The heritage crafts village of Raghurajpur is Odisha’s best known for its Pattachitra art. The art form is used to decorate none other the Lord of the Universe- Lord Jagannath and his siblings. The attachment with the holy trinity elevated the art form helped it gain prominence.
Steeped in ancient culture, portraying scenes from mythology with vibrant colours, superb craftsmanship,simplicity in design, the Pattachitra has captured the imaginationof artists and art lovers alike. The term Pattachitrameans Vastra (Cloth) and Chitra means paintings. So Pattachitra is essentially a painting on a piece of cloth.
Located approximately 12 KM from Puri, RaghurajpurIs a quaint village where 120 odd homes are neatly lined up facing each other in two rows. Every house has an artist engaged in the trade making it perhaps the only place in India where one can find such a large congregation of artists.
The popular forms of Pattachitra are the paintings on cloth depicting scenes from mythology and epics, the tassar cloth Pattachitra are also quite popular, the Pattachitra etched on dried palm leaves are picked up by tourists as souvenirs, so also the paper mache masks, paintings on coconut and betel nut . Apart from these, artists also engage in making toys out of stone and wood and painting them.
However things were not always as smooth for the Pattachitra artist also known as Chitrakar’s. During the 1940’s the artisans were under severe stress due to a sharp dip in their income. During that time in stepped an American Lady Ms. Helena Zealy, enamoured by the beauty of the Pattachitra, she literally took it upon herself to revive the art. She held Pattachitra exhibitions in America and invited connoisseurs of art to examine these mystical paintings from the land of Lord Jagannath. Soon artists were sending Pattachitra shipments to America and getting the much desired income to sustain themselves. In trying to save the art form Ms. Helena Zealy also internationalized Pattachitra and established the art form across the seven seas.
Raghurajpur also happens to birthplace of the doyen of Odissi Dance Guru KelucharanMohapatra and the village is also known for the Gotipua dance (a precursor to Odissi). It’s a dance performed by young boys dressed as feminine dancers and involves acrobatic postures.
The villagers are welcome tourist, so strike a conversation with them to know more about the art form and its history.