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Life-like Depictions On Sarees Tell Spell-binding Tales

By Expert Author: menaka poonam

‘Pata’ is cloth and ‘chitra’ means picture or painting in Sanskrit. Hence Pattachitra would come to mean painting on a cloth or canvas. Originally a traditional art dating from historical to ancient times, this Odisha craft of painting on any form of canvas has themes from Hindu mythology inspired especially by the Jagannatha and Vaishnava cult.

Rich in colour, extraordinary designs and motifs, the Pattachitra painting on the saree involves the narration of mythological stories in a simple but lucid manner.
Murals of religious venues centred around Puri Konark and Bhubaneshwar, themes from Gita Govinda by Jaydev, stories about Lord Jagannatha and the Radha Krishna saga, scenes from the epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, are all popular subjects for Pattachitra. Indidvidual gods and goddesses, folk tales and classical elements also figure now and then as themes for these sarees.

The Patachitra painted sarees have certain marked features.
Lines are bold, very clean, angular and quite sharp. There is an absence of landscapes, perspectives, or intended views. The backdrop would have flowers and other floral representations to distinguish the figures that are drawn or represented in the foreground. There are decorative borders and a theme designed in the form of a narrative becomes evident.

There was a time when women used to prepare the materials, provide the initial background colours on the canvas and also give the final coating touches on these paintings while the men or ‘chitrakars’ as they were called, painted the main themes on them. It was and still is a family tradition where all members of a family are involved.
Today painting on these sarees follows more or less the same pattern but with tasks interspersed and more divided.

The area where the painting has to be made is prepared by coating a mixture of chalk and a special kind of gum. This gives a leathery finish to the surface, on which the painting with vegetable and earth colours, are done. Lines are drawn direct without any hint of tracing and then colours are filled in. This is then given a lacquer coating to provide the gloss.

Organic colours used in the Patachitra saree are primarily bright and with red, yellow, indigo, black and white given prominence. Application of colour is through the use of animal hairs reared domestically, tied to a bamboo stick and despite the crudity of the tool, the painting is exquisite.

Despite the time consumed and the effort being tremendous the devotion and dedication of these ethnic craftsmen remains intact even today. Small wonder then if the exquisite and flawless Patachitra creations enjoy the attention of an appreciable market.

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