are also indigenous and are made of hair of domestic animals. A bunch of hair tied to the end of a bamboo stick make the brush.


In This way, the beautiful & fascinating art form, The Patta Chitra has become a distinct art form and has captured the imagination of artists and art lovers alike. It is being used for variety of purposes such as Worshipping, Wall hangings and gift purposes, Book Marks, Greeting Cards & others.

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