Orissa boasts of a long and rich cultural heritage.
Due to the reigns of many different rulers in the past, the culture,
arts and crafts of the state underwent many changes, imitations,
assimilations and new creations, from time to time. The artistic skill
of the Orissan artists is unsurpassable in the world. The discovery that
traditional artists still live and work throughout Orissa, producing
various objects in many media, is an exciting part of any visit to the
state. Odissi dance and music has lured many to this sacred land of Lord
Jagannath. Like other aspects of the culture, the Odissi music is
charming, colurful, variegated encompassing various types. In addition
to the world renowned Odissi and Chhau dance forms, Orissa boasts of a
number of folk performances too.
according to some scholars is as old as Orissa's sculpture. In fact
profession-wise, there was originally no distinction between painting and
sculpture. The Chitrakars or artists were commissioned by their
patrons in all visual arts of their times. To some extent the ancient wall
plasters inside the Jagannath temple complex and in the temple of
Mukteshwara seem to bear out this view. Hence the three main categories of
Orissan painting, the Bhitichitra or the murals, the pata or the cloth
painting and the Talpatachitra or the palm leaf engraving remain more or
less the same in style and subject-matter during any given period of Orissan
The colours of all Orissan Paintings are vivid and contrasting, with red,
ochre, indigo, green, black and white being used traditionally. Each outline
is clearly and strongly defined. The paintings concentrate on sculpture like
figures of simple shapes and monotonous postures and expression. There is no
perspective or background detail, the background is generally either just
painted in a contrasting colour or filled in with flowers and tendrils.
subject matter of all these paintings is of Vaishnava origin
Jagannath, the main manifestation of Vishnu in Orissan lore is the main
source of inspiration. However, the rise of the Bhakti movement in the 15th
century saw a period of Renaissance that accentuated the adoration of
Krishna. This devotion stimulated all the art forms of the State. The
rediscovery of Jayadeva's Gita-Govinda too added a new theme to Orissan art.
From this period onward, we find a large scale visualization mythology and
folklore, including the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Bhagavatagita, the
Shakta, apart from more traditional Radha-Krishna and Jagannath, Balabhadra,
The Patachitras are paintings on cloth. In the absence of
paper, cloth gives an extended smooth surface and is easily transported. For
the patachitra, small strips of cloth are prepared for the painting by a
coating of a mixture of glue and chalk which result in a leathery finish.
The outlines are then drawn directly in red or yellow and the other colours
subsequently filled in. Finally the pata is given a lacquer coating to
protect it from climatic effects. For this process of varnishing and
glazing, the back of the painting is exposed to heat while the top is being
brushed with a fine layer of lacquer.
Even today the
Chitrakars of Orissa use vegetable and mineral colours. A prillient and
permanent white is obtained by powdering, boiling, and filtering conch
shells. Red comes from Hingula, mineral colour - a stone ingredient.
Haritala, is processed to get yellow. Ramaraja, a kind of indigo, provides
the blue. Black is made from either lamp-black or burnt coconut shells.
Brushes are very crude and are made from the hair of domestic animals.
The Talapatrachitras or the palm leaf engravings consist of
frozen linear drawing as illustrations of manuscripts. In these engravings,
colours are muted and play a very minor part. Where colours are at all
applied, they are just painted either to emphasize the inscriptions, or to
fill up blank space. In Orissa, manuscripts were written on palm leaves even
during the Mughal period when the paper was freely available. In the limited
space of the oblong palm leaf with a small width, human figures completed
with details of hair style and dress, animals, flowers and trees are
executed with great precision and beauty, the tool of this art is a sharp
style and it needs a remarkably steady hand to be able to wield this tool on
thin strip of leaf. These talapatachitras have an affinity with the
Rajasthani miniatures both in the treatment, composition and the colour
from these three most important pictorial genres, there is a lot of folk art
in Orissa. One of the most popular done on circular playing cards peculiar
to Orissa. These are called Ganjapas and have elaborate borders
with the central illustration from either the Ramayana or the Dasavatara of
Vishnu or from 'Krishnalila'.
Even though there is a marked difference in quality and conception in the
new illustrated palm-leaf etchings and pata-chitra paintings, and the
sixteenth and seventeenth century examples in the Orissa State Museum, or
the work of contemporary applique artists in Pipli and the fragments of
century old work which some of the older artists retain as precious
heirlooms, the painters and palm-leaf etchers of villages such as
Raghurajpur still create remarkably lively and highly-skilled work.
Throughout the world, traditional art forms have vanished, leaving behind
nothing but their rapidly dimming memories in museum galleries. What makes
Orissa an extremely unusual place is that she has managed to preserve a
significant measure of her artistic heritage, and that amongst her huge
number of skilled craftsmen, there still exist a good proportion of artists
of true genius. Many of their forms are changing and developing, but all are
exuberantly, and often beautifully alive.