The word Patachitra is derived from the Sanskrit word “pata”, which means a painted piece of cloth, a picture, a tablet or a plate; “chitra” means painting or picture. The tradition of making Patachitra paintings goes back to the 8th century AD. This art of painting on cloth can be traced back to the establishment of the shrine of Lord Jagannath at Puri in Orissa. Patachitra today is a shining example of an age old tradition helping keep an old art form alive.

Patachitra is a style of paintings practiced among the tribal and indigenous people of Orissa. The artists, making these paintings usually do not have other sources of livelihood. The painted scrolls depict episodes from mythology and stories related to religious, mythological and folklore (such as Jagannath, Lord Krishna and stories from the Ramayana and Mahabarata). Relying on natural elements for its colors and materials, Patachitra could be a symbolic of how painting and art can be practiced in complete harmony with nature, without the use of toxic paints and chemicals.

Making Process – The patachitra when painted on cloth follows a traditional process of preparation of the canvas. First the base is prepared by coating the cloth with the soft, white, stone powder of chalk and glue made from tamarind seeds. This gives the cloth tensile strength and a smooth, semi-absorbent surface, allowing it to accept the paint. The artist does not use a pencil or charcoal for the preliminary drawings. It is a tradition to complete the borders of the painting first. The painter then starts making a rough sketch directly with the brush using light red and yellow. The main flat colors are applied next the colors used are normally white, red, yellow, and black. The painter then finishes the painting with fine stokes of black brush lines, giving the effect of pen work. When the painting is completed it is held over a charcoal fire and lacquer is applied to the surface. This makes the painting water resistant and durable, besides giving it a shining finish.

Tourists in India find it to be an important “must have” souvenir. If you are a fan of indigenous art forms and wish to adorn your home with the same, then buying a special Patachitra would be right up your alley. They also make excellent and very unique gifts for weddings and any other such occasions.