It originated in the 8th century and is supposed to have been the earliest form of indigenous art. It thrived on the patronage of the royalty and their kins. When the popular Bhakti Movement evolved in the 16th century, the paintings of Radha and Krishna were included in a riot of colours and shades of orange, yellow and red. Important instances from Krishna’s life and Krishna Leela, especially, Raas Leela, were depicted through the medium of these paintings.
How to Patachitra paintings came into Existence
Additionally, aspects of nature, such as birds and animals, flora and fauna, were also included in the paintings. Krishna would invariably be depicted in blue, while the gopis would be shown attired in bright shades of purple, pink and brown with a touch of gold and silver colours. This colour scheme is what makes the Patachitra stand out from the rest of the folk art.
Every Year, the painted wooden images of Jagannath, Balabhadra and subbhadra the deities of the Puri Jangannath temple, are offered the traditional Abhisheka (holy bath ritual). This invariably leads to the discoloration of the image, due to which they have to be removed from the Garbha Griha (sanctum sanctorum) and taken for repainting. It is at this time that the temple substitutes three paintings for the images. In Sanskrit, the word Pata means cloth and Chitra means painting.
Features of the Pata Paintings
• Pata paintings are very popular with tourists, especially foreign visitors, who take them back as a souvenir.
• Patachitra depicting the utsava image of Puri Jagannath are considered to be extremely special. These can also be found at several ethnic stores and handicraft expos across the country.
• Patachitra art is traditionally practiced by a certain family of artists living around the Jagannath Temple area at Puri. Starting off as a ritual, Patachitra art is now considered to be one of the most cherished collectors items.
• Along with these cloth paintings, the Chitrakars also often etched images of the deities on dried palm leaves. This art is known as Talapatachitra. Rectangular pieces of palm leaves are dried and stitched together by means of thin black thread. The desired designs are then etched on the leaves with a needle. Inspite of the limited space, each figure is etched to great detail and the final result is an absolutely stunning masterpiece Needless to say, the entire process is onerous and very time consuming.
• The art of Patachitra thrives even today and has attained international status as one of the finest art forms.