Rooted in custom: Pata painting and Raghurajpur

We have 96 houses in our village and population about 600. And among these 20 houses have considered traditional painters and all known as Maharanas and Mahapatras. The other sections of people adopted the form of painting later, soon after the form of painting became commercialized, says Gopal Maharana, (Painter, Age – 48, Raghurajpur). Our Grand fathers used to sell these paintings in the temple market of Lord Jaganath at Puri to run their livelihood. And now because of the commercialization, the later adopted section of the painters tend to compromise on quality and art too, added Gopal Maharana.


Raghurajpur, just 15 km away form the temple city of Puri, dotted with colourful paintings and a cave for pata painting artists. The word patachitra is derived form the Sanskrit word pata, which means a painted piece of cloth, a picture.

The devotional art of the pata-chitras or paintings on cloth, is a folk or popular style that centers on the worship of the Lod Jagannatha. Each of them has a family sketchbook handed down form generation to generation. Gods and Goddesses, the lilas (fanciful activities) of Lord Krishna, Legends and animals, are the chitrakars most valuable possessions and are worshipped along with family gods. Depicts many other religious themes, as well, using the strong line and brilliant color that is typical of Orissan folk painting.

The artists who paint pata-chitras are known as chitrakaras . Often, a whole family is engaged in the work of preparing pata-chitras, under the supervision of the master painter in the family. Sometimes, a master artist will operate a studio in which apprentices and other artists of varying levels of skill work under his direction. As the products of the chitrakaras’ work are intended for a pilgrim audience, the chitrakaras typically live in the vicinities of temples, such as the Jagannath temple in Puri.

Besides painting pata-chitras, the chitrakaras have other artistic duties, often related to the yearly cycle of festivals around the Jagannath temple. For example, chitrakaras paint anasara patis, which are paintings that temporarily replace the principal images of the three deities. The chitrakaras of Puri also have several painting duties on the cars, or chariots, on which Jagannath, Balabhadra, and Subhadra ride during the annual ratha yatra (car festival) each summer.

Chitrakaras paint the walls of a small temple next to the Narendra reservoir during the chandana yatra (sandalwood festival), a festival during which images of Krishna , Lakshmi, and Sarasvati are rowed in boats in the reservoir. The painters also paint pedi , or dowry boxes, that are given to the bride at the time of marriage. An illustration of a painting on a dowry box is included below in the discussion of the kanchi avijana episode in the mythology of Jagannath.

Techniques of Pata painting

The process of producing pata-chitras has been documented elsewhere, 8 and thus will be only briefly described here. The process begins with a sheet of cotton cloth being laid out on the ground. To this cloth is applied a coat of gum or glue made from tamarind seed. Then a second cloth is laid on top of this and another layer of tamarind glue is applied. The cloths are then lefts to dry in the sun. When the layered cloth is dry, it is cut to the desired sizes of finished pages and burnished on both sides, first with a coarse stone and finally with a smooth pebble. The design is sketched and the outlined areas of the sketch are filled in with primary colors, traditionally from vegetable or mineral pigments, but in recent years from store-bought colors also. Large areas of color are applied first and the details are then painted in these areas of solid color. When the painting is completed, it may be covered with a coat of lacquer.

The painting is animportant aspect of Orissan painting, which originated the temple of Jaganath at Puri in the 12 th century under the patronage of Ganga Kings, Suryavamsi Gajapatis and the kings of Bhoi dynasty.


This proposal presents a collection of pata-chitras, organized around a series of general themes, in order to highlight various formats and particular thematic subjects used in the tradition. So that the paintings might be understood within a context, introductory information is provided on the Lod Jagannath, on the Jagannath temple in Puri and its rituals, and on pata-chitra painters and their work. Subsequent sections illustrate paintings related to the Lod Jagannath, scenes from the epic stories, pictures of deities, a picture with a folklore theme, and a picture with erotic overtones. Each section explains some of the details of the particular images, identifies some of the iconography used in the images, or recounts some stories related to those images.


The film is neither going to be another dry historical film on Orissan art and culture nor the account of achievements – with full of hard-hitting technical jargons. Instead of that, it is going to be a narrative documentary of social and cultural perspective and also giving emphasize to deterioration of the art, because of leniency. Most interestingly we will be brief commentary and year marks. History will be there, but not as a subjective character.

By capturing all these untold facts, the camera is going to interact with specific community, to get their views, their living condition, and their daily practice of living life. And more importantly how they see the form of painting for future. So in a way, through the treatment of the camera, these findings highlight the importance and urgent need to create awareness for the importance of the traditional form of painting. The treatment of the film should be based on interviews, interactions among the painters and the villagers and the age-old people who have seen the changes with the form of painting. Though the treatment of the film is sounds traditional, but it has a modern value too.