For hundreds of years, India has been known for its traditions of art forms that have reflected the ideas and belief system of its cultural and folk practices. Over time, these art forms came to be featured in the realm of tradition Indian fashion items and decorative pieces. Among the many forms of art that have been practiced in India for hundreds and thousands of years, one of the forms that deserve special mention is the Patachitra art. The Patachitra is a form of traditional painting that has its roots in the culture and beliefs of Odisha. Noted for its fine detailing and intricacy, Patachitra art has a mesmerizing quality that makes each and every piece of work extremely beautiful.
The Patachitra art is known for its depiction of motifs and concepts that are derived from Hindu mythology, particularly the cult of the gods Jagannath and Vaishnava. All the colors that are used in these paintings are derived from natural sources and the paintings themselves are made in completely traditional ways that were once followed by the earliest chitrakaras. The Patachitra art is among the oldest and the most revered forms of painting or artwork that is still practiced Odisha. Its name “Patachitra” has been derived from the Sanskrit terms “pata” which means canvas, and “chitra” which means picture. Hence Patachitra art can be defined as a form of painting that is done on canvas. The application of rich colorful shades, highly creative designs and motifs, and depiction of simple themes taken from mythological sources make Patachitra art unique in its own way.
Patachitra art has been traditionally held in high esteem when it comes to the cultural and religious belief systems of Odisha. Among the various forms of art that have been practiced in Odisha for a long time, the Patachitra art is particularly revered due to its strong association with the holy temple of Puri. A gauze-like fine quality cotton cloth is used to create the paintings. It is coated with a specially prepared solution of chalk, gum and powdered tamarind seed which is then subsequently smoothened. These paintings are primarily executed in profile with elongated eyes created within a richly made floral border. In some cases, landscapes and scenes are depicted in the artwork as well, and major religious characters are juxtaposed together as well. Quite often, scenes of Puri temple and Ramayana and Mahabharata epics are featured in these paintings. Some of the most widely featured images include that of Lord Jagannath, along with his brother Balaram and sister Subhadra.
While it is true that the traditions of famous Indian Patachitra art have stood the test of time over hundreds of years, in the recent decades there has been a downward spiral with less profits being made in this area. One of the main reasons for which the traditional Patachitra art is believed to be in decline is that the artists find it difficult to make their daily ends meet and so they need to find other professions with more lucrative returns. The system of trading that has been in practice for a long time enables the middlemen to take away most of the earnings, and it is due to this reason that the younger painters are less inclined to carry on with the trade of their forefathers. While it is true that the government and many non-governmental sources are trying to revive this art, what is now needed is a way in which the middlemen can be bypassed and the artists can earn from their work directly. A good way to do so is to sell Patachitra art through online stores, and major moves are being carried out in this direction.