Pattachitra- ‘An aesthetic art form with a religious significance’

Folk art has always been an integral part of the traditional societies in India. The themes of these art forms appropriately represent the religious as well as the cultural sentiments of the people living in that particular region. A popular quote on folk art by Michael Miller beautifully emphasised upon the fundamentals of the creative aspects of this art-“Folk art is an artistic expression of the people”. The discussion of the diverse folk arts practiced in India would remain incomplete without discussing about an intricate yet meaningful folk art practiced in the rural areas of Odisha and West Bengal- Pattachitra.

Deciphering the Meaning of Pattachitra

The word Pattachitra has its origin in the Sanskrit language wherein the term ‘Patta’ refers to cloth and ‘Chitra’ means painting. The name of this unique art form itself suggests that Pattachitra was traditionally practiced as a painting on a cloth.

Srikhetra Pati (Credits-

Preparation of Patta

There is a unique process of palm leaf engraving used in the preparation in Pattachitra. It is called talapatra chitra. 

  • Old sarees are used for making ‘Patta’ which is prepared using a cotton cloth.
  • The ‘Patta’ is placed in the form of layers wherein each layer is attached with the next layer using a paste called Niryas Kalpa. It is exclusively created by soaking tamarind seeds for around two to three days. This paste is applied in combination with the wood apple gum called Kaitha in order to attach more layers of cloth together.
  • It is dried under the sunlight after a specific amount thickness is attained.
  • In addition to this, a soft clay stone is also used by the artists. It is converted into a powdered form and is mixed with the tamarind paste. This mixture is applied upon the front surface of the Patta with a brush. Thereafter, the Patta is dried.
  • After it dries up, the surface of the Patta is rubbed with a rounded – stone, sea shell or a wooden piece. The visibly long Patta appears as a roll and the artists divides it into pieces for creating chitras.
Pattachitra Painting (

Natural Sources of Raw Material

Pattachitra is created using five major colours which are collectively called Pancha-tatwa. These colours help in production of diverse colours when they are mixed.  They also signify the Rasa of each and every character present in the story portrayed through the Pattachitra.

  • The brushes used in these paintings prepared using mouse hair and buffalo hair. Even the mixing of colours is done in the bowls which are created with the coconut shells.
  • Another distinctive feature of this art form is the colours which are used for making it. All of them are obtained from only the natural environment.
  • Different colours are prepared with distinct natural elements. For instance, the white colour is created using sea shells. The sea shells are converted into a powdered form. They are then soaked and heated to obtain the desired shade. On the other hand, the green colour is prepared using the green leaves and stones.

Why the Pattachitra have only bright colours?

Pattachitra paintings stand out from other art forms on the basis of the floral borders and the usage of vibrant colours in the motifs. There is an unique tradition regarding the colours of this art form which prohibits the shading of colours within them. All the designs used in various Pattachitra paintings aim to convey the emotive elements present within them.

Types of Pattachitra Paintings

The enriching past of the Pattachitra paintings exists in the Indian states of  Odisha and West Bengal. These paintings are classified in Odisha into three categories on the basis of the medium upon which they are created- Patta Chitra are those paintings which are made on cloths, Bhitti Chitra are the paintings on the surface of the wall and the Tala Patra Chitra are created in the palm leaves. This art form is an inseparable part of the diverse rituals performed in Odisha.

Distinct themes of Pattachitras

Pattachitra are made on diverse themes. The themes which have gained massive popularity amongst the customers include the Badhia ( representation of the majestic temple of lord Jagannath), Krishna Lila ( multiple illustrations of the miracles performed by Lord Krishna during his childhood), Dasabatra Patri (attractive depiction of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu) and the Panchamukhi (the representation of Ganesha as a five headed deity).

Lord Jagannath is accorded a significant position within majority of the Pattachitra paintings. The Pattachitras that showcase the revered deity- Lord Jagannath are referred to as Srikhetra Pati. These paintings also depict Dashavatar or the ten different avatars of lord Vishnu.Some of the Pattachitras also showcase the popular instances from the mythological texts– Ramayana, Mahabharata and Bhagvat Gita.

They are known for their intricate designs. The expressive feature of these paintings attract the viewers even more towards them. The hand painted nature of these creative art pieces grant a distinctive identity to them.

Another aesthetic version of this art form exits in those paintings which draw it’s inspiration from the significant elements of mother nature. It includes those Pattachitras which depict the tree of life, birds and animals.

Pattachitra based on Krishna Lila (Credits-

Evolving nature of Pattachitras

In the modern times, the Pattachitra paintings have evolved in a distinctive manner. Since the lifestyle of the new age customers has undergone a significant transformation, the scope of this art form has also widened considerably.

Home Decor Item based on Pattachitra (

The aesthetic motifs of the Pattachitra paintings are found in different types of products in the contemporary market. These products include sarees, umbrella, home decor products, table lamps, jewellery and bags. Some other interesting versions of this art form are used as a form of embellishment for the wooden boxes, coconut shells and the wooden doors.

Pattachitra Jewellery (

All of us may have perceived folk arts as a mere expression of creativity in some point of time. However, this discussion regarding the intricate art form of Odisha shall surely transform our ideology and make us appreciate the uniqueness embedded within the diverse art forms of India that differentiates each one of them from one another. Not only this, this shall make us respect the artisans of our nation even more from now on!!

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